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By William Perry, Head of Financial Services UK&I, MEA at Medallia

Banks might not have seen the pandemic coming. However, financial institutions were already gearing up to deliver more online experiences in order to compete during a time of digital disruption. The need to design and implement better digital experiences was simply accelerated by the global crisis.

Banks that fared well during the pandemic continuously listened to customers and acted on feedback to consistently deliver great experiences and react to bad ones all in the moment. Many banking leaders began leveraging advanced technology – such as AI-powered voice and text analytics – to analyse and capture feedback across channels including calls, emails, social media and other data sources. This helped them to put the customer at the heart of every effort to improve the digital customer journey.

A new breed of customer

This transformation is well timed to coincide with the evolution of the traditional banking customer. At the beginning of 2021, 14 million people in the UK had digital-only bank accounts, and this figure is set to rise to 23 million over the next five years. It is clear that cardholders have fundamentally changed the way in which they interact with banks, which means the priority for banking leaders in 2022 is going to be ensuring that they continue to compete through offering an enhanced digital banking experience. Establishing and sustaining an advantage in this area means ensuring both digital capabilities and the customer’s overall digital experience are optimised in order to win, serve, expand and retain customer relationships.

Delivering a stellar digital experience

Armed with the insights into what is and isn’t working in real time and a predisposition towards taking action at scale, here are four ways in which banks can ensure they are delivering best-in-class digital experiences and driving business value next year.

1)      Simplify buying journeys

For banks, the main route to new revenue is through expanding existing customer relationships and through new customers entering the buying journey. Convenience was the top reason cited by customers who switched to a digital-only bank account in 2021, so simplifying the buying journey must be a digital priority next year.

Implementing change that will address specific customer needs calls for investment into insight tools to understand where and why customers are dropping out of their journeys. Then, whether it’s customers tripping up in the process of signing up for a new credit card or facing challenges accessing the full suite of products on offer, it’s about testing and implementing ways to make the processes more straightforward, allowing customers to move through their journeys more easily and quickly. Doing so will inevitably raise conversions and drive revenue.

With this feedback and response loop in progress, banking leaders can then look for opportunities to innovate more holistically across the entire buying journey as a whole. For example, many banks have moved past eliminating barriers and optimising the individual steps necessary to onboard a new account. Their focus is now on reimagining ways to welcome, engage, and deepen relationships with new customers over the critical first 3 to 6 months – helping to cement their position as a leader in experience management.

2)      Prioritise digital experience fixes that will save time and money

In the new year, banking leaders should keep an eye out for those dual-purpose opportunities that not only can optimise the online journey and deliver quality experiences that increase loyalty, but also will improve efficiencies in online processes that will have a clear impact on cost reduction.

Some basic examples include simplifying the password reset function to reduce call centre volumes or optimising the digital cheque deposit process to improve the user experience while reducing costly visits to physical branches. Banking leaders should also consider automating processing and decision-making on lower-risk personal banking and credit-lending accounts. Making these journeys ‘touchless’ can increase revenue while reducing the need for back-office human-powered operations.

It’s important to remember that hammering out these friction points needs strategic direction. Again, customer feedback is going to be crucial in working out an intentional and proactive approach to managing the digital experience. As such, customer feedback needs to slot alongside the defining and tracking of financial outcomes if it is to properly inform the decision-making process and affect calculated change.

3)      Balance digitising the human experience with humanising the digital experience

Focusing on optimising digital functionality to become ‘touchless’ has one potential downfall – the potential loss of the human touch. Indeed, removing the majority of human touchpoints could come at the expense of a personal experience, which is key to building valuable and lasting customer relationships.

While customers want the convenience of online appointments, finances remain a source of anxiety for most people, and many will still want to know that they can rely on help if they need it. If this human element to the customer experience is poorly delivered, or minimised excessively, it will likely drive attrition. One way in which to humanise the digital experience is through the use of video for online interactions, appointments and even online interactive tellers.

Another way to bridge the gap between digital and human experiences is through the use of live chats. This provides an avenue for the customer to reach someone rapidly during an online session – be it a chatbot for simpler problems or a real agent for those more complex needs. The customer’s issue can be solved in real-time while making them feel like they’ve received personal attention, thus humanising a digital experience.

Banking leaders who will help their institutions to operate at the next level in 2022 will strengthen that human-centric experience to create more personal experiences across channels.

4)      Take action on environmental risk

When figuring out a digital strategy for next year, banking leaders will need to think about how a customer’s digital experience will fit in with the topic of sustainability. Following COP26, a big focus for next year is going to be understanding and acting on the sustainability desires of their stakeholders and customers. As Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces his plans for the UK as “the world’s first net-zero aligned financial centre”, banks will not only have an obligation to act on sustainability, they have the opportunity to be change-makers in tackling the issue of climate change while differentiating themselves from the competition in this way.

However, it’s one thing deciding to act on environmental risk and another finding a way to do it. Apart from making the digital experience work for customers, banking leaders can use the increasing breadth of digital experiences to their advantage next year. Banks can look at starting conversations around these topics with their community – whether that’s customers, investors, employees or potential employees – as a whole by capturing detailed information from all stakeholders across every digital channel. Crowdsourcing ideas and opinions at scale like this will ensure banking leaders can pinpoint the actions that will resonate most with customers across the board.

Optimising the end-to-end customer experience

Customer feedback helps to convert whack-a-mole individual digital fixes into the optimisation of the whole journey across channels. Fortunately, it’s becoming easier than ever to use customer data platforms, predictive journey analytics, real-time interaction management and journey orchestration tools to personalise the online experience while ensuring it is seamless and easy from end-to-end.

This means that even as digital becomes the primary channel through which banks and their customers interact, the challenges that this brings are far outweighed by the opportunities it presents. If banks employ this tactic well and use the insights from these interactions to innovate and stand out from the crowd, they can expect 2022 to deliver strong, long-lasting customer relationships.

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