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Harnessing data to enhance the customer experience

Andrew Edison,Senior Vice President Sales, EMEA at Level 3 discusses how banks, in the face of consumer demand, need to ensure their data is efficiently controlled, utilised and secured to ensure a sustainable business in the longterm

According to Accenture, 80% of the UK banking population is now using some form of online banking service.This puts pressure on banks to ensure their online offering can keep up with the demand.

In parallel, comparison websites are continuing to increase market transparency and the Payment Systems Regulator – the new economic regulator for UK payment systems – is striving to simplify the bank account switching process with a scheme that would allow customers to change whilst keeping their account number.

In this environment, banks need to go the extra mile in terms of the customer experience they provide online.They need to excel by offering points of differentiation that encourage customer loyalty and retention.

Personalising the online experience

The retail industry provides a shining example of how to meet consumer expectations through online services. The technology, processes and systems integrated into the back-end of major retail chains are aligned to ensure that every channel provides a seamless customer experience. Furthermore, once logged in to a retail website, customers are provided with relevant product recommendations based on their purchasing history. This not only adds value to the customer, but also allows retailers to maximise up-sell and cross-sell opportunities through offering different products.

Banks have an opportunity to follow this successful retail model and maximise online customer experience and interactions.According to the British Banking Association(BBA), internet banking typically received 7 million log-ins and more than 15,000 mobile banking apps were downloaded each day in 2014.Data from these interactions can be used to gain insight into customer preferences and create a personalised online experience for online visitors. Transaction history, browsing activity, preferences and behavioursvisible from online banking can all be harnessed to tailor offers and services and design the most competitive renewals, all of which will deter existing customers from switching banks. This approach will present customers with a bespoke experience which speaks directly to them.

Harnessing the data

Utilising and managing customer data to effectively shape business strategies requires banks to consider four key points:

  • Volume: The amount of customer data that is available is increasing due to multi-platform use of banking services. As such, banks need to pinpoint what data sets (and relevant timeframes) are most important to track activity and identify where improvements to service are required.
  • Variety: As the volume of data increases, so does the different type of information available. The selection of quantitative data grows as customers spend more time online, but beyond that qualitative content, such as comments on social media,add further variety as posts and tweets can be considered the most honest reflection of in-the-moment customer experience.
  • Velocity: With more data to digest, speed of processing is key for banks to make the right decision for their customers at the right time. After all, if a customer shows interest in a particular product, personalisation of their online portal to reflect this would need to be almost instantaneous to maximise the chances of purchase.
  • Veracity:According to a survey by Experian, almost a third of UK businesses (29%) claimed poor data led to a loss of potential customers. That puts banks under pressure to ensure that the quality of the data they collect and use is high; in other words, ensure its accuracy. If that isn’t the case, using the data to make decisions becomes useless.

Newer entrants in the banking market are already successfully harnessing data in this way to offer customers a more personalised online engagement and stand out from the more traditional banks.These ‘challenger banks’use private cloud data centres to store customers’ transactional data and financial history. This approach provides banking teams with quick and easy access to the data,enabling them to offer every customer a personalised and transparent online service. If the traditional banks can’t adapt their existing infrastructure to achieve the same outcome, they will struggle to compete.

Planning for the future

Any new offering has to be sustainable and that rule of thumb extends to the improvement and expansion of online services. A big part of delivering that comes down to the back-end technology and underlying network infrastructure.

Speed of delivery is a particularly important consideration for any online offering,and to address this banks need to invest in a Content Delivery Network (CDN), a network of distributed servers that deliver webpages and content based on the geographic location of the end-users. A CDN not only allows the fast, uninterrupted and secure delivery of information to customers across multiple platforms – even during peak traffic times – but also improves web page upload speeds. A CDN can provide a 70% improvement in content delivery speed, according to Level 3.It can also seamlessly support the use of rich media content, which enables banks to better engage with their customers using interactive content.

To support the structure of a CDN, banks must also consider the location of their data centres and how content is stored and where. Ensuring critical data which is likely to be used frequently is stored close to its destination,such as a bank’s HQ or customer services hub, will reduce the distance data must travel, ensuring faster access and improved efficiency for those who use it. Following this approach, sensitive or localised services and content can be broken out locally while non-critical application and data can all be hosted in one location.

Combining their data centre and CDN infrastructures under a single umbrella can also enable banks to reduce the total cost of ownership of services and the amount of third-party technology they use, decreasing the risk of external faults. This allows banks to navigate budgetary and regulatory pressures while remaining a competitive edge.

Efficiency online

The banking world is always moving forward. To keep customers happy and reduce churn, there is an increasing demand for efficient online services with all the bells and whistles offered by retailers. If that isn’t delivered, banks can be at the customer’s mercy should those customers choose to switch.Banks need to act now in order to ensure that their infrastructures support their online offerings. Those infrastructures need to be fast and able to cope with the levels of data processing needed to deliver a great customer experience.

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