Let’s jump right into the meat of the matter: Omnichannel isn’t really about channels, or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s about your customers.
Recent BANKINGHUB research reports that almost 90 percent of banks have a defined strategy for their network of physical branches; roughly three-fourths also have a well-defined digital/online strategy. However, fewer than half have a specific, defined omnichannel strategy to orchestrate communications in multiple channels.
The disconnect is twofold. First, you need both a branch and a digital strategy in place before you can begin building an omnichannel bridge between them. Second, omni means all; omnichannel insists that you have to bring everything together. And that’s hard. In fact, doing it well is, according to some in the industry, close to impossible.
Legacy on top of legacy
Part of the challenge is that omnichannel, as it’s often envisioned, spends too much time focusing on upgrades of existing processes and technology. Chris Skinner of thefinanser.com suggests that there isn’t truly such a thing as a channel, much less omnichannel, just layers on top of legacy. He sees omnichannel as a pile-up of legacy on top of legacy and suggests that going truly digital-first is the only real way to break out of the cluttered technology that too often limits banks and credit unions.
Chris Nichols, Chief Strategy Officer for CenterState Bank, shares this sentiment. In a 2019 article, he wrote, “Most of those ‘experts’ throwing around ‘omni-channel’ do so with the mindset of a fintech start-up with little regard for practicality and little respect for having to deal with a traditional core system.” He offers the following example of why legacy tech makes omnichannel journeys difficult:
The first problem is that if a customer starts and then stops an application, the information is not stored in the core system since the account isn’t opened yet, so the data needs to reside somewhere.
If a bank has a data lake, then great, problem solved with a little money and programming. Unfortunately, most banks don’t have a central data storage location other than their core, and so the bank relies on each respective application to store the pre-customer data. Unfortunately, your mobile account opening application may be different from your branch system, which may be different than your online system. Add call center, voice, chat, interactive teller machines and any other channel that comes up in the future, and you can see how complicated keeping the data updated in real-time can become
What customers actually care about
The Financial Brand was recently right on target, quoting Steve Dennis from Forbes: “It’s a mistake thinking that customers care about channels. Customers care about experiences, about solutions, about ease and simplicity, and Ron Shevlin of Cornerstone: “Consumers will use whatever channel is most convenient for them. They just want the job done.”
Convenience is the new loyalty, and, at the end of the day, banks and credit unions still have to provide relevant, simple, and exceptional experiences. The bar has been raised, and the average consumer – or business, for that matter – doesn’t care about FIs’ legacy technology challenges. And it’s essential to avoid the multi-/omni-channel worst-case scenario: a collection of technology that checks all of the channel boxes on paper, but neglects the overall experience and waters down attention and investment into each of the channels. This sort of omnichannel diversion distracts from the essential element of any/all channels: the customer relationship.
In Part Two of The Omnichannel Challenge, we’ll look at ways to solve for customer experiences in the face of legacy technology, high expectations, and a multitude of channels, touchpoints, and customer journeys.