We keep hearing about multichannel support and now cross-channel. Is there a difference? If so, what is the difference and what technologies do we need to be thinking about?
Multichannel typically refers to a center handling voice contacts, email, fax, Web chat, SMS/text and other channels, including social media -- all under one organizational umbrella at a minimum, ideally leveraging common resources, processes and tools. Most contact centers now view themselves as multichannel. For many companies, social media is currently being handled by marketing, so they are multichannel, but across multiple organizations. Sometimes the term is used to encompass a broader set of channels, including things like kiosks and storefronts or branches that are rarely under the purview of the contact center.
Cross-channel is generally used to talk about the reality that contacts and customers often cross channel boundaries; for example, I go to a website to self-serve but then talk to someone in the center about that interaction. And again, these cross-channel events could go into the realms of social media and face-to-face interactions for some businesses.
Many companies are focusing on gathering and analyzing data across channels -- including IVR, Web, contact center, storefronts, social media, et cetera -- to understand the true customer experience in interacting with the company. The two terms come together as companies offer customers many channels (multichannel) but also look at the interactions as they move between channels (cross-channel).
This was first published in August 2011