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Is it really possible to have good customer experience through omni-channel banking?

Omni-channel banking is a hot topic, fuelled by the need to provide the best customer experience (CX) no matter what channel a consumer chooses, or how many times they chop and change between channels during a transaction. But is this utopia really possible?

I think the answer is yes, but it’s not going to be easy to accomplish.

Here’s a simple, real-life, experience from a different industry: health care. Living in the UK, it’s wet and cold right now (just like the summer I guess :-) and I’ve had “man flu” for just over 3 weeks. During that time, I have taken 6 flights (including a couple of Transatlantic trips), and my left ear has not popped back from nearly 2 weeks ago, giving me a bit of a “geriatric lughole”.

I contacted the doctors for an appointment by ringing them up (their “telephony” channel). The result? Engaged tone.

After several attempts on the phone, I gave up, fought traffic to the clinic (the “branch”), readjusted my “friendly mask” and requested an appointment at the front desk. The receptionist (the “teller”), with script-like efficiency, reeled off a well-versed statement that I had to “phone between 8am and 9:30am to get an appointment any sooner than 7 days’ time”.

So, in short, if you know you will still be ill in a weeks’ time, you have to book at the desk. If you are urgently ill, you have to battle the engaged tone (many many redials). If you are somewhere in between, you have to…..erm….

Forget about starting my appointment request on the web, progressing it on the phone and confirming with face to face. This was a basic functional request of a simple service. Each channel had its own rules on the functionality that it offers. And I, the consumer, somehow needed to be aware of these rules to transact. Throw into the mix an evil (in my opinion) receptionist intent only on seeing me in misery (luckily I couldn’t hear her snigger when I left as I was half deaf) and you have the basic challenge of omni-channel: it’s just plain complex to get right.

Health care (at least my example) is slightly more straightforward than consumer banking, with its channels such as branch, franchise branch, IVR, voice banking (telephony), internet and mobile banking. Sure, if the bank is among the few out there that is purely digital and providing only a mobile banking or online banking only experience then it might be a bit easier. But for the rest who focus on multiple consumer segments, the majority of the industry, that’s not an option.

Choosing the right plumbing is vital to enable that joined-up, efficient, and, above all else, enjoyable experience, which is needed if you want new customers, or existing customers to keep coming back…and to tell their friends on Facebook…and Twitter…and in the pub. You get the picture.