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People need People – Humanising the digital banking experience

By Nick Barnes, Practice Director, Financial Services & Customer Success at JRNI

Prior to the pandemic, banks began offering customers a blend of on-site and digital banking. The impetus was largely driven by economic, efficiency and productivity initiatives, and was hastened by a new generation of digitally connected customers demanding convenient and engaging customer experiences.

According to Juniper, the total number of online and mobile banking users will exceed 3.6 billion by 2024, and banking growth is expected to increase by 54% compared to 2020. In the new digital world, banks need to find different ways of connecting with customers to meet their needs, while also driving growth for the institutions – without necessarily conducting business in-person.

Simply providing digital alternatives to physical banking, such as apps and chatbots, is not enough. Research by Forrester determined that only one-third of customers trust chatbots to handle simple financial transactions. Furthermore, 80% of people polled want to speak with an agent as opposed to a chatbot.

How can banks move forward?

For banks to succeed in this new normal, digital interactions must have a level of compassion that equals or exceeds what is available in branches. Banks need to deliver high touch, but low contact. More than speed and ease of access, consumers want to feel good about their interactions with technology, and this requires an element of human connection. Ultimately, humans trust other humans more than they trust technology designed to simulate humans. As such, providing ‘humanised engagement’ through an omnichannel approach will be key now and in the future.

The challenge now for the banking sector is getting this balance between digital innovation and human engagement right, across all channels.  WBR Insights’ latest research of the banking and financial sector shows how leading banks are addressing this challenge. The research, carried out in Q3 of 2021, surveyed 100 Heads of Branch and similar from organisations across Europe, aiming to find out about the difficulties they are facing in 2021 and the innovative solutions they are putting in place.

Seamless integration between channels

The research highlighted several interesting findings. It showed that customers prefer to conduct simple transactions – credit card account opening, dispute resolution – via mobile, while more complex transactions require in-branch or virtual appointments.

According to the survey results, 54% of banks currently do not have a solution to automate appointment scheduling, but 50% of those plan to the in future, and believe it will help them improve response times.  Giving retail banking customers the ability to preschedule their appointments not only increases their convenience, but it ensures that they meet with a knowledgeable staff member, so their individual needs and expectations can be properly met.

56% of respondents said that their organisations consider implementing a video appointment functionality as crucial to their appointment scheduling software. Video appointments enable a personal, face-to-face connection between the bank and the customer, further helping retail banks to humanise their digital banking experience.

Driving business growth

In the past, retail banking customers would have had to rely on phone calls when they could not physically visit a branch. Online video conferencing capabilities are now empowering retail banks to give their customers high-value face-to-face time to discuss some of life’s most significant financial decisions – and it has the added benefit of bringing the bank directly into their customers’ homes.

Flexible appointment choices from virtual technologies also enable banks to reach a broader customer base and, through collecting data and personalising offerings, build a closer relationship with different socio-economic groups. This opens up significant new markets and audiences for banks with consumers who would not traditionally have been customers. Being able to connect through different channels at off-hours has been a huge innovation for the mortgage market. A mortgage advisor can now share documents online, and customers can sign those documents while on a video call. This makes the process more efficient and flexible, and has had a massive effect on uptake.

Personalisation through analytics

Consumers want personalised digital services and in-person services, and advice based on real-time changes in their personal lives. Banks can deliver meaningful and powerful personalised experiences by using their existing data and everyday customer touchpoints. These metrics allow banks to provide services that adapt to new consumer behaviours, embedding personalised, and end-to-end experiences for customers in their digital journeys. Using customer data to provide an improved experience increases levels of customer satisfaction. With personalised service, consumers feel valued and cared for. In fact, customer experience is overtaking price and product as the key brand differentiator for financial institutions.

In the WBR Insights research, respondents cited sophisticated analytics as either a ‘somewhat important’ (34%), ‘important’ (37%) or ‘very important’ (29%) feature for their appointment scheduling solution. Detailed analytics provide banks with insights into customer sentiment and behaviour. They also provide service metrics, such as call duration, customer no-shows, and walkaways, to identify areas where customer service and efficiency can be improved – key insights that enable branches to enhance the banking experience for customers.

Blending channels for customer acquisition and retention

Introducing more human interaction to the financial services experience is critical for banks in today’s world. To facilitate growth, banks must blend digital and human channels to create a seamless experience. If they can provide a personal touch in their digital interactions, they will build stronger connections with their customers, which will lead to growth in customer acquisition and better retention and loyalty.

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