Why banking communications must be with customers, not mailboxes

Imagine if your preferred search engine only let you seek information once a month, and you had to do it via a paper request. What about a world where sites like Wikipedia just weren't online at the times that suited you, and could only be viewed from certain computer terminals, writes Antoine Hemon-Laurens

Imagine if your preferred search engine only let you seek information once a month, and you had to do it via a paper request. What about a world where sites like Wikipedia just weren’t online at the times that suited you, and could only be viewed from certain computer terminals, writes Antoine Hemon-Laurens

Fortunately this isn’t the world we live in. But when it comes to our personal finances, the experience is worryingly similar.

The modern consumer is used to having access to the information they need when they want, where they want, and through the channel of their choosing. This usually means they have access at all times, as let’s be honest most of us are now glued to a tablet or smartphone.

The model by which banks offer this sort of support is reactive, with the weight of effort coming from the consumer. Proactive, customer-oriented communications are lacking.

What customers are missing is their bank’s ‘interest’

Banking has learnt its lessons from the retail sector; mobile transactions and account access are typically delivered through multiple channels. But what about communications? Do banks really live up to the promise of mobility, to the needs of a technologically adept audience? I would say no. And a significant number of consumers agree.

We carried out some research in late 2013, producing a rather revealing white paper entitled ‘The end of banking autocracy.’ The research shows that only 19% of consumers really believe banks understand how to deliver good customer experience. The disconnect between banks and customers is startling.

The other remarkable fact is that there’s no ambiguity as to what these customers want: to use the services of organisations that actually listen to them. 72% of people want to receive information from their bank in a format that they request, and 74% want it whenever they demand.

People, not process

For all the challenges this exposes, there’s great opportunity too. The message is clear as to what consumers expect – they want control over the way they’re communicated to. Organisations that don’t respect this will find themselves losing good will, the opportunity to grow the business, or even losing customers outright when their competitors cotton on. So the question becomes: "how do I answer this customer demand for any-channel communications?"

The first thing to note is that it doesn’t mean a knee-jerk reaction to go paper-free or all-mobile. What it does mean is a multichannel communications strategy that’s via mobile, digital, print, phone or face to face. If people want monthly paper statements and to hear nothing else from you, that approach must be respected. However the reality is that many will want mobile to be a key part of their interactions with a bank.

Important conversations – anywhere and anytime

Let’s start at the beginning. Signing up for a bank account can take 14 to 39 days when you go through paper. This simply doesn’t have to be the case. A mobile banking app, supported by the use of digital signatures, can be virtually instantaneous. From the outset customers have an experience which is immediate and flexible to their needs.

Once they’re banking with you, the customer has the option to receive a dynamic, visual and highly tailored set of communications that actually add value to their lives. The data exists and it isn’t difficult to process – the key is getting people to actually engage with it in such a way that build positive sentiment to your brand. In real terms, this could be graphs of their spending habits, or savings products which map their lifestyle, handily available through an app. The customer feels that their bank is giving them something back, taking an interest, and this helps restore and build trust.

Mobile is a real opportunity for growth

This vision doesn’t just mean happier customers. Aside from the internal process and cost benefits of a more mobile world (for starters a huge reduction in paper-based admin!), there are great opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell products. Mortgages and loans could be communicated, negotiated and agreed through mobile, with live handling of documentation and digital signatures being achieved in real time. This would reduce customer drop out, and by drawing customers deeper into your ecosystem (one that actually gives them what they want), customer retention (and growth) is massively improved.

This is just a hint of what a multichannel communications strategy could bring to banking. There may be those customers who just want their monthly paper statement, but I think the majority of customers will increasingly trust their money to those banks that really become a part of their daily life.