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Matt Phillips, VP Sales & Systems, Diebold Nixdorf UK/I

No, this isn’t just something that cybercriminals dream about. It’s something that banks dream about too.

In fact, I’ve seen several of the biggest banks in the world implementing all kinds of innovative technology in a bid to connect the physical and digital banking worlds of their customers.

It’s all part of a drive for banks to talk the same language as their customers, and mobile and digital integration is vital if they are to succeed in this – connecting different platforms such as mobile banking with in-branch services and beyond. Customers don’t think or talk in silos – they don’t see their interaction with their banking app in a different light to their online banking experiences or the service they receive in branch. They see it all as one connected banking journey, part of one on-going relationship, one conversation.

However, talking the same language as their customers is no mean feat for banks who have to deal with layer upon layer of legacy systems. It involves breaking down the barriers between channels, which have been built up on separate infrastructures over time.

 A shift in power

This change in conversation is the result of a powershift in the relationship between consumers and their banks. Traditionally, customers would have to talk the bank’s language; with banks dictating the services offered to the customer – including when, where and how those services were provided.

But now this is changing. With the availability of online banking and mobile banking services, the way customers bank has undergone a fundamental shift. Banking is now more integrated into daily life than ever before and customers can literally carry their current accounts around with them in their pockets. Our recent research, for example, has shown that nine-in-ten people have used mobile or online banking in the last six months.

The availability of services such as online banking, have naturally led customers to draw similarities between the experiences they have with their financial services providers, and those that they have with other organisations in their lives. They expect banking to be more in line with offerings from other sectors – blurring the lines between banking and, for example, retail, where transactions can easily be started on one channel (such as online) and completed on another (such as in store).

This new attitude, combined with greater competition in the banking market and more choice, is putting power firmly into the hands of customers. Customers have more flexibility, and banks must respond by tuning into their expectations.

Putting customers at the heart of the conversation

To respond to these changes, banks need to take a more customer centric approach to their operational strategies, offering personalised, tailored services that crosses multiple channels seamlessly.

The interaction between mobile devices and ATMs has already started and will continue to develop into the future. Pre-staging services are already available which allow customers to request a cash withdrawal or the completion of a transaction via their mobile phone. Then, when at the ATM, the quick scan of a code enables the fulfilment of the customer’s request quickly and conveniently.

Banks are also looking at other ways of integrating their digital, mobile and physical worlds, making the banking journey more connected for customers and making the different banking platforms – including the branch – less disparate.

Beacon technology is yet another example of how some banks are creating new personalised experiences. If a banking customer starts a transaction online – such as taking out a loan – and then decides to complete it in branch, beacons may soon be able to alert branch staff when that customer arrives. Instead of the customer having to start that transaction again from scratch, or even explain what they want to achieve, they can pick up where they left off, this time with the added advantage of having a member of staff guide them through the process, offering them tailored advice.

Learning the language

Technology in branch clearly has a key role to play in these changes, and according to our recent research most customers accept this. Eight-in-ten expect technology to play an increasingly important role in the bank branches of the future. Moreover, they expect that technology to become more sophisticated, and more connected, making their lives more convenient and their customer experiences more pleasing. 61% are optimistic that self-service machines such as ATMs will become easier to use and half expect to be able to conduct transactions in branch more quickly as a result; making them feel more satisfied as a customer.

Putting customer centric journeys in place requires a considerable change. Understanding this, different banks are taking different approaches.

A roadmap for change is essential, with banks identifying some areas where they can implement swift changes now. Many are also opting to partner with fintechs to implement third party technologies – from intelligent authentication software to big data analysis – into their organisations and achieve the delivery of services quickly and keep up with the competition.

However ultimately, building a wider strategy to update inflexible, out of date systems, which might otherwise hold back innovation, is vital for banks that want to offer more personalised, connected services suited to the needs of their customers.

There’s no doubt that it’s difficult learning a new language. But as far as the financial services industry is concerned, the hard work will undoubtedly be time well-invested if a bank is able to build a loyal and satisfied customer base and fluently speak the same language as its customers.

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