By Ashwini Dave, Digital Marketing Expert at Acquire
Once considered as one of the most rigid and traditional sectors, complete with archaic infrastructure and legacy systems, the Banking sector has undergone a sea of change. Today, this sector is continuously seen flexing its ‘digital’ muscle and driving technological disruption at an unprecedented scale. After all, the digitally-savvy customers are literally asking for it. Research by Accenture puts things into perspective:
“Consumers want better integration across physical and digital channels. More than half of the survey respondents expressed an appetite for a true omnichannel banking experience that would allow them to switch seamlessly between physical and digital channels.”
The real question, then, is not about whether the (digital) boat has sailed for banks and other financial institutions. Rather, the more relevant question that banking leaders should be asking themselves is how are they adjusting their bank’s model, approach, and strategies to accommodate their customer’s ever-changing needs?
Long story short, emerging technologies, banking, and customer service are standing at a crossroads where the paths, invariably, converge ahead. In this blog, we will look at this new and improvised – Digital Banking 2.0 – that is placing customers at its core and transacting with technology at its heart (and principle).
Why Every Bank’s True Calling lies in Digital Technology
If you’ve been reading the news off late (especially in these trying COVID times), you’ll notice a trend emerging: More and more banks and financial institutions are jumping on the technological bandwagon to offer a stellar digital financial experience for their customers:
- Emergence of a ‘shared’ economy: Get this: Google recently partnered with Citigroup to enable customers to seamlessly access their accounts through the Google Pay app. J. P. Morgan and Amazon are working towards creating a checking account. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to banks/financial institutions and tech firms collaborating and extracting mutual benefits for the customer’s greater good.
- Greater focus on leveraging customer data for hyper-personalized service and customized offers: According to an Accenture report, “One in two consumers indicated an interest in personalized financial advice from banks that is shaped by their personal circumstances—including analysis of spending habits and advice on how to manage money.” Financial institutions, too, are realizing the importance of having contextual conversations with their users. One way of realizing this is by creating a 360-degree profile of the consumers by using emerging technologies to factor in data touch points such as banking history, customer analytics, purchase behavior, etc.
- Mobile banking technology allows banks to be agile and flexible: The importance of mobile banking technology comes to the forefront with economies reeling under the after-effects of lockdowns and the growing and unpredictable financial pressures of a pandemic. For banks, the need of the hour is to consolidate and present their end-to-end offerings to customers on a single mobile platform so that real-time and dynamic banking can become a reality and enhance user satisfaction. Whether banks wish to retain customers or acquire new ones, mobile banking is the way to go.
Dynamic Customer Requirements: Foremost Concern for Banks
At this point, you might be wondering why banks and financial institutions are bending over backwards to use technology and augment their customer service efforts? Data by Adobe nudges us towards the answer: “40% of financial services and insurance organizations cited keeping step with constantly evolving customer expectations and behavior as a key challenge, while 63% of financial services organizations placed customer experience (CX) at the top of their priority list:”
In essence, it is fair to assume that this concern has been ever-growing among the “always-on” digital customers of today. As with other sectors, banks are banking on technology to come save the day (more on this in the following section).
The Correlation between Banks & Emerging Technologies for Seamless CX
Contrary to popular opinion, banks and financial institutions are no longer playing catch up to adopt – and integrate – the latest emerging technologies (think: AI, blockchain, machine learning, deep learning, voice technology, among others) into their innovative offerings. The latest research in this area tells us about the current state of (AI) affairs in the Banking sector:
- AI opportunity in front-and back-end banking: As per the Business Insider report, “The aggregate potential cost savings for banks from AI applications is estimated at $447 billion by 2023:” Banks on capitalizing on machine learning algorithms and other forms of futuristic technology such as NLP to streamline customer services by making it faster, efficient, and useful. Additionally, there’s an increased focus on front-end operations such as smooth customer identification and authentication, addressing customer queries through virtual agents and voice assistants, and creating deeper customer relationships by offering insight-driven customized advice and offers. Take a look at Zenith Bank’s live chat example:
On the other hand, complete automation of the back-end workflow such as capturing documents and gathering insights from the data captured is further enhancing work outcomes and cutting down back office processing time. That’s not all. AI is also being used to engage in fraud detection, analysis-led risk management practices, and amping up the security to prevent data breaches.
- Voice technology and speech recognition are already playing a larger role in the CX experience: Simple tasks like transferring funds and making deposits will only need a helping lending “ear” (pun intended). According to Mercator, “67% of smart-speaker owners said they are comfortable using conversational interfaces for banking transactions.” Additional research by Business Insider claims that “Implementation and adoption of voice payments is expected to increase from 8% to 31% among customers in the US by 2022.” Let’s take the example of the industry pioneer, Westpac that embraced voice-activated technologies to deliver secure, easy-to-use, and cutting edge banking services for their customers:
Westpac users can ask either Alexa/Siri/Google Assistant about any of the following issues:
- Complete automation of key financial tasks by using Robotic Process Automation (RPA): From financial advice and loan-related inquiries to compliance issues and credit card applications, this entire spectrum of financial services is readying itself for automated exchanges by using advanced technologies such as RPA. Author, Ron Shevlin summarizes it succinctly. He says:
“We’re nowhere near the point of removing the human element from these exchanges, but instead advanced technology will help streamline the “hand-off” moment when the customer is transferred from human to machine or vice versa.”
- Chatbots can streamline the CX journey:
“By 2020, chatbots will be handling 85% of all customer service interactions.” –Gartner
From a customer’s standpoint, one of the biggest advantages of using artificial technology is empowering them with friction-less, 24/7 interactions and delivering seamless digital customer experience. This is where chatbots and live chat can help realize this new reality and extend a positive CX in the process.
Virtual conversational agents such as Acquire can facilitate a smooth two-way communication offering customer-first advantages such as speedy service and personalized transactional support at its core. That’s not all. These chatbots can help address basic queries relating to the bank account, loan queries, etc. so that the customer service team can focus on solving other complex issues that require human intelligence and a ‘personal’ touch. Finally, advanced banking chatbots have the capability to monitor customer spending, provide credit scores, review budgets, among others. As you can imagine, this pays the way for a personalized, instant, and relevant user experience, making it a winning combination. Customers, too, find it easy to use bots instead of waiting on hold on the phone or downloading endless apps to get simple answers. Take a look at Bank of America’s chatbot, Erica which offers a host of financial services such as sending notifications, providing balance-related information, providing credit reports, and even helping customers make smarter financial decisions:
Other interesting examples worth considering are HDFC Bank’s virtual assistant, Eva:
And Citibank’s Facebook Messenger banking chatbot, Citibot:
“Conversational banking is a natural evolution of the digital banking experience, for many customers and many types of interactions. More people are looking to engage via these types of technologies, and financial institutions are increasingly looking to deliver them. The potential benefits are huge in terms of time savings and convenience for customers and cost savings and customer satisfaction for institutions.” – Bob Meara, senior analyst at Celent
Key takeaway: By infusing the combined powers of advanced technology (machine learning, RPA, AI, voice technology, etc.) and excellent customer service, banks can excel in the “Era of CX” while addressing the evolving client expectations in real-time.
In a Nutshell
As with most industries, the focus for the Banking sector going forward will not be to simply:
- Deliver basic customer service but elevate it.
- Meet customer expectations but exceed them.
- Stay on top of customer needs but preempt and address them in a dynamic and timely capacity.
Needless to say, banks can achieve all this and more by integrating the speed and power that comes with technology, the insight, and personalization that comes with understanding your customer’s pulse, and finally, the inspiration and courage it takes to go back to the drawing board and start afresh if the situation so demands. Agree?
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