Multi-channel banking: joining up the dots

The rise of digital and online communications that has taken place in the past decade has seen an explosion in the number of channels retail banks can use to engage with their customers. The concept of creating a multi-channel conversation with customers is a compelling business opportunity which has the potential to transform customer and bank relationships. But while many organisations have aimed for multi-channel communications they have instead ended up with multiple channel communications. Semantically, the difference is negligible, but practically, it is significant, writes Nic Sheen

The rise of digital and online communications that has taken place in the past decade has seen an explosion in the number of channels retail banks can use to engage with their customers. The concept of creating a multi-channel conversation with customers is a compelling business opportunity which has the potential to transform customer and bank relationships. But while many organisations have aimed for multi-channel communications they have instead ended up with multiple channel communications. Semantically, the difference is negligible, but practically, it is significant, writes Nic Sheen

Multiple channel strategies simply take advantage of the methods now available to contact customers – direct mail, email, SMS, online, face-to-face, telephone, social media – and use all of them, but independently. This problem has been particularly pronounced in retail banking where customers are likely to hold more than one product- such as current and savings accounts, mortgages and loans. Historically, these products have been heavily silo-ed so communication is rarely integrated between them, a problem exacerbated as the number of channels and frequency of communication increases. In practical terms this might mean a customer receives two items of mail on the same day relating to both their mortgage and their debit card.

Delivering true multi-channel communications means the bank integrates its different product areas, driven by a single communications platform, to be delivered through the customer’s channel of preference, at the right time. Despite the growing use of, and demand for, telephone, mobile and internet banking services, a study conducted last year by BT and Avaya tells us that the majority of consumers want their banks to retain the personal touch in their dealings with them.

In the UK for example 73 per cent of customers believe that in the future their local branch will be the most vital link with their bank. So while customers want multi-channel interactions and communication, these must feel local and personalised to their specific needs. Looking forward, a successful bank will be one that gives each one of its customers the choice of how they engage with it, the information they need, and when and how they want it. Creating a truly integrated multi-channel environment will deliver a consistent customer experience – the foundation of creating trust. This will be achieved by breaking down product-led internal walls and driving all customer communications from a single platform enabling each customer conversation to be truly individual.

Getting this right will result in a better experience for the customer and is essential for the development of the bank’s business and marketing strategy. Customers expect clear, helpful, relevant and joined-up communications as a basic service. Integrating communication across all areas into a single multi-channel strategy will achieve this. More importantly, it will enable retail banks to develop a conversation with each of their customers – one that builds brand loyalty, trust, and ultimately more profitable relationships.

Is there any other way it can work?