Improving Your Customer Experience Through Cloud Technology

By Geoff Merrick | 3 September 2014

Some industries are notorious for having poor customer service. Fortunately for you, the banking industry isn’t one of them -- yet.

Traditionally, having responsive, helpful, simple and personalised service was enough for banks. But, as is the case with so many things, technology has drastically changed our expectations, and this isn’t the case anymore.

Sure, having good and personal service is certainly of value to banks, but this isn’t the end-all-be-all anymore. For example, providing a good, personal loan application and approval experience won’t help you gain additional business in, say, checking and savings accounts for many people if there isn’t a good mobile experience to go with it.

5 Obstacles to Better Customer Service

So what’s hindering banks from providing a better customer service experience? Today’s customers are looking for a more consistent, omni-channel experience, but there are many challenges that banks must overcome in order to provide this level of service. Here are five key issues:

1) Legacy “Account-Centricity:” Banking systems have historically been “account centric” rather than “customer centric,” taking a view of all accounts -- ending up with separate silos of data for checking accounts, savings accounts, loans etc -- rather tying them all to a single customer or household. However, the account centric model hurts the customer experience, as customers may have to provide more data than they should when working with bankers or receive marketing materials for products they already have. Today, customers expect banks to know who they are which means having a complete picture of all of the business you do with them. Switching to a customer centric model is a big part of completing this picture.

2) Prioritising Bank Requirements Over Customer Requirements: Traditionally, bank systems have focused on making life easier for the bank rather than giving the customer a better experience. Previously, changing this approach wasn’t a priority because it wasn’t much of a hindrance -- customers didn’t have direct access to the bank’s systems, so why did it matter if it was user-friendly for the customer? But all of this is changing now. With customers demanding online and mobile access, and even visibility into what tellers see when they’re in a branch, banks now need to ensure that their systems provide a user-friendly experience for customers too.

3) Trapped by the “CORE-Four:” Many banks are held hostage by the “big four” CORE platforms and don’t have the wherewithal to uncouple the pieces. However, moving away from these platforms will be key to providing a better user experience for customer-facing technologies. Although these platforms do provide the functionality that bank employees need, the same can’t be said about the functionality that customers are demanding. For example, banks that rely solely on these platforms will find it difficult to link processes into a branded, user-friendly and functional mobile application.

4) Disproportionate Compliance Spend: Compliance is of utmost importance, but legacy technology makes maintaining compliance much too time consuming. Because the older technology on which most banks rely is more difficult to change, banks are spending too much time trying to keep up with new compliance rules and changing business environments. With newer technology that’s easier to change, this time could be spent creating a great digital experience for customers.

5) Cross-sell effectiveness:  Banks are finding it difficult to provide easily accessible information on the broad array of products they have. How do people know which banks offer which products? Today, most people turn to the internet to do research on the best options for different banking products. But if banks aren’t making information about their products and related services easily accessible online, they’re already losing customers.

Omni-channel is Key

All of these challenges make it difficult for banks to achieve one key aspect of the customer experience: omni-channel service. What does omni-channel service look like for banks? Customers want to have the same experience and level of service regardless of channel -- in-person, online, mobile, social, call centre, you name it. Moving to a customer centric model, making customer-facing technology more user-friendly and focusing on the technology that powers all aspects of the business all tie into providing this consistency.

If banks can’t focus on the digital customer experience, they have no ability to play in the “omni-channel” space. In turn, this leads to inconsistent (or non-existent) experiences across each channel. This is already a shortcoming and will continue to become a larger hindrance as customers increasingly expect the ability to transition seamlessly from one channel to another.

Mobility and channel consistency are two key factors to providing a successful omni-channel experience.

In terms of mobility, we are now in a time where a solid mobile app is a baseline requirement for even considering opening an account. Customers are demanding an easy-to-use app that provides quick access to account information and other services, such as transferring money and depositing checks. Think of it like having your own personal branch and ATM right in your pocket. And that’s just the basics of it. Banks should also take this a step further to truly mimic the in-branch experience by providing customer support options in the app as well as services around more advanced offerings, such as lending products.

In terms of consistency, it starts with the data. Flipping the model from account-centric to customer or household-centric puts customers at the centre of the business, which positively impacts the experience as well as the bank’s reporting and analytics, ability to recommend appropriate products and provide better overall service.

Once an appropriate customer master approach is integrated with the front and back office, the experience from the view of the customer can be improved. With consistent data and procedures to support it, appropriate attention can be paid to the personal experience – whether at a branch, via a browser, using a mobile app or calling in to customer service. From there comes consistency and overall quality of customer experience. Omni-channel service means providing a seamless experience across all channels, and this should be the ultimate goal. In practice, this means that a customer can start out on one channel, let’s say mobile, and transition to another, perhaps the phone, without any interruption. Thus, consistency across all of these channels is critical to providing this type of experience.

Achieve Omni-channel Service Goals in the Cloud

Realising this level of service may seem daunting, but it is possible for banks to achieve this goal through the use of cloud technology. Specifically, cloud technology can help banks achieve these service goals because of its agility and integration capabilities.

When it comes to agility, the cloud makes it easy to update systems and add new features, which is critical for banks. With regulations constantly changing, having an agile solution means that banks can quickly and easily make updates to ensure compliance. Further, this shift in where to dedicate time frees precious IT resources to focus on more innovative endeavours.

The cloud’s integration capabilities are also essential for banks when it comes to delivering omni-channel service. Mature cloud solutions are ready to integrate with other technologies and channels, which makes it possible for a number of complementary solutions to work in tandem with one another. For example, if a bank is using a cloud CRM solution, it can integrate data from other systems into the CRM to increase visibility into relevant customer information. These integration capabilities also simplify the process of extending different solutions to mobile or to web portals.

So how does all of this look in action?

I recently worked with a national Australian bank that put the Salesforce CRM solution in the hands of all of its tellers. Now, when customers walk into the branch, the tellers see the same thing that the customers see when they login at home. This minimises the confusion that so often occurs when the views are not in sync.

Meanwhile, some banks are using cloud technology to improve self-service options in their branches and reduce their overhead costs. For example, one national bank in the US has started to put self-service kiosks in its branches. Customers can use these kiosks, which mimic the feel of the online services, for true self-service or, if they prefer, can select an option to speak with a live teller, which connects them with a teller in a centralised call centre who can answer questions and guide them through the system. If that is not enough, they can ask one of the people in the branch for additional help. But the bank can now provide all three levels of support in the branch – online, face-to-face and in-person. Additionally the bank can reduce overhead costs since fewer people are needed at the branch. This is a great example of an omni-channel experience -- blurring the lines between in-person and online.

Banking Made Easy

It’s no secret that improving the customer experience is a critical component of staying competitive today, but how do banks do that? As the examples above illustrate, building new solutions around cloud technology that emphasise omni-channel can provide the experience for which today’s sophisticated customers are looking.


By Geoff Merrick, Vice President - Financial Services Sector Lead, Cloud Sherpas.

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