As an enthusiastic worldwide traveller, I wanted to find a financial product that I could use abroad without paying the exorbitant exchange rates and conversion fees that would further inflate the spending on my plastic cards. After some research, I decided to switch my current account to another bank that offered free cash withdrawal, zero fees on overseas card usage, and other benefits, such as travel insurance. I decided to do the application online. After filling out all the information, when I clicked the submit button, I received a pop up message on my screen saying “Please visit your local branch to complete your application”. I was really disappointed that today, in the 21st century, when there are so many emerging technologies in the market, I still had to go to the branch to finalize my application. Needless to say, I didn’t complete my application and never switched to the other bank.
According to a 2011 American Express Survey, 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience. Furthermore, according to Ruby Newell-Legner in “Understanding Customers” it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience.
I was determined to see what else was out there, believing that FinTech companies would offer a product that I was looking for. One day, chatting with a friend over a glass of wine, I heard about a digital wallet that she learnt of during a start-up conference in Portugal. After researching the company and product, I decided to give it a go. I was super impressed that on-boarding took literally 5 minutes. The wallet application used facial recognition, and its algorithm was quickly able to match my face with my “ID” photograph to validate my identity. I completed the whole process using my mobile, without leaving the house and right away had the option to exchange money in more than 130 currencies and wire transfer money abroad without any fees.
I found myself wondering why banks struggled to offer a similar seamless customer experience. The answer lies in complexity: While banks aim to offer great customer experience over all touch points – online banking portal, mobile app, call center and branch – their operational complexity (so much more than that of a FinTech company), hampers them from adopting the right technologies and processes with speed. Says Klaus Schwab, founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, in The Fourth Industrial Revolution, “Disruption also flows from agile, innovative competitors who, by accessing global digital platforms for research, development, marketing, sales and distribution, can overtake well-established incumbents faster than ever by improving quality, speed or price at which they deliver value. This is the reason why many business leaders consider their biggest threat to be competitors that are not yet regarded as such.”
Today, customers expect to have a meaningful conversation with service agents and have their problems solved quickly, without waiting in line or being handed over from one executive to another. Yet, according to consumers, customer service agents failed to answer their questions 50% of the time (Source: Harris Interactive). This is the result of the fact that agent performance is measured by average handling time, rather than the success rate of interactions with customers.
The “every time right” multichannel customer experience is a top priority of most banks. Working with financial services clients in Europe, I have observed that there are two ways in which banks adopt disruptive technologies to improve customer satisfaction:
Strategize in the boardroom until all the relevant stakeholders agree on a solution to provide excellent customer experience on all banking channels. This is an ideal scenario, where all the stakeholders are on-board, and in agreement. Unfortunately, the parties rarely reach universal agreement, because they are usually guided by different priorities and agendas.
Go for the low hanging fruit and implement small chunks of technology, such as RPA, augmented desktops for agents, chatbots, facial recognition etc. Such implementations bring quick wins such as cost reduction, lower error rate, fewer customer service interactions, faster resolution, and most importantly, high quality engagement and experience.
The second option, in my opinion, is what banks should take to improve customer experience. Since existing customers are more likely to purchase other products and services from the bank, even at a premium, the importance of serving them well cannot be overstated.