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Mike Davies
Mike Davies

Multichannel customer communication will drive positive customer engagement in the mobile world – by Mike Davies, vice president EMEA North at GMC Software Technology

Effective communication between banks and their customers requires much more than a monthly statement. Customers are used to having access to information on the internet at the times that suit them, and through whichever device they require. You could not imagine a world where Google only lets you search for information during regular nine-to-five hours. The rise in the use of tablets and smartphones means we live in an ‘always-on’ world, where readily available access to information is present at all times.

However, the banking model for this information access is often reactive, with the real effort in participation coming from the consumer. It is not good enough to send a statement when the bank deems it necessary; customer-orientated communications need to be adopted to truly drive customer engagement. Aldermore Bank’s CEO Phillip Monks is just one leader in the sector who has recently stated his recognition that customers now require access to their finances 24 hours a day – but is the industry as a whole listening?

The customer’s voice must be heard

The banking industry has learnt its lessons from the retail sector; mobile transactions and account access are typically delivered through multiple channels. However, does this extend to customer communications? Do banks really live up to the promise of mobility and cater to the needs of a technologically adept audience? I think not. And a significant number of consumers agree.

We found a startling disconnect between banks and their customers in research carried in late 2013, in a rather revealing white paper entitled ‘The end of banking autocracy.’The research found that only 19 per cent of consumers really believe banks understand how to deliver good customer experience. This is not acceptable for the banking industry.

The other remarkable fact is that it is clear what these customers actually want: to use the services of organizations that actually listen to them. 72 per cent of people want to receive information from their bank in a format that they request, and 74 per cent want it whenever they demand.

Could mobile communications be the answer?

For all the challenges this exposes, there also lies great opportunity. It is clear what consumers expect – they want control over the way they are communicated to.  Organizations that do not respect this will find themselves losing good will, limit future opportunities to grow their business and even risk losing customers outright when their competitors take advantage of this disconnect. Therefore, banks must address the overarching question: “how do I answer this customer demand for any-channel communications?”

The first thing to note is that this does not mean banks must immediately go paper-free or all-mobile. Instead, it means a multichannel communications strategy that engages with the customer via mobile, digital, print, phone or face to face communication should be introduced or developed. If customers only want to receive monthly paper statements and nothing else, that approach must be respected. However, the reality is that many customers will want mobile communication to form a key part of their engagement with a bank.

Peter Hill, CEO of Leeds Building Society, recently discussed in an interview  how the recent rise in the prevalence of smartphones and mobile devices is reshaping the role technology has in banking communication. Large banks need to adopt mobile technology as a key way to communicate with customers if they want to counteract competition from challenger banks which are readily adopting modern technology. The banking sector as a whole needs to rethink the way it promotes customer engagement.

Traditional systems can be adapted for the better

The issues arise from the outset. Signing up for a bank account can take 14 to 39 days when you go through the process with paper. However, in our modern, mobile-ready world, this simply does not have to be the case. A mobile banking app, supported by the use of digital signatures, means the process can be virtually instantaneous. Customers can enjoy an experience which is immediate and flexible to their needs from the outset. This is how ongoing customer engagement starts.

Once the customer is banking with you, they have the option to receive a dynamic, visual and highly tailored set of communications that can add real value to their daily lives. The data exists and is not difficult to process – the key is getting people to actually engage with it in such a way that it builds positive sentiment to your brand. Graphs can display information on personalized spending habits or savings products which map the individual lifestyle of the customer, accessible easily through a mobile app. The customer feels directly engaged by the bank and feels it is giving them something back. Taking an interest in your customer like this helps build and restore trust, which is proving invaluable in modern banking.

Start to answer the customer’s demands

Of course, there may well be those customers who just want their monthly paper statement posted to them, and banks would do well to provide this service. However, it is clear to see the advantages that a multichannel communications strategy could bring to banking institutions when it is readily adopted. Mortgages, loans and other document-based processes can be handled and negotiated in real time through mobile devices. With this comes a reduction in paper-based administration, although this benefit pales in comparison to the other advantages available through the cross-selling of products, reductions in customer drop out and truly loyal bank customers.

So if your customer is happy with their current monthly paper statement, continue to provide this. Just do not fall behind in the technology game: the advantages mobile communications offer are invaluable to large and challenger banks alike.