Who wants to be part of my omni-channel customer experience?

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I have mentioned Richard Stacey before – he was one of the people who speaks the most sense in the world about social media. He can verge on being grumpy about it, but he never fails to accurately and precisely dissect the vast mass of b-s that is growing up around the social media industry.

Today he wrote on his blog about “omni-channel customer experiences” and I could not agree with him more. This new buzzword doing the rounds in marketing and customer experience departments is a small symptom of an overall problem: that companies continue to see the world through the lens of their own systems, rather than genuinely looking at it from the customer’s (or their own staff’s) perspective. Richard consistently argues that companies treat social media in exactly the same way they treat all marketing communications, and that is to treat people as an audience (a word he uses to talk about a group of people with similar likes and dislikes). Companies seem to miss completely that the social world has changed the game – it specifically allows people to act as individuals, and people who use social media want to be treated as individuals.

It reminds me of the scene from Monty Python’s movie, “The Life of Brian”, where the reluctant messiah Brian is trying to get rid of his crowd of followers. He shouts at them, “You’re all individuals”, trying to get them to think and act for themselves. Instead, the crowd mindlessly chants back, “We’re all individuals. We’re all individuals.” Probably my favourite moment in that movie (maybe my favourite moment in any movie) is the one guy in the crowd who stands up and shouts, “I’m not.” Pure Python genius. But that guy is everyone on social media. We’re not part of a crowd. We are, indeed, individuals. And I am not sure any of us want to be part of an omni-channel customer experience, thank you very much.

Read Richard’s insights on this at his own blog here, or an extract below:

SEAMLESS OMNI-CHANNEL CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES. DID THE CUSTOMER ORDER ONE OF THESE?
by Richard Stacey

OmnichannelYesterday 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 nonsense, 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 consumer 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 consumers 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).

Source: Richard Stacey

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2 thoughts on “Who wants to be part of my omni-channel customer experience?”

  1. Graeme,

    Thanks for the call-out – sorry about the delay in acknowledging it! Like the Life of Brian analogy. Almost every scene in that movie can be taken as a commentary on some aspect of life – it is the movie of life really.

  2. Graeme Codrington says:

    Thanks, Richard. And thanks for all your hard work in making sure none of the rest of us escape reality…

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