What is Omnichannel?

By Allan MacGowan - June 3, 2015

A question that repeatedly comes up in customer service space is: What is Omnichannel? Like many technology terms, Omnichannel can be defined in many ways, but if we focus on the two base words, Omni and Channel, we can paint a pretty clear picture of how this fits into a customer engagement scenario.

Omni means every or all-encompassing, and channel in this context means distinct active communication paths used between customers and vendors – like voice, chat, email, SMS, video, and social media.

As the list of digital channels continues to grow, companies face the challenge of ensuring continuity for customers throughout the journey. A true Omnichannel environment addresses this issue.

Consider the connection between a vendor and a customer for every channel named above. Communication can happen over each one, but it occurs independently from the others. These siloes are referred to as multi-channel communication, and are most common in contact center environments today. Businesses using this architecture typically have agents segregated into a chat group, an email group, and a voice group dedicated to each disparate channel.

An Omnichannel environment integrates each of those siloed communications paths, so that regardless of which one or many method(s) is chosen, the customer journey is seamless. Information is retained—even when jumping across channels—so there's no need for the consumer to re-hash their information. This eliminates a major nuisance for everyone involved, and improves the customer experience as well as the operational efficiency in the contact center.