The digital customer experience in banks’ blood but not in their DNA?

The internet and smartphones have transformed customer engagement.

A YouGov survey carried out for the BBA in June 2014 revealed that 79% of people polled used mobile or online banking at least once a month. But according to BT’s latest study, Autonomous Customer 2015: On hold for Intelligent Customer Service, banks have yet to fully grasp the expectations of today’s digital-savvy customers – and customer satisfaction is suffering as a result.

The accessibility to online information has given rise to a new type of customer – the autonomous customer. Super-charged by access to online information, autonomous customers research and investigate their buying decisions like never before.  They value ease and self-service but demand immediate live support when problems arise. And in the digital world, delivering a progressively secure physical and digital experience is key.

So the challenge most retail banks now face is how to recreate the human touch of the branch, with the convenience and low cost of an online business. Financial services providers’ online presence must look great, be easy to use, and of course, be secure. But, having a slick surface or virtual shop window isn’t enough. The digital mindset must encompass the entire makeup of the organisation, from the front end to the back office, covering everything in between.

First and foremost, banks must accept that “easy” is the new “loyal”. Customers who can book flights, buy music and shop online now expect the same experience with their bank. They want to use apps 24/7, search the web for relevant information instantly, and make real-time video calls from anywhere. Banks with customer-centric and multi-channel strategies can drive their customer journeys to the next level.

Indeed, it is no longer a question of which channel to use, but instead how banks can address their customers’ needs regardless of which channel they want to use. Whether this is driven by ease of access, or by a desire for self-service or a full-service experience, banks must allow their customers to interact seamlessly – across each and every channel on whichever device they choose. This means improving the customer journey and doing more than just offering alternative channels. In fact, four in five consumers questioned in our research say advisors should be instantly familiar with their details across all channels. 

Technology clearly has a role to play in driving efficiency, cost reduction, service innovation and inclusion, with privacy and security as standard. Fortunately, the same technology that has empowered consumers can also transform businesses, helping to cut costs, improve efficiency and grasp new opportunities. In fact, according to a report by McKinsey & Company, full digital transformation could even boost banks’ earnings by more than 40 per cent over the next five years.

Cultural change is difficult. Getting the infrastructure and processes in place to support new ways to work, interact and transact isn’t easy. Legacy systems and disconnected channels are the elephant in the room, but businesses can’t continue using this as an excuse.

Retail banks have to embrace the fact that many of their customers are already using the latest technology – but they should also ask themselves if their digital offering really is enhancing the business and improving the customer experience.

To make sure the digital experience of their customers is at the fore, banks should:

  • Make it easy: autonomous customers buy more from organisations that make it easier.
  • Recognise that consumers are using an increasing and fragmented range of channels, and that data needs to converge and be available across these media. Embrace this ‘fragvergence’ as it creates opportunities for customer engagement.
  • Remember that ‘omni-channel’ is essential. By taking an ‘omni-channel’ approach, banks can give their customers a seamless and consistent experience regardless of where or how their customers are interacting with them; whether it is online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in person. Adding functionality will make the customer journey easier, reduce drop-out and improve engagement.
  • Be aware that self-service needs support: consumers like self-service, but when it goes wrong they want live help, there and then.

The digital revolution is not on its way – it has already arrived. So banks need to make sure they are prepared for the next wave of innovation while maximising the benefits of the technology currently available.