This is the world of “Omni Channel”: the smooth integration of customer experience across connected devices and platforms. In banking terms it means augmenting channels (branch, ATMS, phone, web, app, email, SMS) with the tech-platforms to seamlessly serve customers: making transactions quicker, easier and convenient.

An Omni Channel customer journey is:

Providing customers with consistent information, access tools and functionality regardless of touch point, channel or device,

Allowing customers to perform a variety of banking transactions across channels — so that transactions may begin in one channel and end in another, &

Helping present customers with the right information at the right moment in time based on context and their preferences.

To understand the concept, imagine a cricket crazy family glued to their TV, watching the Pakistan vs India World Cup fixture on a Sunday afternoon via their Digital HD Box. When their teenage son calls and expects to be picked up from the bus station, the father takes out his tablet and carries on watching the game using the android application for the Digital HD Box service provider at the parking of the bus station. As the bus is delayed, his tablet runs out of battery. This time, he quickly switches to his smartphone to watch the final overs through his Digital HD Box mobile app.

Now imagine, a mother who is interrupted by a weekend work call whilst she is searching on Daraz or Ali Express for a Valentine’s present for her husband. She can log onto those applications on her smartphone the next morning and begin from where she had left – ready to purchase without having to find the intended gift again.

Journey in Practice

It all starts by approaching the end state with an Omni Channel mindset. Especially, considering how getting customers to interact with more channels & technologies can impact the experience and the bottom line. Beyond mindset, there are three hard drivers of Omni Channel experience: (i) platform flexibility, (ii) process simplification / optimization and (iii) robust architecture. The ultimate aim is to build customer trust at every step of the journey by providing a consistent, continuous, innovative & secure transaction experience.

Banks need to benchmark the retail industry from where the term, Omni Channel was initially coined. An example, which cannot be ignored when mentioning the retail industry and Omni Channel customer journey, is Amazon and their Amazon Go stores. The founder, Jeff Bezos, has been a proponent and pioneer of using digital modes of shopping & delivery as 56% of US retail takes place on Amazon website. Amazon’s entry into buying a major brick and mortar retail, Whole Foods for $13.7 Billion, was an interesting development. This strategic move coincided with setting up Amazon Go stores. These new stores take full advantage of new technology (what Amazon calls ‘Just Walk Out Technology’) to create a fluid online and offline experience. Amazon Go stores let shoppers take items from the shelves and leave the store without needing to go through a checkout line, instead of detecting the items the shoppers took with them and charging their credit card for these items instantly. This serves as a value-chain integration example for banks.

Do Nation States go Omni Channel?

Pakistan as a nation set itself on the journey to provide its citizens with an Omni Channel experience as NADRA’s online real time database, verifications and biometric tools powered multiple government, utilities and corporate services. The financial institutions delivered inclusion and spawned a funds transfer journey along with the governance of customer accounts for reasons of taxation, documenting a grey economy and striving to be out of the high risk (read: money laundering prole) list of countries. The biometric technology is being used by corporates and banks as we see the advent of biometric enabled automated teller machines.

The recent launch of National Payments System Strategy (NPSS) by SBP gives vital impetus to digitally transform banking infrastructure and platforms. The regulatory facilitation and push coupled with the governments initiative by involving stakeholders such as NADRA, FBR and AGPR through the Digital Pakistan Vision of integrating databases to enable data mining & analysis will enable banks to develop payment platforms, apps & decision engines on the back of which they will be able to deliver a truly Omni Channel banking experience. Financial inclusion is a definitive outcome.

Succeeding the Journey

The key to success at the end would be, (i) test & learn and (ii) install listening posts across touchpoints of entire customer journey.

Test & learn is a time-tested method where you develop a prototype and offer it on a limited scale to a segment of the market. You see the teething problems to adoption and friction and work on fixing them before scaling up.

Listening post is a structured approach to collecting customer feedback on individual touchpoints, say learning from the website to the in-branch to the call center experience. Each listening post includes a research map, an engagement method and the destination of where the feedback will be actioned.

Aforementioned feedback loops, enables a banking enterprise to uncover customer needs, wants & expectations across channels. When gathered, organized and utilized correctly, the data provides with a roadmap to launch more targeted and effective initiatives – eliminating guesswork in optimizing the customer experience.

A Bank’s Reality…

A customer logs onto their online banking and looks into the details of a mortgage service, then pushes a button on the web page screen and gets connected directly with an adviser over chat, video or phone. The advisor answers queries specific to the customer need without he or she having to go through the fuss of physical interaction or repetitive identification processes.

While talking to the advisor the customer books an appointment at a local branch to discuss the mortgage in more detail and complete the paperwork. However, if the customer is unable to make the appointment they can rearrange the appointment using their mobile app or opt to complete the forms with the help of an advisor using an online application form.

This is absolutely banking on the customer’s terms. Simultaneously, there are enormous cost & time saves for the banks too – while benefiting customers.

Becoming truly Omni Cannel will require banks to radically reinvent their operating models, integrate products, services, data models / sources, optimize internal processes and educate their staff. This is an idea whose time has come. With shrinking margins and increasing competition from FinTechs, even the big international banks are toiling hard to accomplish this journey. Yet it is a survival for the incumbent banks in a highly volatile & competitive environment.