3 keys to maximizing the digital banking customer journey

To keep up with customer demand for banking online, the banking industry has been in a frenzy to create the best digital customer experience.

Customers want engaging, personalized digital service on their own schedule. Financial institutions that deliver it see results: A recent McKinsey analysis shows that the top-quartile banks in experience in the United States have had meaningfully higher deposit growth over the past three years and that the few “experience leaders” are generating higher growth than their peers. In fact, highly satisfied customers of those financial institutions are two-and-a-half times more likely to buy new banking products with their existing bank than those who report being just satisfied.

But a dangerous thing can happen when financial institutions are in a rush, especially when it comes to customer experience—they can end up missing critical details that make or break the long-term effectiveness of the digital transformation.

“For an increasing number of customers, their digital bank account is their primary or sole account. It’s now an essential, day-to-day service, and customers’ standards have risen along with their usage,” said Corey Besaw, president of banking operations at Ubiquity, a BPO that works with a lot of digital banking clients. “The real question for financial institutions today is how do you continue to push yourself and exceed your customers’ expectations when everyone in the industry is rushing to meet the same standards.”

Here are three moments in the customer journey that financial institutions can’t afford to overlook when digitizing the customer experience:

1. Create continuity across channels

Financial institutions have invested several years and billions of dollars in building online banking and mobile apps that enable customers to do more. As branches closed, customers flocked to those digital channels in record numbers expecting the kind of online experience they have with big tech or e-commerce brands. Then comes the sudden disconnect: Customers are met with a flat and functional digital banking experience or worse, they look for answers and can’t find them. And when they call customer service, the agents don’t have the information they need to support customers effectively.

In reality, giving customers the experiences they expect is an incredibly important part of a successful digital transformation. In fact, the 2020 Digital Banking Report indicates that 53% of banks surveyed think the digital app user experience will have the most positive impact on customer experience in 2021.

“Today’s consumer no longer distinguishes between digital or offline engagement, and interacts with their financial institution through different touchpoints,” Jim Marous, co-publisher of The Financial Brand and CEO of the Digital Banking Report, wrote recently in The Financial Brand. “The same transaction may be accomplished online, using a mobile channel, in a branch, with a call center representative, on a voice device or even using a video channel. Whatever option the consumer selects, they will expect to have the same brand experience—in real time—every time.”

The strategic approach a bank takes to its communication channels should follow through to its customer service, onboarding and digital experience. If it doesn’t, banks miss an opportunity to activate the superfans needed to continue to grow.

“How you respond to customers in the moment is going to make a difference in how they feel about your institution and whether or not they refer you to their friends and family,” Besaw said. “When your people are empowered with the right technology and support, financial institutions can marry their brand experience and customer service model to create a seamless customer experience, whether a customer is pulling up the bank’s website, logging in on mobile or stopping by a branch.”

For an increasing number of customers, their digital bank account is their primary or sole account. It’s now an essential, day-to-day service, and customers’ standards have risen along with their usage.

Corey Besaw president of Banking Operations, Ubiquity Tweet

2. Use automation wisely

Automation can be a powerful tool to create seamless customer experiences and reduce costs. But banks that don’t carefully map out the customer journey and walk in the customer’s footsteps can easily miss unnecessary friction points in the customer journey. It’s imperative that financial institutions avoid poorly orchestrated automation that can confuse customers or leave them frustrated.

For example, automated alerts for suspicious transactions have become commonplace. But in the digital-transformation process, the customer experience doesn’t stop with the alert. What happens next? If a customer receives an SMS notification of possible fraud after banking hours, can they reply yes or no and that’s the end of it? Or, are you prompting them to call you? If it’s the latter, you better have someone ready to answer that call.

“Banks handle money, and there’s nothing more intimate to a customer than their money,” Besaw said. “Your automation processes are an opportunity to reinforce trust and confidence in your brand. If there’s a breakdown in those processes, such as when no one picks up the phone when a customer calls to follow up, you’re creating a sense of unease that can damage your brand.”

3. Be empathetic

Creating a seamless digital experience is a critical part of attracting and retaining loyal banking customers. But if the banking industry has learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that how a bank responds to requests determines whether or not customers have an overall positive experience. In other words, empathy matters.

“A significant percentage of customers claim they won’t go back into branches once they’re fully reopened, which means that the digital experience and customer service will need to take on many of the roles that used to be played by bank employees,” Besaw said. “This is not just a matter of memorizing and delivering a script—it’s an opportunity to really make customers feel like they are being heard and the agent is helping them solve their problem, even when that interaction takes place online or over the phone.”

Empathy goes deeper than representatives speaking kindly or finding the right answer. It’s about trust and transparency throughout the entire banking experience. Darshan Dave, consultant and executive leader in financial services customer experience, explained that this is how banks cross the threshold from experience as an output of support to experience as a function of business success.

“There’s a lot of research being done today about how you qualitatively and quantitatively measure the impact of CX on business and how do you bring that into the core strategy of how organizations operate,” noted Dave. “Banks must move beyond Net Promoter Score and anonymous surveys and find ways to capture the entire experience of how a customer has interacted with a bank.”

Digital transformation is not an excuse to leave the personal touch behind

Digital transformation is not a replacement for customer service, it’s a tool to enhance it. The challenge ahead of financial institutions is to use technology in a way that enables customers to get the personal, empathetic touch they need to form a real, human connection to their bank. The perfect blend of people and technology is the only way banks can deliver this experience at scale.

Discover more must-haves for world-class CX.

This article originally appeared in Banking Dive