‘Omnia omnibus’ means ‘all things to all men’ in Latin. That is a good way to start a discussion on the meaning of omni-channel to banks. As with so many other financial services buzz phrases, omni-channel means many different things to different people.
Certainly, there is an acknowledgement in the industry that banks need to be more omni-channel. The data bears it out. PwC reported that half (46%) of customers use branches, ATMs and online banking all over the past six months (https://www.pwc.com/us/en/financial-services/publications/assets/omnichannelbanking.pdf).
Customers want more flexibility in service provisions and banks need to evolve. But what does that actually mean?
When I meet with banks, I’m often asked if certain products are ‘omni-channel’. I respond by asking what the bank’s definition of omni-channel is. The answers vary. It could be a unified user experience layer across disparate channels. It could mean a defined
set of customer journeys, optimised for cross channel use. It could mean putting webchat on all your internet banking pages. In some cases, the banks don’t know – but they know it is important and that customers want it (and that consultants recommend it).
Most of the definitions of omni-channel fall short, as they fail to address underlying customer needs. It isn’t about delivering an omni-channel experience on every process. Some processes should not be omni-channel – they should be designed for completion
with one touch. When planning channel strategy, banks need to look at the specific needs of the customer. Outside-in design is a crucial part of effective omni-channel. The key question must be ‘what is the customer value proposition?’ There have been many
examples of poorly designed omni-channel. Like the bank which automatically launched webchats on every page of their website. It was expensive to offer, irritated customers and generated no value.
My definition of omni-channel is ‘the capability for a customer to commence a transaction in one channel and seamlessly move to another
AND for a bank to see and leverage all customer data at every touch point’. It’s a little wordy, but it covers all the main points. Moving to an omni-channel approach is hard. There are legacy systems and internal silos to overcome. However, it is clear
that seamless customer journeys are the future. In this case, omne initium difficile est (every beginning is difficult).