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Mind the gap: Overcoming the customer experience disconnect amid the digital banking boom

(Image credit: Image Credit: MK photograp55 / Shutterstock)

Driven by growing expectations for enhanced levels of convenience and security, digital banking is rapidly becoming the new norm for consumers when handling personal finances. Earlier this year, Lloyds Banking Group announced the closure of 56 branches between April and October, as an increasing number of customers ditch branch-based banking in favour of online platforms.

Whilst offering new opportunities for banks to reach and respond to customer needs, the digital realm also presents an increasingly competitive playing field, with challenger banks constantly entering the market. Most weeks we hear of new banking brands, offering a cash incentive to encourage customers to switch banks. This tug of war is putting increased pressure on banks to outdo one another, in order to retain customers and foster long-term loyalty. 

Short-term cash incentives, however, will be spent in vain if a company’s long-term digital experience is not up to scratch. Lost customers mean lost revenue, a negative impact on brand reputation, and market share attrition. In order to gain and maintain a competitive edge, banks must understand what consumers expect online, and meet those expectations.

Competing with the Amazon effect

Whilst it is clear that ‘digital’ is the direction the industry is heading, traditional bank brands have a long way to go to satisfy consumers who want to manage their money on their phones and tablets. Today, the so-called ‘Amazon Effect’ is impacting more and more areas of our lives, and digital banking is no exception. Modern customers require instant gratification. They want to see where their package is at any stage of their delivery and, in the same vein, become frustrated if they can’t see how things are progressing with their finances in real-time.

Customers want to stay up to date with changes on their bank accounts. They want to apply for an ISA, mortgage or credit card without hassle. They want to be able to understand where they are in the process. And, most importantly, they want an experience that is unique, personalised, and available at a time convenient to them. Today the onus is on banks to deliver these experiences – ensuring interactions and processes are quick, convenient and streamlined. Those who don’t live up to these expectations risk failure in a highly competitive marketplace.

Beware the customer experience disconnect

Despite the changing customer needs and demands when banking online, all too often customers are faced with a series of disjointed communications, leaving them dissatisfied, confused and frustrated. To solve this, many banks invest in customer-facing departments – marketing, sales and service – but the reality is their customer experience doesn’t just depend on the people dealing with customers every day. It is heavily influenced by processes and technology, the people behind the scenes – the IT team.

For many banks, there’s a huge gap between customer facing departments and IT – what we refer to as the ‘customer experience disconnect’. This means that when someone in the contact centre flags a broken process that only technology can fix, their request often gets ignored. That’s not because IT doesn’t care; it’s because they have a thousand and one other things to do. Realistically they can’t drop everything to solve one small problem.

But when it comes to customer experience, small problems add up. If a customer can’t apply for a mortgage because your app is broken, that’s annoying. When they can’t get through to customer services because your lines are busy, that’s infuriating. And when they don’t receive a response via email, that’s… well, that may very well be the end of the relationship. 

Enhanced digital engagement

Digital transformation in financial services goes beyond just providing an online or mobile account-opening solution. Banks should build a process that connects with the customer before an account is even opened and continues throughout the entire online journey. This includes enabling tailored communication at optimal times on preferred device(s). Every customer touch point should collect insights that the bank can leverage for future communications, to foster brand loyalty and make it harder for businesses to be undermined by competitors.

Done well, digital engagement should not just represent a great communications process, but should reflect changes in the back office that simplify all stages of engagement. Most importantly, these stages should connect seamlessly across communication channels, eliminating the need to visit a branch and allowing consumers to switch between channels, such as telephone, email, social media and in branch banking, when desired.

As the UK continues to move further towards a cashless society, which is now expected by 2030, getting digital banking right is only going to become more important in order for banks to remain competitive. To ease the transition to digital banking while maintaining customer loyalty in the digital realm, banks must overcome customer experience disconnects and enhance digital engagement.

Bridging the gap in digital banking

Currently, departments within banks are working in silos. This needs to stop if businesses want to create a successful digital banking experience. By bringing customer-facing and IT teams together and giving them the correct tools, banks will be able to not only solve any digital experience problems, but also build trusting, long-term relationships.

Low-code software solutions can prove invaluable in this instance. Due to their simplistic nature, these offerings can be integrated across departments and be used by non-experts and developers alike. Crucially, applications such as these can sit above legacy software and integrate with it – offering well-established banks an opportunity to improve customer experience without overhauling their entire existing IT infrastructure at a high expense.

Having access to tools that are easy to use whilst enabling innovation will be key for businesses to build a better digital customer experience. Analytics tools that help track performance, and offer insights for process improvements and adaptations, are of equal importance. Together, these tools will help empower businesses to remain competitive in today’s rapidly changing banking industry.

Richard Billington, Chief Technology Officer, Netcall