Screw omnichannel

As wretched buzzwords go omnichannel is right up there with the worst of them. Far too close to omnishambles for my liking. I would much prefer to think only channel (or onlichannel if you want to be a dick about it).  Also why is banking so obsessed with channels?

In banking omnichannel basically means having the capability to do anything from any channel (mobile, branch, telephone) and resume or complete or see notification of that process or event on a different channel whenever and wherever you want. That is of course a good thing but is the focus on providing this type of functionality at the detriment of single channel experience? Are your channels really as good as they can be today without adding yet more complexity?

first direct (disclosure: I work for the company that owns first direct) is currently, and has been for years, 10-15% higher rated from a customer satisfaction point of view than all of its big name competitors. This is mainly down to one channel in my opinion, the telephone. They have pretty much mastered the telephone as a channel for banking. No automated menu, just straight through to a skilled, well trained and friendly person in either Yorkshire or Scotland. That first point of contact have to resolve the issue or at the very least take ownership for its completion. Seems so simple yet evidently the competition thinks it can’t scale or does not stack up financially otherwise they would have copied it years ago.

Do you want all your channels talking to each other before they are fully capable of talking to a customer as well as they could? Can every business model you have complete within a single channel? If not why not? In some countries wet signatures i.e. you have to physically sign a piece of paper with ink, and regulations prevent this but within reason you should be able to complete or get to the point where signing and returning any forms is the very last thing needed to complete the process.

Another thought I had about channels is can you sign up for a single channel? Can I join a bank and say I only want to use tablet or mobile? Or do I need a slew of different identities for telephone, internet banking and for mobile as well? Why?

My parents are in their 60s they have a netbook, and both Android and Apple tablets, yet they are terrified of ‘Internet Banking’. One element being the complexity and fear of someone hacking their PC. I have a feeling that fear would be reduced if they could just use the iPad app. The sign up process however means they have to register for telephone banking and online banking, then setup another password inside that to allow them to use iPad banking. A barrier to entry to high for some.

The other fear is doing something wrong. My colleague Darren had a great idea about providing read only banking. You can see what is going on with your account online or on mobile but you can’t make any changes. You could get family members to authorise access or make the changes for you or use another channel to get a staff member to complete it for you, omnichannel of a different kind.

Can I opt out of specific channels fully? Never send me any post, never, ever call me on the phone. Can your business models function with the loss of one or two channels? Is omnichannel a desire or a functional need that you can’t operate without?

I was reminded of this dusty post stuck in my drafts folder when Phil Gyford published his awful experiences of trying to open a business account in the UK. Go and read it for a funny and frustrating insight into how complex it is to purchase the primary product of banking. What this effectively comes down to is really good service design, customer journey mapping and all that other good UX stuff being of the utmost importance or as Tom Loosemore put it…

The default should be letting the customer complete the process as simply as possible in the channel they started in. While the word omnichannel is a horror the capability it promises is a good thing but please don’t let it be at the expense of making singular channels as good as they could and should be.

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