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From falling flat to flat whites: How the banking industry is harnessing connectivity to keep pace with consumer demand

By Rob Orr, Executive Director, Virgin Media Business 

Bad customer service is a ubiquitous complaint in every industry, and banking is no exception.

Rob Orr
Rob Orr

Recent Accenture research found that nearly two-thirds (66%) of consumers want faster, easier banking services, while eight in 10 would bank with a tech giant such as Amazon or Google if they felt their bank was unable to deliver on digital services.

The consumer desire for service innovation is being exploited by a number of disruptors—with big impacts for the market stalwarts. For example, Monzo is now the fastest-growing bank in the UK, gaining more than two million customers in less than 18 months. Conversely, many household names are losing customers.

Keeping pace with consumer expectations is critical for banking leaders seeking an edge over the competition. From investing in the latest AI-powered customer service, to the most up-to-date networking technology, banks that are harnessing the power of connectivity to revolutionise the customer experience are cleaning up.

Bank branch or connected café? 

There have been 2,900 UK bank branch closures over the last three years. Yet, a recent survey of people from 17 different countries found an overwhelming preference for opening a new account at a physical branch over digital channels.

Rather than shutting them down, banks need to use technology to transform branches and attract customers in new and engaging ways.

Capital One famously led the way in bringing its branches into the digital era, when it launched Capital One Cafés where customers can relax, enjoy a cup of coffee and access the internet quickly and securely. Visitors can set up new accounts within minutes, while iPads and touchscreens enable customers to take part in finance lessons. It’s the perfect example of a bank reframing the in-branch experience—focusing on education and leisure to add value for customers.

Back in the UK, B, an app-based bank launched by Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank, is doing something similar. It recently opened a futuristic branch in Kensington – Studio B – a creative and interactive space boasting touchscreen ATMs and interactive screens showing webinars and educational presentations. Customers have freedom to use the space as they wish—to educate themselves about digital banking, or to seek advice from staff.

The Nottingham has taken this to the next level using smart connectivity to help customers search for and secure a mortgage agreement. Working with Virgin Media Business, they have installed high definition video services across their entire network so customers can speak with a dedicated Nottingham Mortgage Services advisor on demand, from any branch.

Previously, customers had to wait to speak with an in-branch advisor but now they can simply walk into their closest branch and speak with the next available advisor. This means less waiting for whole of market mortgage advice that puts customers one step closer to owning their dream home. This forward thinking approach is paying dividendsfor The Nottingham.

Balancing automation and authenticity

It’s not only about reimagining the physical branch—keeping up with customer demand is also about ensuring inbound queries are dealt with in an efficient, seamless and empathetic way.

With two in five customers leaving banks due to a bad experience, tailored services on digital and telephone channels are crucial. Part of that is about investing in digital services, but it’s also about retaining the human touch: sixty percent of great customer experiences are driven by human staff.

This might leave bank leaders wondering if they should push ahead with digital investment, or leave responsibility with the customer service agents?

The answer to the conundrum is striking a balance between automation and human interactions— and advancements in voice technology are making that possible. Using natural language processing to analyse customer speech patterns, artificial intelligence can assess the individual’s emotional state and make real-time recommendations to call centre agents.

For those AI systems to work, the ability to implement scalable support through cloud services is crucial. Contact centres are being transformed by smart cloud services – capable of making voice assistants and chatbots faster and more responsive to customer needs. As customer expectations continue to soar, these systems are going to be vital in ensuring banks make the most of automation.

Unlocking new growth opportunities 

Then there’s the question of supporting growth. A growing bank will inevitably need to deal with more customers and will require flexible networks and systems in place to scale and adapt. Managed SD-WAN services allow banks to rapidly scale and alter their networks in line with their needs—meaning they can quickly adapt to periods of high demand and better support growth ambitions. This not only helps them adapt to change – it also provides resilient and secure networks that help avoid costly and damaging outages.

Connectivity as a USP 

Keeping up with customer demand is complex. In the digital era when customers can switch financial services with a touch or swipe of their smartphone screen, it’s absolutely vital to get the customer experience right.

That demands innovative new services as well as stable infrastructure to keep customers connected. To deliver, banks need to look at their infrastructure. Are their networks scalable? Do they have capacity to process data quickly enough to meet business needs? If those networks haven’t been upgraded in several years, then the answer is likely ‘no’.

That’s why it’s so important that banking leaders stay in touch with the latest developments in connectivity – whether that’s improving the in-branch experience, revolutionising contact centres or investing in the networks needed to support their growth. A relentless focus on end-to-end digital services is the only way to excel in the digital age.