How can technology improve face to face interaction with customers?
March 2017 | SPOTLIGHT | BANKING & FINANCE
Financier Worldwide Magazine
The retail banking landscape has changed considerably in the wake of the digital revolution, but what does this actually mean for banks and how they engage with their customers? The continued availability of in-person services remains important to customers, despite the growing influence of digital technologies in the financial services sector.
The influence of digital is perhaps most apparent in the shift towards online services in everyday banking services. In 2015, there were 895 million logins on a mobile app, compared to 427 million branch visits by current account customers. As online banking has boomed, more than 1000 high street banks have closed across the UK in the past two years. Indeed, consumer magazine Which? revealed that 1046 branches shut between January 2015 and January 2017, as major banks have seen up to a 40 percent drop in footfall at their branches.
These bank closures have firmly altered the playing field, as traditional banks try to compete with the digital banking services offered by their FinTech competitors. But despite the shift towards this new battleground, customer demand for in-person banking services and face-to-face financial advice remains strong. Nearly two-thirds of consumers prefer to talk to someone in person when making a big financial decision, with half of mortgage customers still wanting to visit a branch. Interestingly, this preference for in-person services is still high among the millennial generation – the so-called ‘digital natives’ – as well. The availability and quality of face-to-face customer service and expert advice is a hallmark of high street banks. It is a heritage which they need to capitalise on, exploring ways in which innovative new technologies can help them make their distinctive ‘branch’ experience sustainable for the future.
With innovative FinTech players threatening the market share of traditional banks, senior decision makers must question how they can create a banking business model truly fit for the modern world, while still playing to their strengths. The branch of the future will embrace new technology to boost the efficiency of exceptional customer service.
Going digital is an attractive option for banks trying to manage the cost pressure of maintaining physical stores. However, online banking is not for everyone and it is important for banks to integrate multiple products, services and channels in a way which will accommodate all customers. While it might be tempting for traditional banks to follow in the footsteps of their newer FinTech rivals, the integration of technology into their business model must be guided by the continuing preference for in-person financial advice. Although the appetite for internet banking has increased, with 70 percent of customers happy to carry out everyday money management tasks online, the banking business model needs to balance digital and human interaction wisely.
Much of the time, this will involve focusing on technology solutions which speed up back-end processes and administrative tasks, in order to release more manpower for customer facing services. Often this involves workflow automation and better data structuring. But it can also involve next-generation technologies, such as Uber-like scheduling tools, which help to restructure the way in which a bank’s employee network is organised. Solutions like this are being developed to empower banks to connect roaming advisers to nearby customers when and where they are needed, with just the help of a mobile app.
The idea behind Uber-like scheduling tools is that they enable banks to break away from the branch as a way of organising their employee network. These tools empower banks to manage an entire mobile workforce of advisers and customer assistants. So far, these systems are being used by healthcare companies that provide services at home. Instead of using people onshore to call nurses once an appointment is booked, applications that use the Uber model track the process from start to finish, once a nurse has accepted the request.
Now, there is growing need for a similar solution in the financial services world, where customer demand for face-to-face meetings can be met quickly and efficiently, even outside of hours, by assigning individuals from a mobile network of advisers to carry out appointments with local customers at a location that is best suited to them. Using this scheduling system, companies can also respond to customer requests for face-to-face meetings almost immediately.
Without the infrastructure costs of a branch network and the employees who run it, this model opens up the possibility of providing out of hours services and in-person appointments at a customer’s home. The cost of providing this service can be greatly reduced and logistics significantly improved. Providing that advisers are willing to adapt and adhere to customer based convenience, meeting them at a time and location that is convenient, they will quite literally change the face of banking services. In this way, a more customer centric approach can be achieved with just the help of a simple mobile app.
Empowering banks in their struggle against new competitors must involve a revamp of their traditional business models, coming up with new solutions to enhance the customer experience. Traditional banks are facing new challenges everyday from FinTech competitors who are doing everything within minutes, even promising to approve mortgages online in that timeframe. Banks are faced with intense pressure from agile and innovative entrants able to cater to the demands of digitally-savvy consumers. Leveraging innovative technology gives banks with the agility and flexibility to transform their operations to make them sustainable and profitable well into the future.
Bhupender Singh is the chief executive of Intelenet Global Services.
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Intelenet Global Services