Leaders often use the terms ‘multichannel’ and ‘omnichannel’ interchangeably, as if these two strategies define the same customer experience approach. However, as those intimately familiar with the two buzzwords are well aware, these strategies are related, but certainly not identical.
Multichannel gained its reputation as omnichannel’s clunky predecessor because, in essence, that’s exactly what it represents. While it expanded brand interactions beyond their traditional voice or branch boundaries, this approach systematically fails to streamline the customer experience and support cross-channel consistency. Most firms with multichannel capabilities still operate by connecting disparate systems after the fact. Omnichannel, on the other hand, looks at experience holistically in an effort to draw customer insight from one channel and apply the data across all subsequent interactions moving forward. This approach allows customers to take charge of their interactions by engaging with institutions how and where they want across integrated channels that facilitate seamless experiences.
For financial institutions, specifically, transitioning from a multichannel environment to an omnichannel one continues to progress slowly, as these firms are often restricted by regulatory, compliance and technological challenges. But it's a move that is required. While the markets have improved significantly since the Great Recession, big banks’ reputations never quite bounced back. Competitors like smaller banks and online/mobile banking alternatives are viable options, especially for young consumers, which puts traditional banks in the position of having to differentiate on great experiences.
Financial services companies can no longer operate channels independently. Customer experience must be consistent across channels, but silos prohibit the sharing of customer data from one touchpoint to another. Therefore, by embracing digital interactions and focusing on customers, omnichannel strategies can aid banks’ future prospects.
Financial firms that have yet to implement an omnichannel strategy will need to form an enterprise roadmap first so they may determine a comprehensive business plan and channel optimization strategy that balances the banks’ and the customers’ needs and values. Much like customer journey mapping, internal roadmaps will differ from firm to firm, to reflect the goals of each individual institution and its customers. Consistency will remain critical throughout, however, which is why all institutions must create strategies that involve the entire organization. Each department must be educated and buy-in to prevent silos from recurring. Of course, while this sounds like common sense, establishing an omnichannel strategy always proves more difficult than expected. Banks need to align all channels—from branches and ATMs, to online banking and mobile applications—if they wish to achieve the ideal, holistic customer profile. Ownership, however, remains elusive, as many firms have yet to put any sort of strategic plan into action. Banks must ultimately bring omnichannel theory to practice. Often a CXO is a way to unite the company around a shared vision with senior management-level responsibility.
Banks that streamline their internal infrastructure and clear pathways for cross-channel communication and data sharing will then be able to better serve both their customers and their bottom line. With access to customer data across all available touchpoints, banks can assess each individual’s spending and income patterns to generate detailed customer profiles. They can use online behavior to inform offline interactions to build value and relevance based on insight into which products or services customers may have explored independently. This insight will also enhance tailored, personalized messaging that is more likely to resonate.
For instance, in its effort to align business processes and systems after consolidating its contact centers, one ce">Fortune 500 financial services company developed a strategic roadmap for sharing customer data across channels to ensure consistent experiences. As a result, its new culture of continuous improvement boosted member satisfaction while saving technology costs.
Banks recognize that omnichannel now represents the ideal customer experience strategy, but most also know that achieving this goal won’t happen overnight. Leaders must keep the benefits in mind as they work alongside their entire institution to develop an enterprisewide mindset and infrastructure that break down silos and foster consistency.
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