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All customers are always right—right?

Enlisting your digital helpers can make this reality

Bank tech trends can make your head spin. So regularly longtime Tech Exchange Editor John Ginovsky does his best to “make sense of it all.” Bank tech trends can make your head spin. So regularly longtime Tech Exchange Editor John Ginovsky does his best to “make sense of it all.”

It is an old saying, but it still is true: The customer is always right.

The problem, though, is that a given bank may have thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of customers.

And all of them have their own definition of what is right.

These definitions in many cases may be diametrically opposed to each other. So how can a bank cost-effectively figure out how to satisfy each and every customer, always?

In this techno-dominant environment, the answer, of course, is in the use of increasingly sophisticated, faster, and cheaper technology.

But that’s too easily said.

“Customer experience” is all-encompassing

Technology that specifically targets customer personalization rapidly gets labeled as “customer experience” or “CX” technology.

As important as it is, it subsequently tends to get pigeonholed as just another category, lined up with a host of other just-as-important categories like cybersecurity technology, payments technology, cloud-based technology, and so forth.

All of these technologies, of course, are in themselves increasingly sophisticated, faster, and cheaper. They pose their own challenges for banks to stay close to the cutting edge.

The distinguishing thing with CX, though, is that it has significant overlap with all the other technologies that are fundamentally changing the business of banking, let alone just about every other industry.

It’s worth pointing out that in Celent’s recent report in which it lists ten top trends affecting retail banking, three explicitly address aspects of customer experience: acknowledging it as a primary concern with mobile primacy, modernizing the middle- and back-office, and, most directly, addressing customer experience head on.

Celent has this to say about that latter point:

“In addition to improving mobile delivery, firms will focus on customer interactions across every touchpoint, and continue the tedious work of knitting together a true omnichannel experience.”

The report, written by Dan Latimore, senior vice-president of Celent’s banking practice, lists these seven other key banking trends: achieving digital ubiquity; finding fintech everywhere; investing in innovation; moving cloud into production; perfecting partnerships; continuing cybersecurity; and managing regulation.

It’s not too much of a leap to conclude that all of these, in one way or another, relate to the basic point—all customers are always right, and providers of products and services, including banks, need to find ways to satisfy them all.

Reinvigorating your “CX” effort

The thing is, indications from a variety of sources inside the banking industry and out, conclude most providers have work to do—even those that may have once been leaders in this, but have fallen behind as consumer expectations have risen.

Example 1: Personetics, which specializes in customer customization, polled banks and their customers to gauge how well the former perform for the latter.

Conclusion: “While banks feel it’s important to know each customer’s personal situation and deliver real-time guidance and insights, most customers actually don’t believe their bank understands their financial needs very well.

“There is a clear disconnect between what customers want and banks know they need to provide—more personalization—and what banks are currently able to deliver.”

Example 2: Sitecore, which specializes in experience management software, polled 826 marketing and IT decision makers in different industries around the world.

Results: 42% of a typical organization’s total sales have come from online channels in the past year, but only 14% of the online sales budget is dedicated to managing the digital consumer experience, on average.

“As consumers now expect a seamless and immediate shopping experience, the importance of delivering the right experience directly affects the brand,” says Scott Anderson, chief marketing officer, Sitecore. “But right now, brands struggle to fulfill the optimal customer experience due to a disconnect between content and commerce driven primarily by the complexity of technology integration. As consumers’ expectations are paramount to business, it’s time for brands to focus in this area.”

Example 3: Forrester issued a recent report of its own poll of corporate decision-makers.

Results: “Forrester data shows that most organizations have a long way to go when it comes to CX because, while 84% of companies aspire to be CX leaders, only one in five deliver good or great CX.”

Example 4: Another Forrester report concludes banks are slipping in optimizing their mobile connections with customers.

Results: “While most banks say they are customer-centric, many have not tapped into the opportunity to become their customers’ personal financial assistants. They fail to help consumers understand their finances and do not provide personalized financial advice or relevant services.”

Example 5: Research from Radius Global Market Research found that marketers’ customization efforts “get it right” less than 30% of the time, on average.

The company’s survey “shows that consumers are potentially very receptive to efforts to customize the brand experience,” says Shira Horn, vice-president, Radius GMR. “But if marketers don’t do the homework involved to provide and communicate highly relevant benefits to their specific audiences, they are unlikely to capitalize on the opportunity.”

Some welcome good news on CX front

All is not doom and gloom in the banking industry, however.

Other indications are that leaders both in the industry and in industries that support financial services see the need to boost investment, innovation, and involvement with advancing CX technologies.

For one thing, a CGI survey titled Fintech Disruption In Financial Devices finds that while consumers really, really value CX technology, “more than 75% of consumers expressed a preference to acquire new digital services from their current financial institution or another traditional provider over a nontraditional provider.”

“Incumbent banks are well positioned to offer new digital financial services based on their trusted customer relationships with high levels of uptake,” says Kevin Poe, vice- president and global lead for Retail Banking at CGI.

For another thing, The Boston Consulting Group reported on the “transformative power of service” in which it examines advanced technologically disruptive forces on a variety of industries, including banking.

“Customers today expect intuitive, proactive, and personalized service all the time, regardless of the communication channel,” says Olaf Rehse, senior partner and managing director. “That expectation can be met by using modern technologies that enable businesses to offer services that are more individualized, faster, and much less expensive.”

BCG says that in ten years, across the service industry—but especially in the banking, energy, insurance, and telecom sectors—companies will need only half the call capacity that they require today.

A strong statement, that—but rapidly reaching reality, and an indication of a specific technology that might jumpstart CX in the near future. Bank call centers have been at the front lines of CX for years. How more personal can one get than by talking to a human being?

But how about the frustration one gets waiting on hold, listening to bad music interrupted by insincere-sounding messages that “Your call is important to us”?

Or how about, from the call center representative’s point of view, having his or her time consumed by resolving simple issues such as updating home addresses, etc., while someone on hold has an urgent issue of cyberhacking?

As they used to say on television: We have the capability. We have the technology. Add to this: We have the chat bots, or automated conversational programs augmented by artificial intelligence.

KPMG in a recent report imagines that by 2030 “mass market retail banks will be largely invisible to consumers.” More than that, it describes this “invisible bank” as one “hidden by a Siri-like e-personal assistant that fulfills daily personal and financial obligations, informed by data gathered from a fully connected way of life.”

How CX-y can one get?

Drilling down on customization

Still, more generally, beyond call centers there are other avenues to pursue to embrace customization. Personetics lists these:

• Make customer data work for the customer benefit. Deliver real-time insights and guidance.

• Help customers manage their finances and meet financial goals. Find new ways to engage customers, build trust, and deliver actionable advice.

• Offer a continuous multichannel experience. Customer experience needs to be consistent and seamless.

• Embrace conversational communication. Take advantage of messaging platforms to deliver individualized guidance through interactive dialog powered by artificial intelligence.

In this incredible era of technological upheaval remember the basic thing: The customer is always right.

Sources for this article include:

Accenture Interactive Teams With Adobe To Launch Customer Engagement Solutions For Financial Services Organizations

Digitization Is Revolutionizing Provision Of Services

Retail Banking Trends 2016: Hot Topics Entering Planning Season

Consumers Want Digital Financial Services From Their Current Financial Institution According To CGI Survey

Only One In Five Companies Deliver Good Or Great CX

Royal Bank of Scotland Engages IBM Watson For Cognitive Insights To Better Serve Customers

KPMG Introduces EVA—Bank Of The future

Consumers Say Brands Get Customization Right Less Than 30% Of The Time

New Research Shows Brands Struggle with Online Commerce Even as Its Importance Grows

Personalization in Banking: 2016 Benchmark Report

John Ginovsky

John Ginovsky is a contributing editor of Banking Exchange and editor of the publication’s Tech Exchange e-newsletter. For more than two decades he’s written about the commercial banking industry, specializing in its technological side and how it relates to the actual business of banking. In addition to his weekly blogs—"Making Sense of It All"—he contributes fresh, original stories to each Tech Exchange issue based on personal interviews or exclusive contributed pieces. He previously was senior editor for Community Banker magazine (which merged into ABA Banking Journal) and for ABA Banking Journal and was managing editor and staff reporter for ABA’s Bankers News. Email him at [email protected]

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