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By Gavin Mee, Senior Vice President and Head of UK, “Salesforce”

Gavin Mee
Gavin Mee

Today, interactive technologies are empowering brands of all sizes and industries to deliver seamless, multi-channel customer journeys. I’m sure you’re familiar with services like Amazon Go, Nike iD and even the Starbucks ordering app and its rewards scheme. These brands are delivering new and improved omni-channel models to meet a seismic shift in customer expectation over the last few years. Our research into customer experience shows that 77% of UK consumers agree they now expect companies to provide a consistent experience wherever they engage.

It’s no longer enough for brands to provide a good experience in-store – this has to be matched on online, mobile and social channels. In short, customer experience has become one of the key barometers of success and therefore the pressure is on businesses to stay ahead of the curve, by focusing on a personalised customer-centric approach

This is no different in the retail banking sector. We’re starting to see UK banks take a more holistic approach to customer service – blending the physical experience with online and mobile. But while they’re making great strides in improving their customer experience, banks certainly can’t afford to rest easy. Competition is heating up. In recent years, a wave of agile disruptors have been shaking up the market.

Many of these alternatives to traditional banks, such as Atom Bank, have designed their services exclusively for mobile. While no one can deny that an intuitive and smooth mobile banking experience is vital today, research also suggests that we still value the in-branch experience, particularly when customers require something more than a simple transaction. This offers more traditional retail banks a great opportunity to add value and maintain competitive advantage. For example, with customers using multiple channels to access services, cloud technology is enabling banks to unlock and understand data from each interaction, including the valued in-branch experience. By joining these dots, banks can offer a far more tailored service to customers.

This personalised, tailored service boils down to understanding the best approach, for each customer and situation. Older customers, for instance, may be more reliant on a combination of in-branch and telephone banking rather than using than IM or webchat. On the other hand a younger, digitally-savvy audience is more likely to prefer engaging their bank via an app for routine transactions and in-person for more complex requests. As you can see, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ service approach certainly doesn’t work for retail banks as different audience segments have unique needs.

Technology plays an important role in helping banks achieve a more customer-centric approach, designed to boost trust, convenience and security. Integrating cloud, social and mobile technologies enables banks to engage customers at any time, from any device and in new, personalised ways. Through understanding the individual preferences of each customer, they can ensure they are offering them a truly 1-to-1 experience. By breaking down the siloes between each channel, and harnessing the resulting customer data, banks will ensure that engagement is meaningful at each touch point. This applies online and in-branch.

This approach offers another clear benefit – as well as meeting today’s customer expectations, it is helping to future proof banking business models. How? By understanding evolving needs and delivering a first-class service today, banks are able to build on customer loyalty. This is particularly relevant to younger customers who are fully tapped into modern technology and will drive the way all businesses operate in the future. While these younger customers have less financial responsibilities today, this will change as they grow older. Banks who cater to their needs and build trust across all channels now, are unlocking decades’ worth of potential loyalty from this digital-native group.

What’s clear to me today is that the banks who are listening to their customers are becoming leaders in the industry – and younger customers are beating a path to their doors faster than ever before. For banks that have been slower to adapt, now really is the time to look to technology to create a more joined up, seamless experience if they want to compete with the disruptive fintech firms biting at their heels. For traditional banks that already have a strong footprint, achieving this ‘holy grail’ of a connected experience – on any channel and at any time – will be the secret to their success.