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The Omnichannel Contact Center: What You Need to Know

This article was published on February 1, 2024

When it comes to providing customer service, there’s often a lot of jargon to wade through. Omnichannel call center and omnichannel contact center are two prime examples. But what do they actually mean and how are they different? Those are two of the main questions you’ll find answered here. Plus, you’ll learn what to look for from omnichannel call and contact center solutions and get some strategies to make the most of them.

Illustration of a hand holding a cell phone, On the screen is a contact center agent; surrounding the screen are icons representing texting, video, and voice capabilities.

What’s the Difference Between a Call Center and a Contact Center?

Let’s consider the phrases “omnichannel call centers” and “omnichannel contact centers.” They’re both composed of two principal elements — the “call/contact center” part and the “omnichannel” part. Before we get to the complexities of omnichannel, let’s recap the difference between a call center and a contact center.

A call center — in a customer service context — is an organization or department within an organization dedicated to answering inbound calls. Those calls are usually from customers seeking answers to questions or help with issues from customer service representatives.

A contact center is similar except that it caters to more communication channels. Contact center agents may well still answer phone calls from customers, but could also respond to emails, interact with customers via live chat, and more.  

What Precisely Does ‘Omnichannel’ Mean?

Now onto the slightly more nuanced definition that’s needed to fully understand terms like “omnichannel service call center” or “omnichannel contact center solution.”

Omnichannel is a term used to describe the seamless provision of a positive customer experience across channels of interaction. The idea is that regardless of the channel on which they reach out, a customer will receive the same excellent level of support.

More than that, customers should be able to start an interaction on one channel and then seamlessly continue it on another. The idea is that an omnichannel customer experience is a holistic one which meets customers where they are, on their preferred channels.

So, Can There Be Such a Thing as an Omnichannel Call Center Solution?

What you’re probably wondering right now is “doesn’t that mean there’s no such thing as omnichannel call center services?” And the answer to that is, yes, technically an omnichannel call center is a misnomer.

If a center provides seamless support to customers across a range of different channels it is — by definition — both “omnichannel” and a “contact center.”

You’ll still hear and read plenty about “omnichannel call centers”, though. That’s because — while technically incorrect — it is still used and understood as a kind of synonym for an omnichannel contact center.

What Is an Omnichannel Contact Center?

In essence, then, an omnichannel contact center is a customer service function whereby customers can reach out to and interact with a business via multiple channels. Crucially, too, the service they receive will be of the same high standard regardless of which channel (or combination of  channels) they choose. 

An omnichannel contact center allows customers to reach out from any device or communication service they want, without the business losing track of who they're talking to on the other end.

The basic idea is simple: Customers expect a fluid experience across all of their devices, even in their support and sales interactions. An omnichannel contact center supports this expectation.

How Do Omnichannel Contact Centers Work?

Omnichannel contact centers work by bringing all the channels a business wishes to use for customer interactions onto one platform. Agents are empowered to meet customers where they are and help them in the way that’s most convenient for the customer at any given time.

Omni — meaning "all" — therefore, is the key to realizing what these contact centers are capable of. Think about your smartphone as just one example: There are a lot of ways to communicate on it — SMS, email, internet browsers, apps, chats, social media, and, of course, making a traditional call. An omnichannel contact center coordinates as many of these avenues as it can with a singular set of agents fielding the calls, pings, texts, and emails.

A customer might email, send your company a Facebook message, send the chatbot on your website a quick message via their phone's web browser, or do something else entirely. With an omnichannel contact center, you're making sure you can always get the message and always match the customer on the other end with the right account.

What’s more, the best omnichannel contact center solutions also integrate with a business’s customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. This ensures that agents have ready access to all customer information and prior interactions. Vonage’s omnichannel contact center service, for instance, includes full integration with Salesforce.

Multichannel vs. Omnichannel Contact Centers

You thought you were done with the definitions and comparisons now that we’ve gone past our omnichannel call center discussion, right? Well, not quite. It’s also worth taking a moment to consider multichannel and omnichannel contact centers and how they differ.

Just like omnichannel call centers, the multichannel alternative also allows customers to reach out via different channels. The key difference, however, is that in a multichannel contact center those channels are siloed and handled separately.

If a customer starts a live chat conversation and then makes a phone call, a multichannel center won’t be able to connect the dots. The customer would have to repeat themselves to the agent on the phone. In an omnichannel scenario, meanwhile, the agent who answers the phone would be able to access the prior live chat to make the customer’s experience seamless.

illustration of hand holding phone with chatbot on the screen GLOBAL RESEARCH STUDY
Maximizing the Omnichannel CX with AI
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What Are the Benefits of an Omnichannel Contact Center?

So, that covers what an omnichannel contact center is, how it works, and why it’s not technically correct to talk about omnichannel call center technology. What, then, about the business benefits of implementing an omnichannel contact center?

Businesses and their customers stand to gain a lot of value with the omnichannel solutions found in a contact center. Here are just three of the most notable benefits:

  • Seamless conversations with customers

  • Quick responses to reputational threats

  • Whole-business and all-customer alignment

Continual Conversations With Customers

When a customer starts a conversation with a chatbot or person through a website or an app, there's a chance they’ll need to switch channels at some point. Terminating the conversation and starting from scratch later can be frustrating. A busy customer would much rather use a different channel that's more convenient during their next move.

That reflects one of the most important aspects of omnichannel customer communication: When the customer continues the conversation five minutes or five days later, they aren't being moved to a different department by virtue of changing channels — and all the pertinent data is right there for the rep they contact.

Quick Response to Reputational Threats

Omnichannel also gives your business more control and flexibility as it scans social media for conversations about the company, its products, and its services. Social media sentiment analysis can determine which posts express a particularly high level of frustration and prioritize them for a quick resolution. Likewise, the capability can route a request to a specific representative with precisely the right experience to resolve the problem right away.

And, crucially, it gives that representative a wealth of data about that customer's past interactions with the business. This ultimately helps your teams provide the effective, personalized service that customers have come to expect — even if the interaction starts out negative.

Whole-Business and All-Customer Alignment

Customers aren't the only ones who benefit from an omnichannel contact center solution. It's also an increasingly beneficial presence for line-level service reps, their managers, and the executives overseeing it all.

For representatives: Customer service agents get a fuller view of the customer's entire history with the company. This crucial context may include anything from order history to the sentiment the customer displayed on their last several calls and can provide the agent with all the on-the-fly data they need to make the right decision immediately.

For managers, executives, and high-level stakeholders: Managers may need to review individual call transcripts or review performance by segment or block of time. Likewise, executives routinely need a big-picture view so they can make strategic decisions. An AI-enabled omnichannel contact center enables both, providing relevant performance and interaction metrics to the right eyes.

What Features Do You Need From an Omnichannel Contact Center?

So, you might be convinced by the merits of providing an omnichannel customer experience. If so, you’re probably thinking about which software solution can help you do so.

Every solution you explore will offer different feature sets and overall capabilities. One of your most important jobs as a business looking to upgrade is understanding exactly what's available to you and how it fits with your business model. Here are a few examples of key capabilities to be on the lookout for:

  • Smart inbound routing

  • Integrated customer engagement history and other data

  • Cloud-based administration and iterative improvements

Smart Inbound Routing

In our 2024 Global Customer Engagement Report, omnichannel statistics showed customers get tripped up by the communications problems found at some companies. They're also not too pleased with carryovers from the days of highly regimented service systems, such as long wait times and difficulty finding the right person to answer their questions.

Smarter inbound routing tools, specifically ones powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that integrate directly with your omnichannel contact center, can help solve these issues.

By building them into your communications stack from the start, you give your business the best chance to get off on the right foot with customers engaged in an omnichannel life.

Integrated Customer Engagement History and Other Data

Today's omnichannel contact centers provide businesses and their customers with a turnkey every-channel experience. That includes integration with popular customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Salesforce. More specifically, you want a solution that captures vital customer data and lets you share relevant aspects of it across the company.

As noted, AI integration can provide an advanced level of utility with this. Having a built-in tool that turns speech to text, analyzes conversations for sentiment, and automatically links contacts to cases — plus links all of this data to the right account every time — can shave several minutes off interaction times and let your agents focus on taking care of people with the right data at hand. And that's on top of the intelligent routing capabilities mentioned previously.

Cloud-Based Administration and Iterative Improvements

In the old days of communications technology, adding "simple" features required technicians to go to sites and install hardware. Today, it's much more seamless for the business and the customer.

Because many platforms now run everything over the cloud, upscaling the operation, adding whole new communication channels, and integrating with new tools as they come along are significantly easier to manage.

This is increasingly important in the world of communication, where customer whims can change both quickly and permanently. When buyers move to the next big communications platform, a cloud-based omnichannel contact center solution ensures you can quickly meet them there.

Leaving Behind the Call Center: Omnichannel Strategies To Make the Most of a Contact Center

Once you've got your omnichannel contact center solution in place, you need to know how to make the best use of it. The following are just three examples of some best practices when it comes to omnichannel service provision:

  • Truly understand your customers and their friction points. This will help you devise ways to overcome problem areas and fully earn customers' trust.

  • Streamline areas of your experience. Talking with customers and third-party partners can give you a high-level view of what you're doing right and what could stand some improvement.

  • Determine the channels to be in now, and in the near future. Understanding this can help you realize the full stack of solutions you'll need to get to where you want to be.

That’s just a taster of the ways you can make the most of getting in on the omnichannel game. We recommend checking out our full guide for an even more in-depth look at implementing omnichannel strategies.

How To Get Started With an Omnichannel Contact Center

Vonage offers omnichannel contact center solutions that integrate with the tools your business relies on and provides AI-backed insight into your customer communications.

Get in touch with the Vonage team today and learn about how easy it is to get started with an omnichannel contact center of your own.

Still Have Questions About Omnichannel Call Centers?

An omnichannel contact center improves the customer experience in a few main ways. Firstly, it allows businesses to meet customers where they are; on their favorite channels.

A customer who prefers to interact on social media or via live chat has that option, and isn’t forced to make a phone call instead. That, as a result, clearly equates to a more positive customer experience.

An omnichannel — as opposed to multichannel — contact center, too, boasts seamless integration between channels. 

That means customers can continue interactions with ease across those channels. They can make a phone call to follow up on an email or live chat, and not have to repeat themselves to the new agent. Again, that clearly represents improved customer experience.

Technologies that are essential for setting up an omnichannel contact center include the right omnichannel contact center solution, a reliable internet connection, and internet-enabled devices.

Thanks to the fact that most omnichannel contact center technology is now cloud-hosted, that really is it. As long as your agents can get online, have a device that will run your chosen software solution, and have access to that solution, they can get started helping your customers.

It’s not just customers who benefit when a business chooses to invest in an omnichannel contact center solution. The right platform can also help boost agent productivity and efficiency.

An omnichannel contact center solution seamlessly connects communication channels and other platforms like CRMs. That ensures agents have all the information they need at their fingertips. They no longer have to switch between apps or go searching for answers to customer questions. Instead, they can resolve calls and other interactions at the first time of asking.

The most notable challenge associated with implementing an omnichannel contact center is probably ensuring that it truly is omnichannel.

Some businesses mistake simply introducing multiple channels to their service provision for taking an omnichannel approach. As we’ve seen, that’s actually merely a multichannel offering. 

The seamless connection of your channels is what takes you into the omnichannel world, and ensuring that connection is a challenge.

The best way to ensure a smooth transition from a traditional call center to an omnichannel contact center is to invest in the right solution. Vonage Contact Center is easy to implement and to use, and has integrations with a range of popular CRMs.

Contact Us

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Want to know more about omnichannel call centers and contact centers? We’re here to help! Call us at 1-844-365-9460, or fill out this form! A dedicated specialist will help explain more about:

  • The basics of omnichannel call centers and omnichannel contact centers — and how these terms differ
  • How customer experiences are better when they can reach you via a wide range of channels, and even switch between channels when needed
  • The benefits of an omnichannel contact center, including seamless conversations with customers, quick responses to reputational threats, and whole-business and all-customer alignment

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By Ryan Yee B2B Marketing Copywriter

Ryan Yee is a long-time copywriter with B2C and B2B experience across agriculture, biotech, finance, healthcare, technology, and more. He still fondly remembers (?) the papercuts from proofing film and sleep deprivation from late-night press checks. He’s a San Francisco native with love for his nieces and nephews, hometown Giants, and anything even remotely associated with food (utensils optional).

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