mobiledevicesRecently I read an interesting interview on the OnetoOne portal, featuring Nils Hafner, a true expert in customer relationship systems, a professor at the University of Luzern and alumnus of the marketing network MTP.

Titled provocatively "Omni-Channel is Bullshit", the article got my attention immediately - and not just for the sake of satisfying my curiosity – with Hafner complaining: “I can no longer hear it - omnichannel here and touchpoint management there - do we really believe the customer wants all that? Is there really anybody who understood how to implement what the customer wants or how that contributes to profitable long-term relationships? I do not think so!”
Well, we have to admit that in a time of ever-decreasing advertising effectiveness and ever-increasing interconnectedness, many spontaneous activities in the form of recommendations or warnings about the performance of companies, made communication less and less controllable and dialogues more important - and with it - the touchpoints where these dialogues can take place.

Actually, Hafner is questioning the basic idea of the omnichannel principle, doubting that the customer really wants all this. Rather, he believes that the decisive factor is to complement the way of looking at the touchpoints – from different perspectives - since not everything that is technically feasible is appreciated by the customer. He argues for a 360 degree view to create real-time relevancy across all channels and points out that there are certainly some touchpoints that are irrelevant to customers from specific sectors. Not to mention that the fewer the customers use a touchpoint, the less pays off the necessary monitoring or the operation of this touchpoint.

But not everything that customers do not (yet) use, has to be useless on the other hand. Especially when it comes to email alternatives, it may be useful to introduce customers successively to chat or video chat. The British bank RBS, for instance, tries to "educate" the consumer with respect to the use of certain touchpoints, shooting videos in which the advantages of the chats were presented as a meaningful, synchronous service tool for the customer and company. Over time, it was observed that more and more customers began to use instant messaging services, considered as a direct consequence of the realization that especially with complex service issues, often not every touchpoint is equally suitable.

In a nutshell, not everything that customers want is actually useful and not everything that customers want makes sense to offer from a business point of view. Besides, some companies are simply missing the skills, e.g. in social, which often results in mediocrity at the touchpoints. But especially for new or potential customers it is important to see competence provided at each touchpoint.

After all the buzzword "omnichannel" is basically about the customer being able to choose freely between the touchpoints of the company and providing information at every touchpoint: So that dealers in the shop know what the customer has ordered online and that he has reported in the contact center that the size of the product is not right and therefore wants to change it in the shop, because a) the right item is just there and b) the shop is conveniently located on his way to work.

The task associated with omnichannel is providing the customer history and all relevant customer data at each touchpoint. But that is a basic requirement of the customer relationship management since the late 90s, and therefore Hafner emphasizes that “omnichannel remains bullshit”.

But we all agree that marketing needed a shift from a black box concept into measurable attribution, as multichannel couldn’t solve this problem because of redundancy and cross-channel, and not because of incompleteness. The omnichannel trend is the evolved response to both, but still not a one size fits all solution for marketing executives. It is more about a universally relatable concept - less cost, more revenue – and a significant step in the right direction.

By Daniela La Marca