Is There a Difference Between Multichannel and Omnichannel?

multichannel call center

multichannel call center

The multichannel versus omnichannel debate obscures the intent behind these words

Many businesses talk about communication channels. While the telephone remains the default channel for most business communications, businesses shouldn’t dismiss other channels as trivial.

Certainly, email leads the way as another way to communicate. It’s the preferred method for an increasing number of folks. Other people, mostly younger generations, prefer text as their go to means to connect with family and friends. And they expect to do the same with businesses. Don’t forget web chat, either. Then there’s the various social media platforms, with LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter being the leading three contenders.

That’s a lot of channels to deal with.

And of course, experts have a name for these channel considerations. It’s multichannel. Oh, wait. Maybe it’s omnichannel. Which is it?

What is Multichannel?

Splitting the word multichannel into its components results in multi, which means many, and channel, which is a type of communication. Merging these definitions results in “many ways to communicate” or “many channels,” which we shorten to multichannel.

This understanding of multichannel seems to perfectly fit our description of the multitude of channels businesses must deal with to connect with their customers, using their customers’ preferred method.

Does that mean multichannel is the correct word to describe this trend? Not so fast.

What is Omnichannel?

Let’s break down the word omnichannel. We see a slightly different understanding. Omni means all—not part and not some—but all. Again, channel refers to a type of communication. Combining these definitions results in “all ways to communicate” or “all channels,” which produces the word omnichannel.

Do you see the difference? Omnichannel implies a need to connect with customers in every conceivable channel available, while multichannel gives the freedom to select from leading contenders without the requirement of embracing every conceivable option.

To take the idea of omnichannel to its limit implies that a business needs to embrace channels such as telegraph, semaphore, and smoke signals. Yes, these are extreme examples and completely unrealistic. But by strict definition, this is what omnichannel entails, even though people dismiss such a literal understanding.

What Does It Matter?

Although communication experts gleefully debate the difference between multichannel and omnichannel, this obscures the vision behind these two terms. The goal is to better serve customers by being available to them in many ways, be it by phone, email, text, web chat, or social media. If we understand this as the goal, it doesn’t matter what we call it, be it multichannel or omnichannel.

Today’s leading contact centers process so much more than just calls. They handle other channels as well. That’s why they call themselves contact centers instead of call centers. Again, the name doesn’t matter; it’s results that count.

If you want results that matter, then you want to embrace the channels your customers want to use to reach you. And today’s best contact centers can help you in this quest. It doesn’t matter if you call it multichannel or omnichannel. What does matter is that you give your customers options.


Ansafone Contact Centers, a 24/7 live contact center service provider, uses a multichannel communication approach to help clients communicate via phone and live chat, with email management and social media monitoring. Ansafone’s business process outsourcing (BPO) services specialize in customer service, help desk, tier-1 tech support, sales conversion, and enrollment. Click here to learn more.

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