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We are well versed in Multichannel for customer engagement. Now Omichannel has emerged. But, what is it and why does it really matter?

Omnichannel means engaging customers across all touchpoints, whether digital or physical. Omni originates from the Latin word “omnis” meaning “all, every, the whole, of every kind”.

Understanding the difference between Omnichannel and Multichannel is a strategic imperative.

Multichannel was born from a supply-driven economy. This means the financial firm dictated the way a customer could engage such as via a branch / office, a contact center, a personal advisor, a web portal or a mobile app.  Optimising customer interactions across Multichannels was never easy from balancing cost with value, supporting customer life stage events, and coping with the diversity of customer moments.

Alternatively, Omnichannel is emerging from the demand-driven economy. The customer selects the touchpoint most convenient to them, with the expectation of having an engaging response in the context of their need, at that moment in time.

This is a seismic change for traditional organisations as they need to turn themselves inside out, where everyone is supporting customer engagement, whilst coping with an ever-changing marketplace. As the market continues to shift towards a higher customer engagement benchmark, the gap between supply-driven and demand-driven organisations will widen. The tipping point is when the customers start to switch in such numbers that profitability is ‘irreparably’ damaged, because firms simply cannot adapt to the new standards.

The deeper the understanding for the need to sense immediately and respond quickly, the more problematic it becomes for supply-driven organisations.  But, change waits for no one.

The pace of technology change is outpacing the ability for most financial firms to adapt.  As this gap continues to widen, the threat to the fabric of financial services is more likely to come from new entrants to the market.

New entrants into financial services does not necessarily mean new firms, such as commonly associated with FinTech. In fact, some of today’s banking giants started from other industries by amassing cash and becoming banks later, like JP Morgan.

So, which industry outside financial services is awash with cash, has circa several billion customers and are rapidly leading the advancement of the Omnichannel for customer engagement?

You need to look no further than the tech titans. For example, Apple has amassed US$250bn of cash and already provides the equivalent of a “consumer” digital “bank” account for receiving and paying monies. Oh, and Apple already has 1bn active devices around the world. Other tech titans like TenCent, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Google have similar profiles. You only need to look at some of their patents to see the blueprint for the future of financial services.

The shift towards a sense-and-respond organisation requires a flexible workforce. Such a workforce is going to be a blended model of people and Chatbots. Yet, try and find a Human Resources Director in Financial Services that is shaping the blended workforce. Chatbots do not get paid! Chatbots are loyal (some misbehave because of poor design and controls). Chatbots are transparent, with a full decision audit trail (if designed properly). Chatbots work 24*7. Chatbots are highly productive as they can conduct any number of parallel conversations. Chatbots can engage with text or voice. Chatbots are multi-lingual. Chatbots retain the corporate knowledge. Chatbots ensure compliance and cannot missell (again if designed properly). Chatbots are designed for Omnichannel.  

Yet who in Financial Services are designing the blueprint of this type of blended workforce that is highly agile, adaptive and skilled. Certainly, not Human Resources though traditionally they are responsible for workforce skills and performance capabilities!

For many this sounds so futuristic. Others are saying we understand, but we need to ensure Chatbot security, we need visibility of the rationality for Chatbot decisions, we need to ensure regulatory compliance etc. Though empathic to the ‘but for’ arguments, because at least they are thinking about it, the reality is solutions do already exist, but the knowledge is not common.    

The future of customer engagement is already underway, but for many in financial services the “wait and see” is the comfort blanket, even though such an organisational redesign takes 5 to 10 years


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