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Coffee, current accounts and the commoditisation conundrum

By Neil Murphy, Global VP at ABBYY


In the last year, consumers have dramatically moved towards online channels, with companies and industries following suit – and the banking industry is no different. Digital and online banking were already on the rise prior to the pandemic, and quickly became a necessity in the last year. With the wide range of benefits available, it’s no surprise why digital banking has become the consumers “preferred choice”.

This increased reliance on technology is spurring consumers to move towards fintech companies and challenger banks for their financial needs, leaving traditional banks in the dust. This shift will mean heightened expectations for instant service and seamless customer experiences. Fortunately, this is right up a fintech’s street. These organisations have the advantage of starting with a vision and no legacy and have become experts at reducing friction and delivering an enhanced customer experience – ensuring the customer remains at the centre of every business decision.

Banks that fail to deliver this seamless customer experience risk losing the trust and loyalty with their customers and may be regarded as a commodity provider. Banks must withstand the commoditisation trap and build their position of trust while harnessing technology to increase customer engagement.

Return of relationship banking

In this era of tech-savvy consumers, banks need to keep up with their demands and expectations or risk being cast aside for a faster alternative. They want their bank to provide them with a digital experience that is more convenient and makes their lives easier. But while customers are increasingly adopting technology, many still place a high importance on human contact at their local branch or with their bank advisor by phone. YouGov found that almost a quarter of Brits still manage their money by popping into their local bank branch. It’s clear, relationship banking is still important, and these banks will need to balance digitalisation and personal customer service.

This is why the Dutch bank ING’s North American arm, Capital One and Lloyds Bank in Manchester transformed their banks into café-style branches. Discussing your current account over a coffee might appear strange, but more banks are creating spaces where customers will actually want to speak to bankers. In fact, the Dutch Bank created several cafes in the U.S. where “financial baristas” would serve coffee as they chat with visitors about their financial needs and explain the financial institution’s capabilities.

In an increasingly saturated industry, it’s no longer about the products and services banks sell to consumers, it about creating a unique experience within them, while improving any poor customer experiences that are rooted in processes and technology. Banks should work to understand what success looks like from a customer perspective and then work backwards to understand current processes and the holistic experience of everyone who is interacting with your product, service, brand, and company.

Keeping up with the customer

No matter which bank you want to do business with, you’ll find that all of them offer very similar services with similar fees – internet banking, mobile banking, loans are just a few examples. As traditional services become a commodity, it has become clearer that having the better customer experience can make all the difference. And even if you provide an exceptional service, if the journey to use that service isn’t great, customers will leave, and your customer acquisition costs will rise. Therefore, having a smooth process is key for customer retention, onboarding and overall satisfaction.

A common approach to streamlining the customer journey is to collaborate with team members and specialists who work within the organisations process – for banking, this can include customer acquisition staff, customer service representatives, and anyone who regularly interacts with content-centric tasks – and look for areas of improvement. By working with these team members, who understand the processes, will provide useful insights and information that can help banks.

It’s also important to incorporate technology that can give you an unbiased look into how processes are working. Process intelligence gives banks the tools to analyse less structured processes, identify opportunities for improvement, and increase both the speed and accuracy of executing processes. When banks use advanced platforms that both understand content (including unstructured content such as e-mails, application forms or pay slips) and detect behavioural changes (whether it is customer behaviour or operational behaviour), they can identify factors that delay customer service response times, service delivery and even product innovation, and target them precisely here.

Empower humans with technology

It’s important to remember that the technology that banks implement should empower staff to do their best work, rather than replace them all together. No matter what technology is in place, delivering a great customer experience comes down to the human touch.

Having an overview of the processes means you’re aware of where the process bottlenecks or deviations are occurring. This enables you to revise steps or retrain staff to ensure optimal outcomes occur. Similarly, if certain employees can complete tasks at a higher success rate than others, it’s important to understand how they’re doing it so it can be duplicated across the team for overall improved workforce productivity. This is where task mining is gaining momentum.

Task mining allows businesses to understand how employees complete tasks by recording user interactions, while keeping privacy in mind. It shares similarities with process mining, but it leverages user interaction data instead of business metrics and log files to analyse processes. The data you get from your customers can be incredibly effective in building customer experiences. Leveraging this data in a useful way can lead to big gains for banks and help make insightful and impactful decisions.

The commoditisation conundrum

It is true, that customers have found online banking a convenient solution during the pandemic. This, coupled with cost savings and improved efficiencies has benefited banks which has led to a decline in visits to branches. But when a bank becomes faceless, the trust level will automatically decline.

To be successful in the digital age, banks need to meet the rising customer expectations and keep up with the technology companies that are becoming more established in the financial sector. Implementing the right technology tools enables banks and financial organisations to have a 360-degree overview of processes to improve the customer journey.

To avoid walking on the path towards the commoditisation trap, banks must adopt solutions with digital intelligence, sustain great customer experience and look towards building loyalty with new and previous customers.


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