You know, the evergreen proof point that many banks use to highlight their ‘unique point of differentiation.’ For a long time, customer service meant a branch on every corner. Today, especially in the wake of COVID-19, while physical presence remains important, convenience also correlates with the ease, speed, and simplicity of an omnichannel experience. And, when customers perceive digital banking interactions and product purchases to be super-convenient, they are more likely to adopt them.

The truth is customer service is being redefined right before our very eyes. COVID-19 has forced the hand of financial institutions around the world, and those who have pushed off their digital transformation have been exposed. Today, customer service doesn’t only mean having access to a real person when you have an issue or question. Customer service means truly tailoring your service, and business model, to the customer; and in some cases, that means making it possible for the customer to never talk to you at all.

This is nothing new. Leading banks have been on their digital transformation journey for years. Yet despite several years of digitization efforts, the average US bank trails its upper-quartile counterpart by a significant margin in terms of digital adoption, particularly in credit cards, auto loans, and mortgages.

And this trend will continue to permeate the entire organization across products, channels and even lines of business. Many banks have two, or even three, lines of business. Personal, Business and Private (or Wealth Management). That means different audiences and needs, which presents a unique challenge for any company trying to streamline their processes. To be effective, the organization must understand the needs of their customers and personalize the experience. The dynamic that continues to make the definition of ‘service’ a malleable one, must be considered.

For example, Business Banking is built on relationships and trust. The Business Banking audience has a different set of needs, and their evaluation process doesn’t only prioritize your ability to meet the functional needs of their business. The personal connection, and overall relationship matter. In this case, the bank needs to make sure the Business Customer feels like you’re looking out for their best interest, not your own. And, you have to demonstrate, not just say, that you’re an industry expert. Not the banking industry, but the customer’s industry.

When your business model revolves around building everything with the aim of benefiting the end user, you can claim to support your belief in good service with a behavior that actually delivers on it. 

On the flip side, ‘good service’ from a retail banking perspective means providing a digital experience that allows a customer to do virtually anything they can at a branch. To a retail banking customer, great service doesn’t mean you have a phone line but means building your digital experience in a way that eliminates the need for human interaction. To boost digital customer experience, banks need to design their solutions based on a deep understanding of what drives customer perceptions of convenience.

Regardless of whether the recent increases in digital adoption persist beyond COVID-19, the longstanding trend of consumers and businesses shifting away from branches and toward digital channels will continue. In order to succeed, banks and credit unions need to start now.

About Author:
Account Director, Jon Barnett, brings to Cactus a keen ability to see around corners. By placing a priority on being an attentive, active listener, Jon proactively helps clients solve complex business problems with simple, creative solutions. He’s worked on a variety of national and international financial brands including CommunityAmerica Credit Union, Scott Credit Union, and Umpqua Bank, and he now serves as the Financial Services Lead.

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