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Omnichannel vs. Multichannel Contact Center: Which Is Best for Your Business?

Rodney Garner - Top 10 writer
Woman in an omnichannel contact center
Struggling to choose between omnichannel and multichannel for your contact center? The right model can take your customer service from frustrating to five-star. So ask yourself: Which approach will create the seamless experience they expect?

You want to provide the best customer experience while ensuring your operations run smoothly and efficiently. One key aspect of achieving this is choosing the right VoIP phone system for your business. Choose the wrong option and risk driving customers away for good. Frustrated customers are three times more likely to leave after one bad experience.

But which system is best for you? An omnichannel or multichannel contact center? Your decision can greatly influence customer service, the efficiency of your operations, and your business's ability to grow and adapt over time.

Using my 10+ years of experience in IT and technical support, I'll evaluate both strategies to help you determine the better option for your customer service staff.

» Check out our top picks for the best VoIP call center providers.

What's an Omnichannel Contact Center (OCC)?

An Omnichannel Contact Center (OCC) is a customer support and communication system designed to take your business to the next level. It combines all the different ways customers can communicate with your business, like phone, email, and live chat.

Omnichannel contact centers seamlessly merge customer information across channels. This means customers can switch from chat to phone without repeating details. For example, if a customer emails and then calls, the agent already knows about the email. The result? Faster issue resolution and an improved customer experience.

What's a Multichannel Contact Center (MCC)?

Think of a multichannel contact center (MCC) as a customer service hub that uses different, standalone communication channels like phone calls, emails, and live chat. Each of these methods operates separately. The main goal here is to offer customers a variety of ways to connect with your customer service team.

However, because these communication streams work independently, information doesn't always transfer seamlessly from one channel to another. This can lead to communication bottlenecks where information gets stuck or isn't shared effectively between the different contact methods.

» Explore the key differences between call centers and contact centers.

Agent in an omnichannel contact center

OCC vs. MCC: What Do They Do Best?

To make it simpler to choose, I've broken down the main business needs for communication and which contact center setup performs best in each category.

Customer Experience

Customer Experience
Pros
Cons
OCC
• Seamless, consistent, and personalized experience across all channels. • Customers can switch and resume interactions on different channels without losing context. • Proactive engagement based on customer data and journey.
• Higher expectations and demands from customers. • More complex and challenging to manage customer interactions.
MCC
• Can reach a wider audience by offering multiple channels. • Can cater to different customer preferences and needs. • Can leverage the strengths of each channel.
• Can feel disjointed and frustrating across channels. • Customers may have to repeat information or start over on different channels. • Reactive engagement based on channel-specific data.

Omnichannel contact centers unite all customer communication channels into one seamless experience. This allows customers to initiate contact anywhere and agents to deliver personalized service based on the full history of each customer's interactions.

Alfonso Pulido, Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Practice Lead at McKinsey, emphasizes that consistency in communication is extremely important for customer satisfaction.

OCCs also ensure that every piece of the customer journey—from conversations to purchase history to inventory—is interlinked across all platforms. To the customer, everything should feel part of a single shopping and support experience. This minimizes delays and, consequently, helps you avoid call waiting blunders.

In contrast, MCCs often keep information in separate "buckets." This can make the customer experience feel choppy since there's no guarantee of a smooth transition between channels—like moving from an email to a phone call.

Satisfied customers interacting with an omnichannel contact center

Data Management and Integration

Data Management and Integration
Pros
Cons
OCC
• Fully integrated systems across all channels. • Complete customer history and journey data available on a single platform. • Real-time customer data and insights for agents.
• Requires more advanced and sophisticated technology. • Higher risk of data breaches and privacy issues. • More data to store and process.
MCC
• Easier to implement and maintain. • Lower risk of data breaches and privacy issues. • Less data to store and process.
• Siloed and disconnected systems between different channels. • Limited cross-channel customer data and context. • Delayed or outdated customer data and insights for agents

With OCCs, data management and integration play a vital role because information flows smoothly between channels and offers a complete picture of customer interactions. This comprehensive view makes it easier to address the customer’s needs.

On the other hand, since data tends to be compartmentalized in MCCs, you're often left with an incomplete picture of customer interactions. And with minimal integration, it becomes difficult to match the personalization and consistency that OCC provides.

Technology Infrastructure and Investment

Technology Infrastructure and Investment
Pros
Cons
OCC
• Sophisticated, cloud-based, and scalable technology. • Higher upfront investment but drives long-term value and ROI. • Ability to quickly integrate new and emerging channels.
• More expensive and complex to set up and operate. • Higher dependency on technology and internet connectivity. • More challenging to train and support staff on technology.
MCC
• Basic, legacy, and on-premise technology. • Lower upfront costs but less future-proof and adaptable. • Easier to train and support staff on technology.
• Less efficient and flexible technology. • Lower long-term value and ROI. • Difficulty to integrate new and emerging channels.

Going for an OCC might mean a bigger setup in terms of tech and initial costs, but it can be a smart move in the long run since it can scale with your business.

On the other hand, MCCs have fewer technology and lower cost requirements at first, but it might get pricey down the line. Plus, keeping up with different channels separately can be less efficient.

Overall, MCCs are better for having the essential VoIP features small businesses need, while OCCs are better for growing or more established businesses.

» Looking for more personalized guidance? Get in touch with the experts at RingCentral or Vonage.

Staff Training and Skill Development

Staff Training and Skill Development
Pros
Cons
OCC
• Agents need to be trained and skilled on multiple channels and platforms. • Agents need to be customer-obsessed and focused on service excellence. • Agents can leverage customer data and AI to provide hyper-personalized service.
• Higher training and development costs and efforts. • Higher staff turnover and burnout rates. • Higher expectations and pressure on agents.
MCC
• Agents can be trained and skilled on specific channels and platforms. • Agents can be more operational and focused on delivering service. • Agents have less capacity for personalization and customization
• Lower training and development costs and efforts. • Lower staff turnover and burnout rates. • Lower expectations and pressure on agents

For OCCs, staff training is crucial as customer service agents must be skilled in handling integrated data and offering consistent, personalized support across all channels.

Similarly, staff training is vital in MCC setups, but agents may need to adapt to channel-specific approaches. This can be more intricate and time-consuming, as agents need to adapt to channel-specific methods and strategies.

Two people deciding between omnichannel and multichannel contact centers

Which Is Better for Your Business?

Simon Mulcahy, former leader of the World Economic Forum's IT Industry community, highlights that businesses can only stand out from the competition if they meet customer expectations. So, carefully consider which system is best for your business to thrive.

OCC is top-notch when it comes to stitching together data and offering services that feel personal, but it's not shy about asking for a bigger upfront investment. That might be a tough pill to swallow for new businesses or startups running on a tight budget.

Meanwhile, going with MCC could be gentler on your wallet at the start. But you might bump into some challenges with keeping your data in line or jumping onto newer tech trends later on.

» Be prepared. Learn more about VoIP troubleshooting and solving common problems.

Rodney Garner - Top 10 writer
Rodney Garner, a Top10.com writer, brings over a decade of expertise in Technical and Software Support. He's skilled in VoIP, Systems Administration, IT, and Educational Technology. Beyond tech, Rodney serves as an educator and mentor.