Few banking experiences bring the word “ease” to mind. While leaders in other industries have already invested heavily in seamless user interfaces, self-service options, and real-time responsiveness, the consumer banking industry continues to lag behind. Unfortunately for banks, consumer expectations are driven by the best experiences, regardless of which industry delivers them. This means that banks aren’t just competing against other banks; they are competing against world-class experiences like those offered by Amazon, Netflix, and Disney.
Making things easy for customers is especially important in times of transition and uncertainty. Covid-19 has created more than its fair share of changes in our daily lives along with a lot of financial anxiety. To maintain operations and continue to grow their businesses during the pandemic, consumer banks have had to accelerate their adoption of emerging technologies and innovative thinking when engaging with customers digitally, and they’ve had to advance how they empathetically interact on these channels.
Our POV, Putting the Consumer in Consumer Banking First, covers the four elements of a better customer experience: Relationship Value, Appeal, Ease, and Availability. This post—the third in a corresponding four-part series—covers how banks can increase Ease across three types of interactions: self-service, assisted service, and full service.
The first blog in this series, Strategies for Improving Relationship Value in Consumer Banking, focuses on the idea of establishing a personal connection that delivers customer benefits beyond secure money management. The second blog in this series, Personalize to Create an Appealing Consumer Banking Experience, discusses how Appeal can become an important decision point alongside product and service attributes, and ultimately serve as the tie-breaker between comparable competing offerings.
What do we mean by “Ease,” and why does it matter?
Ease is the “how” of the consumer banking experience, and it answers the question, “Is doing business with this bank simple, intuitive and seamless?”
Banks are at an inherent disadvantage when it comes to creating Ease because most consumers consider the related subject matter to be somewhat complex, intimidating, and generally off-putting. While many banks strive to help consumers improve their financial literacy, a simple first step that’s often overlooked is simply to make banking more approachable. That’s right, making it easier is at the root of what consumers desire.
And how does one make banking more approachable? By leveraging data and digital solutions to simplify the experience and lower barriers across three types of interactions: self-service, assisted service, and full service.
While mobile banking apps move the industry in the right direction—toward a truly self-driven and always available service model—there are still plenty of instances in which a consumer requires assistance via the web or a phone call to complete a task. Often this is because functionally simply isn’t available in the mobile interface. Because of this reality, delivering fully effective self-service requires carefully examining the differences between what can be accomplished with self-service vs. assisted service, and mapping how frequently the use cases exist. This effort not only informs the prioritization of self-service functionality, it highlights where assisted (or full) service is required and therefore opportunity exists to build a seamless journey for how a customer moves from self-service to another interaction medium. By thinking about movements in and out of self-service, and thereby delivering benefits to consumers by engaging with both, self-service adoption will continue to increase and grow as the default starting point for consumers.
The evidence on self-service preference is there: According to NPS Prism US banking data from Bain (May 2020), NPS when opening a checking/savings account fully digitally is 53 versus 39 when done through a bank’s contact center. To get a leg-up on self-service, banks should emulate best practices developed outside of the banking industry. Other sectors have invested heavily in innovations here and have deeply studied behaviors in order to design intuitive interfaces – and all of these methods to drive consumer engagement translate well to consumer banking. Not only do consumers prefer this channel for as many use cases as feasible, it frees up time for bankers and advisors to focus more intently on complex queries and issues. Net-net: higher rates of satisfaction in both digital and human interactions.
Assisted service, sometimes referred to as “Man + Machine,” describes the category of humanistic interactions that can only be achieved through AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning and automations. These types of interactions use technology like chatbots, tele-banking, personalized recommendations, and proactive alerts (either consumer- or agent/banker-facing) to deliver guidance and support. The future of banking includes many such assisted-service avenues, including deeper integrations with third-party applications like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and so forth.
These technologies and integrations can be combined to provide seamless and even hands-free experiences that make it almost effortless for consumers to perform banking tasks, solve problems, and research issues. Today we are seeing these technologies primarily support contact center agents to fulfill operational efficiency objectives, but the real opportunity for banks to differentiate and elevate their position is to creatively apply these technologies to create consumer experiences that bring the bank into everyday life. For example, banks’ access to robust transactional data could be activated to power new services. Imagine simply asking your Alexa about the average cost for garage door installation in your neighborhood, and it’s your bank’s Alexa skill that answers and connects you with top rated, cost effective providers. Further, because of the intimate relationship banks have with their consumers, banks have leverage to enter into partnerships with 3rd parties who can further power experiences with additional market data, insights, etc.
Full service represents what most people would consider traditional banking that takes place in a physical branch location with a banker or on the phone or email with a customer service agent. The key to providing a superior full service banking experience is to ensure that the bank employees have everything they need to provide service, support, and issue resolution quickly and easily. This means making sure bank agents have proper document access to policies, simple tools and calculators, clear exception protocols, and a very robust CRM system that provides instant and complete visibility into each customer relationship.
Both the customer and the bank employee expect transparency and visibility in full service interactions. Customers expect immediate or near-immediate resolutions to questions, concerns, and complaints, particularly those that relate to disputes and fraud. Bank employees expect fast, accurate access to the information they need at the point of interaction, or—if that’s not possible—at least clear direction about where to go next.
And again, the real key to success is enabling that seamless transition between full and self-service.
What does Ease look like in real life?
Making banking interactions easy literally eases the anxiety consumers feel when managing their money on a daily basis or in a crisis. Take, for example, the area of complaints management. When a consumer comes to a bank with a problem, their anxiety is already heightened, so a lack of ease in the resolution of that problem can quickly escalate into a volatile situation that puts the relationship at risk.
To turn the tables on complaints, a bank has to address the four common root causes of the most common pain points:
- Manual and Broken Processes
- Poorly designed User Interfaces
- No Single View of the Customer
- Lack of Proactive Reporting and Analysis
Individually or together, these types of issues lie at the heart of every frustrating customer experience. For example, broken processes lead to poor tagging and routing of complaints, thereby delaying issue resolution. Unclear governance puts customers at the mercy of whichever agent they happen to get, leading to lower consumer confidence as customers are, for instance, forced to log the same complaint multiple times with multiple people. Unintuitive or “buggy” digital user-interfaces can put a consumer into a swirl of time wasted, which escalates anxiety by the time they call in for full-service support. And ineffective data use also keeps banks from being able to recognize patterns that can serve as indicators for proactive outreach or issue mitigation.
Banks can improve the customer experience and mitigate risks by redesigning processes to focus on the customer and directly address points of breakage and dissatisfaction. Contact centers can be augmented with data analytics, automation, and AI to deliver better insights into root causes of complaints, increase the accuracy of complaint categorization, and ultimately reduce the time to resolution. And thoughtful experience-led design of digital channels and portals, leveraging cross-industry best practices, can enable efficient, effective and positive self-service experiences.
Let’s break the perception that banking is complex by using technology to show how easy it can be.
Everyone wants life to be easy. Ease reduces anxiety, lets us complete tasks more quickly, and encourages ongoing and deeper engagement. Creating a consumer banking experience that makes all points of interaction easy—self-service, assisted service, and full service—helps banks vastly improve the overall customer experience and customer satisfaction. At the same time, the tools and technologies employed to make the experience easy can alleviate cost pressure and time demands on the front-end, middle, and back office.
We invite you to learn more about the power of Ease as a way to gain a competitive edge by downloading the full POV, Putting the Consumer in Consumer Banking First. It’s always a good idea to make it easier for consumers to do business with you, and it is perhaps even more of a good idea in this time of uncertainly when people have more appreciation for positive experiences, small and large.