‘Omni-channel’ is without doubt one of the most over-used blog terms used and abused by vendors and consultants alike. Unfortunately for you, being such a controversial term makes it a great hook to hang a blog on. And fortunately for us, Comet has lots of real-world omni-channel successes which we’d like to share without tipping the hype curve of the term. So we’ve decided to write a series of blogs with different takes on ‘omni-channel’ – bringing together a number of authors’ views with a regular cadence and a flawsome mindset. We plan to start with a customer experience piece of what it could be like to live in an omni-channel world, then looking into the core principles of developing omni-channel experiences, with the aim to go into more of the detail on how to make omni-channel work and include our opinions on bringing specific channels in the mix. We’d love to hear your angle on omni-channel!

I’ve just completed delivering an omni-transport project – a family holiday from Edinburgh to Penzance, where ‘omni’ in this context is modes of transport working together to drive overall family satisfaction. And for the record, I have no qualms about using the ‘omni’ word in this context since my 4-year-old asked Siri ‘do you have boyfriend?’, and Siri replied he was ‘omni-relational’ (I should take care how my children train the bots). As a CRM consultant I was reflecting about the nature of my planning and travelling and how I interacted with various companies supporting my trip.

  • In the planning phase, I researched locations and options online – both on my desktop and on my mobile - when ideas came to me. I asked my friends where I should go on social media and even face to face.
  • In the buying phase, I bought tickets and booked accommodation online (which I hated – too many aggregators with not enough choice), got email confirmations of bookings, phoned a call centre to cancel bookings, and downloaded various tickets to my phone’s wallet and to numerous supplier specific apps.
  • In the travelling phase, I got SMS and push notification reminders, researched local travel options and activities ‘in-destination’ – typically from Google on my phone (until the charge ran out), and posted the obligatory holiday snaps on Facebook.

So, I felt I’d had quite a nice multi-channel experience of it all. But it made me question whether it was really an omni-channel experience? Some of my experiences were well connected – the hotel booking drives, email confirmation drives and SMS reminder on the day. But mostly I experienced silos of separate travel, accommodation and activity interactions. And while there was some convenience in doing it myself – I still had to do it all myself. It was mostly transactional and I couldn’t help wondering how it could be better?

So, I wondered what an omni-channel omni-transport holiday could look like. And since one of the things I did most on holiday was to spend money (between 5 and 500 times the average weekly spend?) I wondered what my bank could do to help? After all they know more about me and how I spend my money than anyone – and could make a pretty educated guess at where and when I like to travel.

  • My banking omni-channel journey starts long before I ever depart – with pictures of what I’ve been buying on my statements (focussing on last year’s spend after last month’s bill sticker shock has been forgotten).
  • Then I get a more specific email between 12 and 6 months before my potential holiday with reminders of money saving tips by booking early and suggestions of places to go.
  • In the meantime, as I go about my day-to-day online banking I get the traditional ‘saving for my holiday’ offers, but because I’d clicked on the email suggestions but not yet booked anything, I also receive some pictures of the local branches in destinations I’ve shown interest in. Maybe a suggested travel partner in their cash back scheme or a reminder about how to travel on the loyalty schemes they know I use?
  • To ease my accommodation booking pain my bank app travel section provides a list of accommodations in my destination, booked by other bank customers similar to me – showing me what people are actually booking, which are getting booked repeatedly and what are real customers actually saying about these options.
  • With the help to book accommodation my bank also saves me from being plagued by accommodation ads on every site I visit even though I’d already booked something weeks previously. Please stop doing stupid things like this! And while I’m thinking about the importance of knowing when not to say anything – I don’t want any bank marketing messages while I’m away. Don’t email me. Don’t text me. Don’t phone me. I’m on holiday. I. Am. Not. Listening.
  • The contactless payment on the train’s buffet car reminds me by push notification not only that I’ve spent £23 on a half-bottle of wine – but that I can get the next one with a pound off through the bank’s partner spend and save scheme.
  • To pass the hours between buffet visits I’ve been looking at the Travel section of the bank’s mobile app – which has helpfully been populated with suggestions and good deals of what I might do in-destination (rather than the usual travel insurance and foreign exchange offers). Maybe the bank has implemented its #travelbot to help the conversation? I have a look at a few, discount some of the less suitable ones and quite quickly the suggestions improve and get to something that works.
  • When I get to my location, an SMS delivered to me as I pass by a cash machine reminds me that I should probably take out some cash because the area is a contactless desert (heaven forbid).
  • Now I’m utterly dependent on my mobile phone and its ability to stay charged enough all day. Can I please have mobile charging stations at all branches and ATMs? And in return I’d happily listen to anything you have to say about my mortgage roll-off or your unsecured loans.

This looks a bit more joined up don’t you think? My bank is supporting me where and when I want; and reflecting what I’ve just told it about my current circumstances to be more helpful. While many of these ideas are truly terrible, and the conversation within my bank’s ethics and privacy committees could be challenging, they all sound technically feasible and relatively cheap with the data, systems, insights and skills my bank has today. But as a consumer do I really care whether this is an ‘omni-channel’ experience or not? Instead, and my editor put it best, I only care that shows how “life could be so much easier” – which is great for me, and great for my bank.

And it made me think a bit:

  • What are banks for? Could they help us all spend our money more wisely and not just be about “boring” pensions, mortgages, and savings?
  • Could a conventional bank actually pull this off? Or is it only for a tech titan? And would I trust a bank with my precious holidays? Would the bank’s ideas be a rich enough experience for me? Would it work globally?
  • If my experience could be so much better than just sharing where and when I was travelling – then what would others do for these details? And would I be willing to share it?

Where do you think the Omni-Channel Banking should go on their holidays? I’d love to hear your suggestions to alistair.ewing@cometgc.com!

Alistair Ewing

Senior Consultant with the Strategy and Insight Practice

Alistair is a Senior Consultant within the Strategy and Insights practice at Comet. For the last 20 years Alistair has delivered customer decisioning, marketing and analytics solutions to some of the world’s most customer-centric organisations, including Nationwide, Royal Bank of Scotland, Merrill Lynch and TeliaSonera. Prior to joining Comet two years ago,  Alistair held senior software product positions in Pitney Bowes, Portrait and Quadstone. Then as now, Alistair’s passion is in bringing customer insight to drive excellent customer experiences.