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Is Social Media a Channel?

I see and hear this a lot nowadays - in presentations and conversations. To be honest, apart from the questionable grammar of the question, I think the answer is pretty simple - NO! But scratch away at that simple answer and a more interesting question lies beneath… Why do we need to define channels?

I worked in banking for ten years - at a time when channels were relatively simple things. You had branches, telephony (& IVR - but everyone just thought of them as robo-Telephony), ATMs and the internet. They all merrily worked in their respective silos and everyone was happy. The concept of the channel was important because it framed the way we developed products and processes. They were the starting point of most developments. 

But then technology started blurring those nice crisp lines. All of a sudden we had text messages, and then Smartphones. Then people started using Facebook and Twitter. Customer started using multiple channels - and even worse multiple channels within the same transaction or interaction. Then everyone got a bit confused.

Now bankers will talk about ‘the iPhone channel’ or ‘the BlackBerry channel’ (if, of course it’s working). I think this has muddied the whole concept of channel to the point where it’s no longer a relevant concept. Customer interaction types have fragmented at a time when each interaction is more important than ever. The old way of looking at channels has become a hindrance and not a help.

So I propose an alternative. For wont of a better name, (and I am a consultant!) let’s call it an Interaction Matrix… All customer interactions will boil down to:


This will then be overlaid by four variables:

1. Customer Type – you may want to offer a high value customer a different type of service by phone or branch – or give them more functionality on e-channels

2. Customer Interaction – a customer looking to complete a quick transaction will want a different experience than those looking for advice.

3. Customer Location – a customer using an iPhone walking down the street will use it differently to one sitting on a sofa. A customer using social media will want a different experience to a customer using internet banking

4. Customer Device – an iPad will be used differently to a Smartphone.

Yes, it’s not rocket science – but it is a big shift. So, instead of defining channels, we should define customer interactions. This will enable us to keep meeting customer needs. I think the sooner we stop thinking about outdated channels and start using an Interaction Matrix, the faster we will meet changing customer expectations.



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Alex Bray

Alex Bray

AVP, Omni-Channel Acquisition & Servicing


Member since

05 Feb 2011



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