Omnichannel: How to Create Seamless Customer-Centric Experiences in Banking

Don’t call it a comeback; omnichannel has been around for years.

Wikipedia defines omnichannel as “a cross-channel business model that companies use to increase customer experience….Companies that use omnichannel contend that a customer values the ability to be in constant contact with a company through multiple avenues at the same time.”

While the currency of the term omnichannel may have lost some luster, the concept of a successful retail business approach that seeks to identify each and every customer, understand their specific needs, and facilitate their path to purchase across all channels is as relevant as ever.

In considering the concept of omnichannel, I am reminded of Jeffrey Gitomer’s trademarked sales mantra: “People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.” Rather than being a technologically enabled push-marketing exercise, omnichannel must instead focus on optimizing consistent brand messaging to customers at consumer interaction points both distinct or contiguous.

Today successful retailers (whether selling groceries or financial services) seek to create a consistent brand experience for customers whenever, wherever and however they choose to buy, whether in a physical location, by telephone, desktop computer or mobile device.

In banking we are beginning to witness sophisticated approaches to capture digitally savvy Millennials and digital native Gen Z consumers, resulting in increasingly convenient ways to engage in banking and financial services.

Platform agnostic consumers

Customers are quick to vary their interactions with financial brands based on factors ranging from speed and convenience for daily transactions to finding trustworthy advice and assistance for mortgages and longterm wealth management. Often customers will use a range of different engagements and expect a seamless customer experience while doing so.

Writing in, Alison Wilkes states, “Research from Google has shown that 46 percent of people managing their finances online switch between devices before completing the activity. Often customers will start research on a smartphone before migrating to a PC or tablet to dig deeper into the information they need.”

Many banks are adjusting to the demands of mobile-enabled consumers with features such as e-payments and money transfers, photo check deposits, and even self-directed savings and investment apps, but the physical experience of the local branch and personal interaction with staff remains significant. The challenge is how to link the electronic commerce seamlessly to the bricks and mortar experience.

More importantly, are all these features creating the desired customer connection? According to IBM Customer Experience Analytics, research shows that 81 percent of consumer brands say they have a holistic view of their customers, while only 37 percent of consumers believe their favorite retailer understands them.

While banks believe they are anticipating and providing solutions for customer needs, they need to ensure they are getting accurate feedback from their customers.

Windfall one: Reducing customer support expenses

Omnichannel is less about technology or messaging and more about using advances in technology to enhance the customer connection.

An important part of enhancing the connection is building authentic customer relationships by identifying service problems and applying elegant service recovery immediately. According to OpinionLab, Bank of America invested heavily in building credibility with customers by listening and responding to customer feedback in real time.

In so doing, incoming support-related issues were classified into more than 25 distinct categories ranging from bill payments and money transfers to new account applications. Subsequently, Bank of America reportedly experienced over 10,000 fewer support tickets per month, providing monthly cost savings of close to half a million dollars.

Windfall two: Retaining and recovering customers by aligning service expectations

OpinionLab also helped Bank of America identify at-risk customers and used the closing screen of its online comment card to help drive Bank of America into “real-time recovery events such as real-time chat… resulting in a decrease of web-based churn of more than five percent in six months, saving the bank millions of dollars per year.”

Another significant improvement brought about by real-time feedback solutions was identifying issues in the branch experience in regards to wait times, quality of service offered by tellers, and overall branch atmosphere. Real-time identification of customer service issues and quick adjustments are at the core of any omnichannel experience and result in powerful, longterm customer/brand relationships.

In the final analysis, it’s about rewarding your loyal customers with respect, attention and action.