Is Multi-Channel Banking Just A Bunch Of Hot Air?

Not long ago, a client asked me to give a presentation to his management team on the topic of multi-channel (or cross-channel) banking. I declined the request because I don’t have a lot of research to show what banks were doing about the topic, nor do I have any great examples or case studies of successful multi-channel banking (I don’t have examples of unsuccessful efforts, either).

I also declined the request for a reason I didn’t verbalize: I think multi-channel banking is a meaningless term. One of those fluffy generalities we like to throw out there to make us look smart and well-intentioned, like “customer-centricity.”

Which, I think, is the reason why I don’t have any great examples of it. Oh sure, I’ve seen a report from one of my competitors describing one European bank’s multi-channel banking success (you don’t really think I’m going to provide a link, do you?).  But as I read through the report, I honestly can’t figure out what makes it a multi-channel or cross-channel example — it’s fundamentally about the bank’s effort to improve customer self-service. 

Today, I was on a call with the head of the financial services practice for a very large IT vendor. There was very little mention — no, make that “absolutely no mention” — of CRM, so I asked him what he’s been seeing in the way of demand for CRM applications among banks. His response was:

“Regarding CRM, it’s all about the channels. We’re focusing on providing real-time intelligence to the front-line.”

What he confirmed for me was that bank’s CRM spending is stovepiped and siloed within the channels. The online channel is spending to increase its effectiveness, the branch is investing to increase its effectiveness, and the contact center focuses on improving its effectiveness.

I’ve come to believe that the all the talk about multi-channel banking is just that — talk. One of those motherhood and apple pie aspirational things that bankers like to talk about, because it makes them sound like they’re talking about the things that other people think they should be talking.

Is multi-channel banking just a bunch of hot air?

I’m inclined to believe so, but I’m ready and willing to change my opinion if presented with compelling evidence and proof of the concept. 

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