Yesterday I received an email invitation for a Social Media Today webinar which posed the question “are you providing an omni-channel customer experience?” Now I have a suspicion that in 10 or 15 years time when marketing has finally moved-on, we are all going to look back at this sort of stuff and shake our heads. How was it that we ever got ourselves caught up in such tangled nonesense, we will ask.
A ridiculous term like omni-channel customer experience is only born when we need to use language to disguise a fundamental gap in understanding. Terms like this are a sure sign that we don’t really know what we are talking about. We are just making things up that sound good and have the reassurance of seeming vaguely familiar.
According to Caitlin McCulloch, Director of Community Marketing at Social Media Today “Omni-channel marketing focuses on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available channels, including mobile Internet devices, computers, brick-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog, and so on. When brands think customer experience, they need to think omni.” A seamless omni-channel customer experience in fact – even better.
The problem here is that the social digital space is not about channels and messages (reach and frequency) and generic customer experiences. It is about behaviour identification and response: it works in a completely different way. It is well nigh impossible to have a conversation with the same person in multiple channels. You can only have a conversation with an audience in multiple channels – but the social digital space is the world of the individual, not the world of the audience. A concept like a seamless omni-channel customer experience can only ever work in the world of the audience: the world of traditional marketing. It just has no relevance in the social digital space, where people need to be treated as individuals.
Brands may want to bombard their customers with omni-channel experiences, but customers cannot, and will not, reciprocate. They just want to talk to brands through whatever channel is most appropriate to them at any given moment in time. The customer selects the channel and they never select an omni-channel. The only part of this that needs to be omni is the ability for a brand to be available on all the channels, thus have to ability to listen and respond at the time and in the place that its’ customers want.
Customers don’t want ‘customer experiences’. When has a customer ever asked for a ‘customer experience’? They want brands to listen to them give them answers to questions in as close to their time (i.e. real time) as possible. In fact, the closest thing to an omni-channel, from a customers’ perspective, is Google.
But hey, providing a seamless omni-channel customer experience sounds really great. It fits into the statement “we at x brand are totally committed to providing a …” It then opens the way for agencies who can then sell seamless omni-channel customer experience marketing solutions. Ker-ching and everyone is happy (except the customer of course).