Stitching Together The Customer Experience
For banks to survive in today’s digital world, they need to understand and embrace the omnichannel model.
All banks are multichannel. Even for so-called “online only” offerings, banks still have phone numbers for customers to call in times of need. Yet, the trouble with most banks — especially longstanding enterprises with legacy IT platforms and back-office processes — is that customer experiences often don’t translate across all channels.
For instance, a customer who starts an action on a website may not be able to finish it at a brick-and-mortar branch. Or, the information input by a customer via a website may not be available to the customer service representative on the other end of the phone line.
by Hayley Carter
While a bank may provide multiple channels for customer service, banking customers today expect an omnichannel experience. “Omni” means “all” — and it is not a true omnichannel experience unless customers see a connection across all touchpoints.
Research by the Aberdeen Group shows that firms with a well-defined omnichannel customer experience management (CEM) program achieve a 91 percent higher year-over-year increase in customer retention rate on average, compared to organizations without omnichannel programs.
And, in 2014, the Financial Services Club reported that 73 percent of people would consider a financial services offering from Google, Apple, Amazon or PayPal over one from their own bank. Arguably, part of the appeal is those companies’ known ability to use an omnichannel approach at all the right places and for all the right processes.
The question now is: How do banks begin to meet this challenge — to go from being multichannel, which was all the rage 5 years ago, to omnichannel? How can banks create a seamless experience for customers across whatever channel the customers want to use at any given time?
I recently had my own frustrating experience with an enterprise that fell behind on the omnichannel curve. I decided to open a regular individual savings account online with a bank where I had not previously been a customer. The online application process was short and straightforward, and I was ultimately pleased with my experience.
Three weeks later, however, my account was still not open, and I had a bit of free time to look into some alternatives. I changed my mind about the account. Since my application appeared to be lost in the ether, calling the company seemed like the obvious way to cancel my application. But the company could not do a sufficient security check on me over the phone since I did not have an existing account. The customer service representative couldn’t even view an application that had been submitted online. I was told that the only way I could stop the application for a product I no longer wanted was to go to a branch and do it there.
Not convinced that this was the case, I tweeted my dissatisfaction to the company’s Twitter account. After a brief direct-message exchange, the social media contact was able to cancel my account in less than 5 minutes.
While it would have been useful for the bank to have had a perfect omnichannel setup, in reality, it wasn’t strictly necessary. “Omnichannel” may be the phrase of the moment, but the need is more about understanding how customer journeys are likely to cross multiple touchpoints. Which journeys can be completed in a single channel? Which require different channels? How do those channels overlap?
Where omnichannel matters
Product opening is a great example of a process that demands an omnichannel experience. Take my first mortgage application as an example.
I started by browsing on my tablet at home, playing with online tools and calculators to understand roughly how much I could borrow. Then I called the bank to glean some advice and book an appointment to speak to someone in a branch. Next stop was the branch itself, where I spoke to an advisor who basically sorted everything out.
At each touchpoint, I had to start the process from scratch. I had to provide my personal information and details about how much I wanted to borrow and the type of property I was interested in buying at every step.
In a Harvard Business Review study published more than 5 years ago, 56 percent of customers cited “having to re-explain an issue” as one of the biggest obstacles in customer service, and it still appears to be a prevalent concern. Have we really made so little progress in half a decade?
All sewn up
In my case, I know the bank was tracking data on what I did online, but the disconnect between the channels prevented a seamless customer experience. More than a few financial services organizations still have projects siloed in individual channels, making them unable to consider the bigger picture.
But the technology exists to stitch together this customer experience. Analytics enables a bank’s online sales team to understand how a user engages with a website and at which part in the process a user drops out of an application. Often, this data is not being used effectively to aid customers and to help pick up these customers in other channels.
Surely it would be better for everyone if the staff at the bank branch I visited could have seen what I was doing online before I arrived.
All banks capture and track customer satisfaction, net promoter score (NPS) or something similar as a way to assess how happy customers are with a channel, generally using surveys to ask for a rating from 1 to 10.
However, equating customer satisfaction purely to a number doesn’t provide the necessary depth of understanding to strategize properly. Banks still need to understand things such as customer effort across the entire process. They need to look at customer touchpoints and understand how the experience can affect loyalty and, ultimately, value to the organization.
It’s the first step on the roadmap toward an omnichannel strategy.
Hayley Carter is a senior consultant for digital and customer experience in banking and capital markets at CSC.