Observations from Recent Industry Conferences: Customer Experience and Omnichannel Banking Are Front and Center

by Edward O'Brien 0

Now that we’re all back in our offices afterattending the recent ATM, Debit & Prepaid and BAI RetailDelivery conferences, this appears to be a good time to digest themany goings-on at these large industry events.

First, it’s energizing to see where the industry is heading afterthe half-decade of doom and gloom. This isn’t to say thateverything is perfect and all financial institutions are asprofitable as they want (and need) to be, but we are heading in theright direction. In many ways, the often-mentioned movement towardtrue omnichannel retailing-and omnichannel banking-just might bethe catalyst needed to make financial institutions morecustomer-centric, more efficient, and more profitable.

For many FIs, this journey begins with a new and critical look attheir channels, because this is where the action is, where theinteraction with customers (and members) occurs 24×7 and across allchannels. A recurring theme has been the need to design channelsplatforms and processes that offer an outstanding customerexperience. This theme-customer experience -was a message oftenrepeated throughout the many presentations and discussions, andmotivated further discussions about the burgeoning movement frommultichannel to omnichannel banking.

At the center of these discussions is the desire to betterunderstand how customers want to buy rather than be soldto. A good comparison is a review of how retail consumers inother industries choose to interact with their chosen retailstores. In these discussions, such retailers as Apple, Nordstrom,and even airlines are used as comparison points for purchasingthrough both brick-and-mortar and digital channels.

The Apple store theme has piqued the interest of many FIs. Applestores’ open design and knowledgeable and helpful staff are but twoof the features thought to excite prospects and customers. In fact,the attraction is based on far more complex factors, includingproduct innovation, quality, and market execution. Similarly, thecustomer-centric management philosophy permeates a Nordstrom store,and airlines’ use of self- and assisted-service kiosks forcheck-in, boarding passes, and seat assignments has parallels tothe banking industry.

Airport kiosks are also being reviewed as FIs look to integrateself-service and semi-self-service methods of serving customers. Inaddition to using new technology with the kiosks to validatecustomers’ credentials and help them with the check-in process, theuse of greeters and customer service agents on the concourse floorprovides personal service when needed, a self-service experiencewhen not needed, and helps to ensure an efficient check-inexperience. In many ways, retail stores (including the retailbanking channel) are undergoing a metamorphosis that is justbeginning.

What is occurring in the retail environment today is an integratedapproach to reaching customers, one that transcends individualchannels and includes the best aspects of each channel so customerscan choose when and where they use one or more channels.Consequently, FIs are moving closer to a true real-time, 360-degreeof the customer to better serve-and anticipate-overall customerneeds and create an outstanding customer experience.

Follow Ed O’Brien on Twitter @ed_ob.

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