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How do you engage with your favourite brands? I’m guessing it’s changed dramatically over the past few years – and I fully expect that the trend will continue through 2017. Technology today gives businesses the ability to deliver seamless, multi-channel customer journeys, and customers demand that consistent “touch.”

 Research on customer experience shows that 77% of UK consumers agree that they now expect companies to provide a consistent experience wherever they engage across all channels, mobile, social media, website and in person.

 And this shift affects banking as well. Traditionally, the financial services sector has lagged behind in terms of technology adoption to ensure that customer experience is seamless and supportive, but UK banks are quickly catching up and are now blending the physical, in-branch experience with online and mobile to provide a seamless, personal journey to their customers – something both relevant and necessary for their tech-savvy younger customers.

 The Salesforce Connected Retail Banking Report 2017 outlines the behaviors and expectations of today’s customers, and the UK results of the report demonstrates three particular areas of interest for companies that are looking to stay ahead in this Age of the Customer: interaction, engagement, and innovation.

  1. The way we interact with banks is changing

How we manage our financial accounts has changed a lot over the last few years. The report shows that, regardless of age, customers are doing their banking through a range of digital channels. That’s particularly relevant to millennial customers:

  • For UK millennials who have a checking/savings account (ages 18-34) mobile banking apps are the main way they currently perform routine transactions, with 30% choosing this method. While 45% of millennials who have a checking/savings account  engage with their banks via a mobile app several times a week or more often, this is in sharp contrast with other age groups: only 25% of Gen Xers (ages 35-54) and just 9% of baby boomers (age 55+)

 Of course, it’s not just millennials who embrace new technologies to interact with their banks. The report also shows that banking websites are the most popular way to carry out routine transactions for customers of every age – with nearly a third (30%) saying this is the main channel they use for this type of task.

  1. We still want a strong in-branch experience to drive engagement with a brand

Despite the convenience of tech-based interactions, trust and security are still big issues for UK customers, particularly when it comes to our hard-earned money. Therefore in-person, in-branch service is still important:

  • Among those who have a checking/savings account, a significant proportion of all age groups will walk into a branch at least once every few months, if not more often: 70% of millennials, 75% of gen Xers and 73% of baby boomers – particularly when seeking advice on investments and money management, the in-branch experience with a personal banker/advisor is used more often  (24% vs. 7% for routine transactions).

 It’s also interesting to note that just 1% of UK customers who have a checking/savings account  will communicate with their banks via IM/Chat for tasks like seeking investment advice or seeking advice on bank accounts/service needs. So when they require service that extends beyond making simple transactions, it seems customers are more comfortable with in-person interactions (24% go in-branch to seek investment advice from a personal banker/advisor, 23% do so for advice on accounts/service needs) .

  1. The younger you are, the more likely it is you’ll embrace alternative, more “innovative” finance providers

From mobile-first banks to specialist account providers, we’re seeing more and more choice when it comes to financial service providers in the UK. What’s more, these new options are most attractive to digitally-savvy millennials:

  • Among UK adults who have used payment services provided by financial technology companies, millennials are the most likely to prefer to use alternative fintech services for basic payment activities rather than their bank’s own provided ones: Nearly two thirds of millennials (64%) say they prefer use fintech services than similar services provided by their bank (compared to 43% of Gen X and 40% of Baby Boomers).

The leading alternative finance providers are succeeding based largely on their disruptive customer service. The growing interest in their products leads me to believe that traditional retail banks need to enhance their own customer experience in order to compete with these newer offerings.

A single customer view is more important than ever for banks

For traditional banks to succeed – and to keep ahead of emerging competition, it’s never been more crucial to really analyze the missing links and achieve a single customer view. We’ve learned that as some banks are digitizing, others have some catching up to do.  Among the 24-34 age group, 42% believe their banks are not offering a connected customer journey. In my opinion, these expectations are only going increase with each generation.

For the banks that want to modernize, their first step is to achieve the single, 360-degree view of their customer. This is only possible with the integration of a cloud-based solution, as the information silos that result when they use on-premise solutions make it incredibly difficult to capture and share customer insights in a fast and effective way.

 My takeaways                  

There is still a strong appreciation for a face-to-face interaction with a bank, which gives traditional players in the sector a big advantage. However, it’s clear that the banks who are listening to their customers and are in turn aiming to create a more joined up, seamless customer experience are becoming leaders in the industry – and younger customers are leading the way to their doors, faster than ever before. So for those companies who have been slower to adapt until now, it’s an ideal time to use technology to blend the online and in-branch experience to meet and exceed the customer expectations today – and in the months and years to come.