By Nick Barnes, Practice Director, Financial Services & Customer Success at JRNI
As the world becomes increasingly digital, banks and financial institutions are finding new ways of connecting with customers. How consumers want to interact with financial institutions is fundamentally and rapidly changing, and this presents opportunity for growth. According to research from Juniper, the total number of online and mobile banking users will exceed 3.6 billion by 2024, and online and mobile banking growth is expected to increase by 54% compared to 2020.
Even before the pandemic, banks had been moving customers out of their branches and into digital channels. This was led by both economic reasons and efficiency drives, in conjunction with the realisation that a new generation of digitally-connected customers are demanding not only convenience, but also an engaging customer experience.
COVID-19 has accelerated this shift in preferences tenfold, including branch closures due to lockdowns. Banks have fast-tracked their digital transformation, achieving in months what might have taken years. Yet simply providing digital alternatives to physical banking, such as apps and chatbots, is not enough for today’s consumers. Research by Forrester found that only one third of American customers trust chatbots to handle simple financial transactions and two-thirds don’t trust them to handle complex transactions. Furthermore, nearly 80% of people polled want to speak with an agent as opposed to a chatbot according to a survey by conversational AI provider Uniphore.
Digital interactions need a level of personalisation and humanity that equals or exceeds what is available in branches. Banks need to consider the emotional impact of their digital engagement with customers. Consumers demand more today than just speed and ease of access. They want to feel good about their interactions with technology, and this requires an element of human connection. Ultimately, humans trust other humans more than they trust technology designed to simulate humans. Therefore, providing ‘humanized engagement’ will be key throughout 2021 and the coming years.
The challenge now for the banking sector is getting this balance between digital innovation and human engagement right across all channels.
Seamless integration between channels
Customers are looking for convenience, speed and a seamless, personalised customer experience. They want to make their transactions and get assistance in a way that is most convenient for them, instead of having a rushed lunchtime appointment at their local branch. For this to happen, the online experience must be integrated fully to the physical one.
An example would be the ability to book an appointment on an app or through the website at any time of the day and be able to have access to a preferred banker, wealth manager, private banker, or qualified professional. This can be taken even further with the capability to add the appointment to personal calendars, selecting from different locations, choosing different skill types or making the appointment in different modes, such as in-person, online or on the telephone.
The importance of personalisation
Banks can demonstrate that they care about consumers’ long-term financial happiness by using personalisation and humanized engagements. Consumers want personalised solutions and advice based on real-time changes in their personal life. Banks can deliver meaningful and powerful personalised experiences by using their existing data and everyday customer touchpoints. These metrics allow banks to provide services that adapt to new consumer behaviours, embedding personalised, end-to-end experiences for customers in their digital journeys.
When handled right, using customer data to provide an improved experience increases levels of customer satisfaction. Consumers feel valued and that the banks are taking care of them when the service is personalised. In fact, customer experience is overtaking price and product as the key brand differentiator for financial institutions. According to McKinsey, one bank saw an increase of 30 percent in sales when there was an appropriate and timely (24-48 hours) human response compared to a purely digital journey.
More benefits for banks
As well as increasing customer satisfaction, humanized engagement also drives profitability. In the US, one top 10 bank offering customers three appointment modes: ‘In person’, ‘by phone’, and ‘virtual’ saw 167,000 appointments made in January 2021, a 1,800% increase from the previous year – because customers can now access the right person at a time that is convenient for them. They’ve also seen the cancellation rate for appointments reduced from 23% to 7%.
Flexible appointment modes from virtual technologies also enable banks to reach a broader customer base and, through collecting data and personalising offerings, build a closer relationship with different socio-economic groups. This opens up huge new markets and audiences for banks with consumers who would not traditionally have been customers. We’ve also seen big innovations in the mortgage market through different modes of appointments. A mortgage advisor can now share documents online, and customers can sign those documents while on a video call. This makes the whole process more efficient and flexible and has had a massive effect on uptake.
The role of humanizing banking post-COVID
Humanizing digital interaction will be crucial for banks in a post-pandemic world. To maximise sales, banks need to integrate the digital and human channels to create a seamless omnichannel offering. If banks connect properly with their clients by providing a personal touch in their digital interactions, they will build a stronger connection with their clients, which in turn leads to greater customer acquisition and better customer retention. Those financial institutions that rise to the challenge most rapidly and deliver true humanized engagement will have a significant advantage over their competitors.