The Path to Long-Term Success
Avinash Purwar, Director, BFSI and Emerging Verticals, Cisco India & SAARC
Given the complex and challenging nature of the economy in general, it has become increasingly critical for banks to retain existing customers, while simultaneously attracting new ones. Increased competition means that banks need to move up from providing vanilla services to offering a slew of services encompassing conventional banking, and complex financial advisory services. The customer profile is also changing with the onslaught of tech-savvy customers who expect to have access to their bank through multiple channels-phones, internet, Kiosk and even social media. At the same time, a lot many customers still prefer personal attention and human expertise to help them in their financial consulting needs.
A research by Forrester indicates that almost 70 percent of banking customers and prospects will choose alternative providers if an expert is not present in the delivery channel, when and where they make an initial inquiry regarding a product or service. Given the above, banks are offering personalized expert-based solutions to establish a competitive differentiator among customers. One effective way to straddle divergent customer requirements is by adopting an 'Omni-channel' strategy that attempts to offer a mixture of both personalized and automated services powered by technology architectures for ensuring high quality customer experience.
An Omni-channel bank offers customers easy access to an advice-rich (combining in-person and virtual expertise) and welcoming yet lean (in terms of human resources) infrastructure and provides a repertoire of sophisticated service offerings. For instance, customers can research a financial offer online, discuss it over video with a remote expert from the local branch, and set up automated monthly payments using their mobile banking app all through the branch. Many banks in India have already started investing in an Omni-channel strategy to deliver better customer experience.
Consider the case of a retail bank which had a competent panel of experts who could effectively guide customers in their investment decisions. The bank was unable to effectively pass on the benefits to its customers simply because of the logistics involved in ensuring that experts were present when and where the customers needed them. The bank was rapidly losing customers and a survey of its processes revealed that the inability to respond to customer s also caused revenue leakage.
To plug this loss, the bank adopted an 'Omni-channel' strategy where customers had the option to request for services in a convenient and personalized manner, using video-based conferencing services. This meant that experts were available to engage customers for consultation irrespective of their physical location. The strategy enabled the bank to increase its cross-sales potential, build cost efficiency, and improve customer satisfaction, retention and acquisition.
To state another example, let's take a smaller bank that was facing an issue with providing a consistent customer experience. To plug this gap, the bank decided to invest in state of the art contact center to support all business related queries and transactions (across all customer segments), using the best of breed technology-with both IVR and voice-driven responses. The solution was able to integrate email, chat and voice response on a single platform. Today, the contact center has become the biggest 'branch' for the bank on a per transaction basis; incidentally, this has also proven to be the most economical.
While one aspect is business acceleration, an Omni-channel strategy also addresses the critical issues of meeting regulatory as well as internal risk and security requirements by including a digital voice capture of all interactions. Importantly, since transactions can be conducted virtually, employees in any branch or contact center can sit through customer discussions to gain valuable insights on the sales process and unique requirements of higher-margin products.
Omni-channel banking employs a robust mix of four key strategies to bring customers closer to banks:
- The new branch- the preferred channel for most customers who need personal attention and advice including advisory services for loans, wealth management solutions for HNI clients, insurance, loans, investment vehicles and mortgage solutions.
- Mobile- is rapidly emerging as an important banking channel as the internet access continues to improve over devices like smartphones. Mobile-based banking includes services real-time expense tracking, mobile payments, and location-based commerce for customers.
- Social media- helps banks to attract a number of young tech-savvy customers. Many next generation Internet-based banking services like video conferencing, document sharing, and contact center integration will be offered via social media.
- Video- is increasingly being considered to be a key enabler of communication where humans/ consultants are not physically available. This makes video a key feature and experience enhancer for unmanned banking kiosks, after-hours multipurpose ATMs, and next-generation virtual banking delivered to homes and offices
Here to stay
Clearly Omni-channel is a winning business strategy that combines the strength and immediacy of old-fashioned, face-to-face relationship building with the capabilities of next-generation, multimedia collaboration technology. Retail banks which deploy the strategy will be able to understand customer behavior and promptly respond with new and profitable services to lead in the future.