Jason Hemingway, Chief Marketing Officer at Thunderhead

There’s a revolution in the air. Fintech is changing the way consumers think about banking, in turn exaggerating demands and expectations. For more traditional banks, this is a problem. Since the global financial crisis, trust is at a low [link to report] and emerging banks are disrupting the market, hoovering up those willing to take the leap.

Only 39% of customers trust their bank, and just 14% feel extremely confident in the banking industry. Thanks to comparison sites, forums, review sites and social media, it’s never been easier for customers to benchmark their current bank, switch to an alternative or to share their pleasure, or more commonly displeasure.

What’s more, 79% of consumers see their traditional banking relationship as purely transactional, and they’re turning to other sources for advice. There’s a snowball effect thanks to empowered consumers, no longer choosing a bank for life. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s something many in the industry have to address.

Fighting back

A recent YouGov survey found that only a third of “British consumers trust banks to work in their customers’ best interests, while more than half (55%) don’t”. What’s more, when asked on the 2016 Banking Consumer Survey if they felt their bank understood them, only 15.3% of consumers claimed they did.

This is how banks can build a competitive edge. To build trust, they need to have a meaningful relationship with customers that make them feel at ease – and like the bank is working for them.

So, what should the perfect banking experience look like? As individual interactions both online and offline have an impact on customer expectations, banks are looking at how they understand the customer and their journey, and using everything they know about them to improve experiences – continuously.

What improves the experience for one customer may not be the same for another. It’s about understanding an individual’s needs by listening to what they’re telling you through their behaviour, and responding with the most appropriate action.

Physical presence

Online-only banks are offering more service-led experiences that meet customer expectations and make banking seem easy, convenient and transparent – with everything in one place.

There’s no longer an excuse for relying on a transactional relationship that doesn’t add value to each and every customer interaction, and traditional banks have the advantage of a physical presence, which is still hugely important to many consumers.

In fact, 41% of UK customers visit their branches once a month. What’s more, over 70% say they would visit their branches specifically to speak with personnel for investments and money management advice.

As Michelle Moore, the head of digital banking at Bank of America emphasises in the 2017 report Improving the Customer Experience in Banking, real world interactions can be a significant asset. “In a time when technology can sometimes seem like a depersonalising force, integrating it with the face-to-face human element of financial services will allow us to work even more closely with the people and the communities we serve.”

Turning account numbers into valued customers

When asked what the primary reason is for recommending their bank, consumers overwhelmingly refer to the relationship being ‘easy’. Now, we know it’s not going to be easy but looking at the journey from the outside-in, joining online and offline interactions and focusing on providing your customers value, seamlessly, every time they touch your bank, will build trust and stronger relationships that last.

Technology has evolved so much that it’s now possible to understand customers as they travel across your business on their journey, and make a decision in real-time as to what the most valuable and appropriate conversation for that customer should be.

Traditional banks can personalise interactions, ensuring they’re contextually-aware, making customers feel as though they’re understood.

It resembles the ‘good old days’ when you were assigned a bank manager who knows and understands you. After all, it’s the human touch that we all crave, and if done well, it makes us feel valued.

Remember, they’re customers, not account numbers. While fintech may be disrupting the industry, it’s traditional banks that can offer a friendly face.

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