With the digitisation of the economy, industries today face many challenges but perhaps the most pervasive is the need for continuous evolution. If you’re not moving forward, you’re actually falling behind. With always-on-the-go customers, technology advancements and a demanding and an increasingly complicated regulatory environment, banking is no exception. In fact, the financial services industry may be more aware of the need for constant progression than most.
Banking is a digital business and customers expect to conduct real-time transactions from anywhere, using multiple devices, at any time. While that, sounds easy enough to a consumer living in today’s always-on world, effectively delivering on those expectations can be overwhelming for a bank. Competition is fierce, however, and the risk of disintermediation is real. Every customer counts. To succeed in the era of digital transformation, banks need a smart, omni-channel strategy but even more importantly, one that prioritises customer needs before the bank’s benefit.
What is Omni-Channel?
Across industries, there is no shortage of discussion around omni-channel strategies. But what is it? In financial services, omni-channel is the delivery of internal and external digital products and services across multiple mediums. Most commonly, those services are accessed through mobile devices, on the Web, at the ATM, from a call center, and even from within the branch bank. Unfortunately though, too many banks invest resources in the development of online account services and then stop there. They fail to see that while customers of course appreciate (and some would argue, expect) the ability to pay their bills online and order checks, there are many other ways to provide value and improve the overall customer experience.
When expanding past online account services, most banks typically turn their attention to mobile devices. The rationale for doing so is logical. A recent study by Deloitte found 65% of all bank interactions originated from a mobile device. If that’s where your customers are, it is paramount you meet them there. But in today’s digital era, your customer’s reason for engagement may very well go beyond simply monitoring their account balance.
There is a vast array of service options and delivery mediums to consider. Perhaps your account holder is out shopping for a new car and would like instant information on a new auto loan. Can you get him or her a quote? What about those customers that start one transaction on their phone and then want to complete it on the Web or with a call center? These are real examples that occur daily. Can you provide value here?
Beyond the Mobile Channel
Adding the mobile channel is of course necessary but it’s really only the tip of the iceberg. A true omni-channel strategy should have strong, single-channel delivery but also cross-channel compatibility. Integration with partner networks for the delivery of other aligned services becomes important as does seamlessness, (i.e. from the customer perspective) unsiloed e-identification methods, secure access to enterprise services, SLA guarantees, and more. Each of these processes are as important for the bank’s business as they are for the customer’s satisfaction.
Omni-channel is much bigger than just a mobile strategy; it’s about blending easily and quickly multiple internal and external digital services to enable a strong customer experience that solidifies long-term loyalty. And all of this becomes possible with the addition of an API management layer. APIs enable mobile applications and allow for connecting premises-based systems to cloud services and your partner ecosystem. They not only allow for a smoother customer service experience but also improved productivity for the bank and added revenue through the monetisation of services.
Adding products and services can be costly and each should be carefully considered, rather than a reactive scramble to roll out something similar to what your competitor just announced. During your decision-making, it’s important to first apply the what-would-my-customer-want filter and align that with your institutional vision. Will this truly benefit the customer service experience and build ongoing brand loyalty? Be mindful of your customer and set your sights on innovating alongside them, across their lifecycle, for services they want, when they want them. Think also in their shoes as they will not tell you what they want, because they don’t know before you propose them new innovative services! It’s about working together so that you win on both value and convenience over the long haul.
ROI of Omni-Channel and Beyond
Effectively accomplishing a true omni-channel strategy requires deep customer understanding that is garnered from both historical activity and confident foresight. Analysis of historical activity pulled from various databases is the first step but perhaps even more important is knowing the capabilities your customers want (consciously or not) now, and what they will come to expect in the future. This information will not only enable a better customer service experience but also prevent potential account delinquency, loan defaulting, fraud and other possibilities.
Your customers expect speed, agility and convenience. Services delivered via an omni-channel approach, when done well, can meet those needs and more. There are challenges obviously; managing and securing the continued growth in data volume and velocity that digital business generates and the integration with legacy IT systems must both be mastered. But it can be done. If your focus is on inspired co-innovation with your customers however, those challenges are well worth the effort because the big picture payoff is significant. When you create a truly valuable experience, you’re less likely to lose to a lower-priced competitor, or on some other commodity.
For financial institutions in search of true success, it’s time to think beyond omni-channel service delivery. It’s time to truly connect with customers and build lasting, mutually-beneficial relationships. It should no longer be about meeting customer expectations, but exceeding them. Reaching out to deliver what they need when they need it (or even just before) is where your organisation will find unfettered success.
By Bruno Cambounet, VP Financial Services and Insurance, Axway