Excellent customer service experiences depend on giving customers convenient paths to contact support agents on whichever channel best suits them. This is possible with an omnichannel customer service strategy, where businesses seamlessly manage customer interactions on multiple communication channels: email, social media, SMS, voice, and so on.
According to Shopify’s 2022 Future of Commerce report, 58% of customers say that being able to get customer support on their preferred channel influenced their purchase decision. An omnichannel approach satisfied this need and more by retaining customer data across channels and using it to personalize every interaction, even if a customer has never used that channel before
Below, learn why an omnichannel approach to customer engagement can produce more revenue for your business, increase loyalty, and provide an overall better experience.
What is omnichannel customer service?
Omnichannel customer service is when a business offers multiple options for customer support that seamlessly connect across different channels.
For example, providing unified customer support via messaging channels like SMS or live chat, phone calls, and social media apps is an omnichannel approach to customer service. In addition to providing your customers with multiple touchpoints for contacting customer service agents, self-service support resources such as a knowledge base, an FAQ page, and automated chatbots can also serve as valuable elements of an omnichannel customer service strategy.
Why you should offer an omnichannel customer experience
Thanks to the benefits listed below, the popularity of omnichannel customer service is rapidly increasing. Customer expectations regarding omnichannel customer service have been on the rise lately as well, with 78% of customers reporting that they prefer to choose from a variety of engagement channels for support, according to data from Salesforce.
The same Salesforce report also shows that 40% of customers won't do business with a company if they can’t use their preferred channels. Meeting customer expectations and creating a customer-centric experience can lead to better growth, which in turn creates more revenue for your business.
That’s true for the team at messenger bag shop Timbuk2. "Increased customer support should go hand in hand with revenue growth,” says Joseph Piazza, Senior Customer Experience Manager. “We want to turn customer experience into a profit center."
Below, explore some of the main benefits of omnichannel customer service.
Support your customers where they are
Omnichannel customer service allows customers to contact your support team using the channels that they are already most comfortable with. This encourages better customer relationships since shoppers won’t have to compromise on how they like to communicate.
Take a look at how Berkey Filters, a leading water filtration brand, lets customers know about their fastest support channels at the top of their contact-us page:
Requiring customers to contact your company via email or phone may not seem like too big of an ask, but remember that for every customer who contacts your brand for support, there are likely several others who will decide that those options are too much of a hassle. They might prefer Instagram or Twitter or would rather send in a quick text message. That creates a leaky bucket for your team — you might miss out on answering the question that makes the sale, or resolving a frustration that keeps someone from making another purchase.
Implementing an omnichannel customer service strategy makes getting support more convenient and accessible for your customers. And, it increases the chance that they’ll actually reach out so that you can turn around their experience.
📚Recommended reading: Learn how to incorporate social media into your customer service strategy.
Resolve your customers' needs faster
According to data from HubSpot, 90% of customers rate immediate responses as “important” or “very important” when they have a customer service question.
When you make it more convenient for customers to find the answers that they need, you reduce wait times and resolve your customers' needs much faster. Resolving customer issues as quickly as possible is a vital objective for any company that hopes to optimize customer satisfaction.
If you hope to meet these customer expectations, your entire customer service process needs to be an efficient and streamlined experience. Offering support across multiple communication channels — complemented by automation and templates — is an effective step toward accomplishing this goal.
📚Recommended reading: Our Director of Support’s guide to lowering resolution time.
Increase customer loyalty
Customers take time to contact a brand's contact center when they are experiencing an issue, either before or after a purchase. If their issue is not resolved in a timely and effective manner, customers could decide not to purchase from you again.
Making it as simple and convenient as possible for customers to contact your company allows you to resolve customer issues much faster, and increases the likelihood that customers with issues will contact you in the first place.
Stationery shop Ohh Deer tracks the revenue it generates from positive customer experiences using Gorgias. The brand boasts a 4.95 CSAT score and tracks $12,500 of revenue generated from chat each quarter. "When you make sales thanks to your good service, customers will come back and recommend you,” says Alex Turner, the brand’s Customer Experience Manager. “That's revenue-generating."
Good service can go a long way towards boosting customer satisfaction and ultimately customer loyalty because customers know that if they have a problem, you will be able to quickly resolve it.
📚Recommended reading: Want to get a gauge of your brand’s customer loyalty? Learn how to calculate (and improve) net promoter score (NPS) and customer satisfaction (CSAT).
Reduce customer churn rates
Boosting customer loyalty also means reducing customer churn rates. When you can provide a streamlined and satisfactory experience to customers who are having issues with your products or services, it’s less likely that those issues will cost you the customer.
According to The Effortless Experience, 96% of customers who have high-effort experiences feel disloyal to those companies afterward. Having to navigate away from social media and compose an email, only to be told that you actually have to pick up the phone and repeat your issue is the definition of a high-effort experience.
If the support process is seamless for the customer, their experience will be positive — and positive customer experience reduces churn. For subscription-based businesses, this means canceling their subscription. For non-subscription-based businesses, this means not returning to place additional purchases.
An omnichannel customer service strategy can be an exceptional tool for helping you turn customer issues into satisfactory outcomes, boosting customer retention in the process.
📚Recommended reading: Dealing with angry or frustrated customers? Check out our guide to dealing with angry customers over email.
Differentiate your brand from the competition
There's no denying the fact that ecommerce store owners are currently experiencing more than their fair share of challenges — and customer retention, not acquisition, is the best way to stand out.
Between stiff competition from ecommerce giants like Walmart and Amazon, and mounting global supply chain challenges, drawing in enough customers to pay the bills has never been harder.
The price of paid advertising has also skyrocketed recently, leaving many ecommerce brands at a disadvantage when it comes to bringing in new customers through paid channels. For example, Meta’s cost per click for paid ads increased by 61% from the previous year.
Many brands still operate in silos, where a support conversation via email and purchase history don’t show up in a customer’s lifetime profile. This makes omnichannel customer support a great way to step up the overall experience, where new shoppers feel comfortable making a purchase and returning shoppers are excited to come back for more.
And remember: While the cost of ads and customer acquisition skyrockets, happy customers generate 300% more revenue than first-time shoppers. So, while other brands are overspending on new customers they struggle to retain, you’ll come out on top by focusing on providing an excellent customer experience that keeps customers coming back.
Offer unique benefits from channel to channel
Each customer service channel has benefits of its own. Providing multiple channels — and a seamless experience switching from one channel to the next — lets customers choose what best works for them.
Self-service: 88% of customers want a self-service portal so that they can answer their own questions. Self-service resources like FAQ pages or knowledge centers are great for customer convenience, as they provide immediate answers to common questions.
Email: There’s a reason that 95% of customer service teams rely on email for support. A preferred channel for many, its versatile features, ticketing system, and the ability to integrate with simple automation makes it a tool that works for small and large teams.
Phone: Some people still prefer to talk on the phone to get support. Phone conversations help to fully resolve an issue in a way that text or email support can’t. Plus, having a phone line for people to call builds trust in your business, even if customers choose a different channel.
Live chat: Using live chat can increase customer conversions by 12%. It’s as much of a conversion tool as it is a support tool. Live chat encourages shoppers to ask any questions they have that are preventing them from making a purchase. For support, it offers immediate assistance for a quick resolution time.
SMS text messages: 46% of Americans spend 5-6 hours on their mobile devices each day. Offering SMS or text support meets customers where they already are, which creates an easier experience for them.
Social media: Time spent on social media is at an all-time high. Worldwide, the average person spends 147 minutes on social media each day. Because people already spend so much time on social, allowing them to get support there creates a much easier, streamlined experience. Shoppers can respond to a story to ask questions about products, comment a question on a post, tweet at a brand, or reach out via DM, a space that’s usually monitored by brands daily.
Mobile app: If your business has a mobile app, in-app support reduces the need for customers to switch back and forth between platforms
In-person: In-store support is great for personal connection, makes exchanges much easier, and allows customers to get an instant refund rather than waiting for an item to ship back. It also eliminates return shipping costs and can increase store revenue by bringing people back to take a look at what’s currently in stock.
Create a smoother customer journey
Customers want the ability to get the support they need where and when they want it, at any stage of the relationship they have with a company.
This creates a better user experience, one that is more focused on the benefits to the customer than on the benefits to the business. That’s the main difference between omnichannel and multichannel support. Multichannel support focuses on using multiple channels for marketing or support. Omnichannel seeks to meet customers where they are, provide a positive, seamless customer journey, and support people at all stages of the customer lifecycle.
5 tips for building world-class omnichannel customer service
The benefits of omnichannel customer service make it a stand-out customer support best practice for ecommerce. To help you get started, here are five tips for building world-class omnichannel customer service.
1) Use customer data to know your target audience(s) inside and out
Customer data is the fuel that powers better customer service. When you know your target audience inside and out, you can fine-tune messaging across different digital channels to provide support.
To offer a consistent experience across multiple channels, you must keep customer data front and center for whichever agent responds to the question. Customer data includes everything from each customer’s name, shipping address, past orders, past conversations, loyalty points, reviews, and more. With the right tool, this data will carry from one channel to the next, ensuring your customers never have to repeat themselves:
This customer data gives your agents the insights they need to provide a more personalized experience to the customers that they assist. Plus, you can set up automation workflows — like chatbots and automatic responses — that use this data to provide instant, personalized support. We’ll discuss this more in step four below.
✅ Next steps: Get familiar with the customer data that you have and make it as easy as possible for your agents to access. Ideally, it’s part of a helpdesk so your agents don’t have to switch tabs while answering tickets. But a customer relationship management (CRM) tool or even a spreadsheet could work — anything to avoid asking customers to repeat themselves.
📚 Recommended reading: Want to measure key customer support metrics? Read our guides on measuring NPS, CSAT, and customer service ROI. Or, check out our list of customer support metrics every brand should track.
2) Understand the strengths of each customer support channel
Before you can begin offering efficient customer service across multiple digital channels, you first need to get familiar with how each one of those channels works, how they can work together, and the best way to utilize each channel.
For instance, you may decide that routing customers with more complex issues from live chat to a call center is the best way to use these two channels in tandem. Whatever system you decide to implement, a thorough understanding of how to use the various channels in your omnichannel customer service strategy — both individually and as part of your overall support network — is key to creating effective omnichannel support.
Keep in mind that forcing customers to switch channels isn’t ideal. However, in certain circumstances, your best bet at finding a quick resolution is asking customers to jump on the phone or send an email with more details and images.
✅ Next steps: Check out our Director of Support’s guide to prioritizing customer support requests based on channel, urgency, and customer status. This is a great first step to developing a strategic approach to a multi-channel support operation.
3) Centralize all your conversations using a unified customer support platform
One of the only drawbacks of omnichannel customer service is the fact that requiring support agents to bounce between multiple apps (email, Facebook, Instagram, and so on) to respond to notifications on each channel. Thankfully, customer support software solutions (also called helpdesks) such as Gorgias can help. A customer service platform like Gorgias has functionality that can:
Centralize customer support conversations. Centralize conversations across numerous platforms and social media messaging apps into a single, user-friendly dashboard. Centralizing your customer interactions into one dashboard makes it easy for your customer service agents to switch between messaging platforms. This can boost agent productivity and ultimately improve the quality of your omnichannel customer support services.
Reduce tab-shuffling. Pick a helpdesk that pulls customer data from your ecommerce platform (like Shopify, BigCommerce, or Magento) so you can see customer data, modify orders, and suggest products without leaving the helpdesk. For you or your customer service agents, this means that they don’t have to pull up multiple tabs to help out one customer, which would involve shuffling between sites like Gmail, Instagram, and Shopify, for example.
Unify customer data across channels. Customers want to be able to start a live chat conversation with support and have the agent be able to see their past conversation history, purchases, and even chats they’ve had on other channels, like email or via text. Gorgias includes a customer sidebar, which shows customer data and metrics across integrated channels like SMS, email, and social media, and tools like Klaviyo and Yotpo.
Use automation to streamline processes. Built-in automation can help you deflect and prioritize tickets, offer immediate responses to frequently asked questions, or pop up to share proactive support or find upselling opportunities.
4) Leverage automation to improve response time and lighten the workload for your team
Tools designed to automate tedious customer service tasks are a huge help. Automated customer support workflow builders enable you to create canned responses to common questions such as, "where is my order?" and "do you ship internationally?"
Leveraging artificial intelligence can help you determine customer intent and provide accurate, personalized responses. The benefits of these automation tools are two-fold. They allow you to speed up your response and resolution times, and also help to reduce the burden on your support team by automatically resolving a large percentage of customer issues — which would have otherwise required a manual response.
✅ Next steps: If you don’t have one already, sign up for a helpdesk that comes with automation. Automated workflow builders such as the one offered by Gorgias can connect with a wide range of messaging platforms, letting you create canned responses across numerous customer support channels.
5) Offer self-service options
Self-service resources such as FAQ pages, automated chatbots, and knowledge base pages can allow customers to quickly find the answer to common questions without having to create a support ticket. While some might not consider these support channels, because they don’t involve conversations with support report reps, they are extremely important elements of the customer experience.
According to data from Microsoft, 66% of customers try self-service options before they decide to contact a brand's customer service team. Further, the same report finds that 88% of customers expect brands to have an online self-service portal.
While it is certainly important to provide customers with plenty of different channels for getting in touch with your customer service agents, self-service channels can be a valuable element of omnichannel customer service as well. Self-support resources make it easy for customers to find answers to common issues — even when all your reps are offline — while also reducing your team's support ticket volume.
Self-service is a wide-ranging umbrella, including resources like the following.
1) Self-service menus where customers can track, return, and cancel orders, as well as get answers to common questions without having to contact an agent and wait for a response:
2) Knowledge bases, also known as Help Centers, where customers can access an organized library of support articles and manage their order without contacting an agent:
3) Customer communities where customers can see conversations with other customers and read informative blog posts related to their products and issues
✅ Next steps: Using the data you have from past customer questions, pain points, and conversations, identify your frequently asked questions and create an FAQ page to answer them. You should also link your shipping, return, and exchange policies, as well as links to the additional channels where you offer support.
Once you have your FAQ page, monitor usage and consider upgrading to more robust self-service options like those described above.
Gorgias makes omnichannel customer service possible with a few clicks
As the customer service platform built specifically for ecommerce stores, Gorgias offers everything you need to implement omnichannel customer service with just a few clicks, including:
- Centralized customer support dashboard for connecting multiple customer service channels under a single, easy-to-use platform
- Powerful integrations with a wide range of messaging platforms, including fast-loading live chat widgets for offering real-time live chat support directly from your website
- AI-powered automated workflow builder for creating canned responses to common customer service questions
Take a look at how Gorgias helps you offer omnichannel customer service in the video below:
If you would like to see for yourself how Gorgias empowers ecommerce brands to offer exceptional omnichannel customer service, sign up for Gorgias today.