In banking, delivering a “customer experience” has historically meant fulfilling a promise – processing a payment, dispensing cash, providing accurate balance information. Today, that’s no longer enough. As people conduct more business online, banks run the risk of losing customer contact and connections. With less engagement, there are fewer opportunities to offer customers new products and services.
In an increasingly digital and virtual world, delivering the next-generation customer experience requires new levels of customer insight, experience and interaction. That experience can be achieved by creating multiple digital touchpoints and making the interactions so rich that the customer frequently returns for additional insights and new offerings.
Here’s an example from my personal experience. I use my bank credit card to pay a variety of bills and make day-to-day purchases. Recently, my phone bill was higher than normal. How did I find out? My bank sent an alert seeking verification that the higher charge was legitimate (it was, as my wife had made an overseas call during the billing period).
To me, that was an example of creating a superior customer experience. My bank is using customer data and analytics to go beyond processing a transaction, to identifying patterns and providing me with insights I otherwise might have missed.
All else being equal, customer experience will be the differentiator going forward. Banks can leverage the power of technology, data and new forms of engagement to improve customer loyalty and stickiness beyond what can be achieved in the physical world. Digital customer experience can also help grow the business, as tools for making real-time decisions open the door to innovative cross-sell/upsell opportunities.
For banks ready to embark on creating the next-generation customer experience, we suggest the following for their consideration:
Customer interfaces. The right digital applications and a solid online banking platform are essential to creating a seamless customer experience, from the desktop, to a mobile device, to a branch visit. Mapping client interactions, making sense of them and gleaning insights to inform the next best action or offer can help drive more value at the point of engagement. As bank customers increasingly use online services and apps to conduct business, the ability to provide consistent, intuitive interfaces will become an even more important differentiator between a superior and subpar customer experience.
Data and analytics platforms. As described earlier, my bank provided me with a superior customer experience by sensing patterns in my spending activities, using its strong analytics platform and data architecture to produce insights and take action. A key consideration for banks as they expand their use of analytics tools to create offers is how to strike the right balance between leveraging customer data and maintaining the level of data privacy customers expect.
End-to-end processes. One way that upstart competitors are challenging banks is by completing requests and transactions more quickly. Banks traditionally have a longer fulfillment cycle because their processes are not harmonized. It can take several days or even weeks for a small business to obtain a bank loan vs. just one business day from non-traditional online lenders, such as Kabbage and OnDeck. With multiple review touchpoints and disparate systems and processes contributing to slower loan fulfillment, end-to-end digitization and process rationalization are essential to banks’ future competitiveness.
People. Even in the most heavily digital environments, success ultimately requires the skills of people who can use technology adeptly and are empowered to make customers happy. If personnel within a heavily used branch don't (or can’t) respond effectively to long lines, wait times and growing frustration levels, all the technology in the world won't improve the satisfaction of those customers. Other industries – airlines, hotels and restaurants, for example – have long demonstrated the positive impact of a smile, detailed attention to customer needs and preferences, and even a general attitude and demeanor on customer experience. Technology goes a long way, but customer experience is far more than just technology.
Change management can help people disband old ways of doing things and deliver an elevated customer experience in an increasingly digital world. And the need for change doesn’t just relate to customer service representatives and relationship managers. Even senior-level executives can benefit from training in new digital technologies and understanding how they can drive enterprise value.
Creating a superior digital customer experience requires a deep-dive examination of customer interactions and transactions – and then making sense of them. It’s using different channels and leveraging the power of data. Ultimately, though, customer experience is about more than the coolest digital applications, the power of data and analytics, and the imperative of end-to-end processes. At the end of the day, it’s about creating a special experience every time the customer interacts with the institution. That means every point of engagement and every moment of engagement matters.
Ultimately, customer experience is still about fulfilling a promise. If a transaction takes too long, is too difficult, or is one-upped by a competitor, it can quickly jeopardize the customer relationship. Fortunately, today more than ever, the tools to deliver on the promise, and build on it by surprising and delighting the customer, are at hand and ready for use.
To learn more, check out the latest issue of Cognizanti journal.
This piece was written by Prasad Chintamaneni, President, Global Industries and Consulting at Cognizant. In this capacity, he focuses on transforming strategic client relationships through market-leading industry practices integrated with differentiated solutions and consulting. Prasad joined Cognizant in 1999 and established key relationships with many of Cognizant’s largest banking and financial services clients. Most recently, Prasad served as President, Banking and Financial Services (BFS) Practice, with responsibility for the business unit’s global P&L, sales, business development, consulting, client relationship management and delivery. Under Prasad’s leadership, Cognizant’s BFS business unit has emerged as one of the largest financial services practices in the industry, earning Cognizant third on the 2016 FinTech Forward rankings. Prior to joining Cognizant, Prasad spent seven years in investment banking and financial services, including five years with Merrill Lynch as an investment banker and as a member of Merrill’s business strategy committee in India. He earned a postgraduate diploma in business management from XLRI School of Management in India and bachelor of technology degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India. He can be reached at email@example.com.