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How to meet customers' demand for good multichannel banking experience

I recall an experience from not too distant past, when I had to make utility payments to a neighborhood agency. I had to get into one queue to make the payment, and then into another one to get the refund for the extra payment I had made the previous month (due to incorrect billing). At the end of this "not truly awesome" customer-experience, I enquired the agency representative on why their systems were not integrated (expecting online channel availability would still have been "high hopes"!). The representative, in all sincerity replied, "Sir, the systems are integrated. However, I accept, there could have been loose connections."!     

Now consider the following example from a major bank. On the online billpay, the customer pays $7500.00 in a billpay line instead of $75.00 by mistake (in spite of being prompted online to confirm the accuracy of amount!). The customer within an hour gets a "low balance in checking account" alert on her cellphone. She then checks her account online using iPad and then dials the 1-800 # to "complain". The support person at the call center; analyzes and patiently explains to customer the issue in detail. Not just that, the person also offers to get the adjustment/reversal done into the customer's account within the next business day, and at no extra cost/penalty involved. The following day, customer gets an SMS confirming that the requested adjustment/reversal has been made. Isn't this a good "seamless" multi-channel banking experience?

In my previous blog, I had talked about the issues preventing many banks from providing a good multichannel banking experience. In this blog, I would like to share few recommendations on the action that banks could take to meet customers' expectations in this regard.

First thing first!  Mindset change - clients should always come before channels on the pecking order. No matter what channel is used, providing clients "seamless" experience should be bank's primary focus. Hence, it is necessary for banks   to make every effort to integrate their channels' back-end and enable information availability across channels. Towards this, focusing on cross-channel workflow management is crucial.

Before enabling a product sale or a service on a channel, customers' channel preferences, usage behavior; and also individual channel's characteristics must be clearly understood. In addition, channels' resource allocation decision should be based upon such holistic insights. Consideration of client value alone won't suffice. As in reality, many high value clients also engage in "low value" banking transactions regularly. It is necessary for banks  to identify, for each of their client segments, the primary, secondary and peripheral role for each of the channels' key interactions. In line to this, improving banks' KYC and CRM capabilities is important. An ongoing effort should be made on right-channeling of customer interactions. For this, incentivizing customer to change their channel usage behavior is critical. Banks could set up reward system (e.g. redeemable points). Standard Chartered and Citi have explored 'shopping' apps - loyalty programs that are built into the transaction experience. Another key factor to be remembered by the banks is to appreciably market their multichannel banking value proposition. It will be interesting to use digital channels to educate customers (e.g. through "Did You Know?" tips) on the multiple channels that are available for a given banking activity.

Further, building cross-channel capabilities is an obvious imperative for banks. For example, on their digital channels, enabling bi-directional communication facility, ability to chat with bank's representatives, electronic signature facility, documents scanning tools and more capabilities that would complement (not replicate) the branch and other channels would be a significant proposition. In their branch channels, it is advisable to add internet access points, smart ATMs and self-service kiosks.  Repositioning call-centers for a bigger and active multichannel role is vital. Following are few good examples of cross-channel capabilities. Harris Bank was an early adopter of "push to talk" to a live banker feature on their website. Swedbank has entrusted major role to its contact center and online channel in servicing, cross and up-selling. Extraco Banks has incorporated robust features on its online and ATM channels, that has helped reduce load on its branches. It has also transformed its branch channel through organizational re-design, workflow improvements and technology deployment. Remembering to leverage digital channels to strengthen their relationship with customers who don't frequently visit bank's branch will play a pivotal role in this multichannel adoption journey.

Integration of banks' multiple touch points and process alignment should be another key focus area for banks. For this, channels executives must work together and in concert with staff from other departments. Having robust framework for measuring and tracking the results of multichannel endeavor is also  essential. Banks must integrate the multichannel banking development into senior managers' reward structure; and ensure that commercial goals are shared by all the channels.

To conclude, multichannel banking is not about the channels for their own sake. Neither is it about enabling all aspects for all customers on all channels. Rather, good multichannel banking experience involves providing the right products and services on the best channel - based upon customers' channel behavior and preference; and the channels characteristics. And did I forget to mention - providing "seamless" experience?!

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