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Essential resources for banking executives:Enter ‘Banking Reinvented’
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How Australian financial institutions can elevate their customer experience in 2024

As demand for branch-based banking continues to decline, delivering integrated, responsive services via other channels is critical.

by Iman Ghodosi

Introduction

While there will always be a percentage of the population that will continue to seek out face-to-face service, Australians are voting with their feet where banking is concerned. Millions of customers have already walked away from branch-based interactions because they’d rather let their fingers do the walking.

That's why there's been an ongoing drive to shut down under-utilised branches and decommission ATMs, right around the country. More than 400 of the former closed their doors in the 2023 financial year and over 700 of the latter were removed from service, according to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).

Banks and other financial services providers know the way customers are choosing to engage with them is evolving fast, and that expanding and optimising their digital channels is an urgent imperative.

Providing superlative service in the digital era

How best to pull this off is the $64 million question, and institutions are keenly aware that getting it wrong can, and will, cost them mind and market share.

Accustomed as they are to receiving swift, seamless service from other online-first businesses – here’s looking at you, Amazon et al! – Australian consumers have little to no tolerance for clunky customer journeys with suppliers that don’t make it easy to engage with them.

It’s a similar story right around the globe – financial services providers of all stripes and sizes are grappling with the challenge of delivering the consistently positive omni-channel customer experiences that are now de rigueur.

Here are some of the ways forward-focused players are winning the battle.

Making it easy for customers to self serve

At first blush, the concept of leaving people to look after themselves may not be anyone’s idea of customer service but, these days, it turns out that’s exactly what many consumers and business customers prefer.

Whether checking their account balances, applying for credit limit increases, or authorising new users on their accounts, they want to be able to self-serve unaided, and without hassles, hiccups, or holdups.

As Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the man whose business continues to raise the online customer experience bar, famously put it: ‘The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works’.

For financial institutions looking to boost customer engagement, satisfaction, and retention, it’s an observation that’s well worth keeping in mind.

Creating consistent experiences across all channels

Of course, not all customers want to do everything online all the time, or to conduct all their dealings via the same digital channel. Lots of folk like to mix it up and, historically, that’s where many banks have come unstuck on the customer-experience front. Siloed legacy systems have made it tricky for them to track customers and customer cases across channels.

From the customer’s perspective, however, how they’ve chosen to get in touch is irrelevant. What they want is the same consistent, high-quality customer and brand experience in person, online, and on the phone. Financial services providers that can deliver this are more likely to engender the confidence and trusting relationships that lead to long-term loyalty.

Providing staff with a single source of truth

While optimising customer-facing systems is half the answer to the customer-experience challenge, putting more powerful tools in the hands of staff is the other half.

Creating a 360 degree customer view, in the form of a unified hub for all customer data and interactions, enables team members to determine the needs and preferences of individual account holders, swiftly and at scale.

Armed with that knowledge, they’re better placed to deliver the personalised, proactive service that keeps customers coming back for more.

Assembling top-notch teams

Finally, it pays to have high-calibre, committed employees using that customer-centric technology and standing behind the digital infrastructure that’s been put in place to elevate customer experience.

Smart leaders know that building an empathetic, proactive team who can do this isn’t an expense to be minimised. Rather, it’s an investment that helps them differentiate their offering from those of their competitors

Tools to make the task easy

Re-imagining and optimising the customer experience at every touchpoint can be an extraordinary challenge for financial service providers, in the absence of the right tools. Legacy processes and platforms can stand in the way of progress and make the delivery of swift, seamless experiences a tough ask.

That’s where engagement banking technology comes into play. Composable, pre-integrated customer-experience capabilities and out-of-the-box journeys make it possible for financial services providers to transform the customer experience efficiently and cost-effectively.

Indeed, banks can now break free from the constraints of legacy IT systems and aim to exceed customer expectation and engineer long-term loyalty by reimagining and modernising their IT and business operations. Siloed legacy systems can be eliminated when reimagining the banking experience by placing customers at the very centre. Ultimately, the north star moving forward should be a strong focus on customer-centricity by re-architecting banking around the customer.