Banks Must Unify Their Digital Channels

Banks are facing a proliferation of digital channels and rapidly shifting customer preferences that generate new pressure to compete.

At the heart of the proliferation is the mobile device.  These days, the mobile device allows phoning, text based chatting, video chatting, emailing, texting, browsing, tweeting, and even depositing  pictures of checks as means to communicate with the bank.  Additionally, the mobile phone is handy for customers on the move, while the iPad and tablet competitors are quickly taking hold as the device of choice when lounging in front of the TV or lying on the couch.  So presumably one channel alone should allow banks to stay in touch with customers, however, the mobile devices are not the only preference that banking customer choose when they want to deposit a check or understand how to start a loan process.  Branches still serve a valuable purpose even if the trend is toward increased use of mobile devices, ATMs are more capable and simple to use than ever before, and the home phone is still used by millions across the country.

As a result, banks are forced to support multiple channels to maintain effective contact with their customers.  The question banks face then is ‘How can I engage my customers and maintain a conversation with the customer that is timely and relevant?”  Relevant means that the bank is aware of all the products and services the customer currently consumes while timely means that the bank is able to respond to the customer promptly regardless of how the request was sent.   Ideally, a timely response would also take into account user preferences and allow customers to switch between digital channels without compromising their experience.

The crux of the problem lies in three areas:

  1. Knowing your mobile customer and his or her preferences
  2. Delivering the right information to the customer at the right time
  3. Delivering the right mobile experience for the right device

Knowing your mobile customer and his or her preferences

Knowing your mobile customer means not only identifying your entire pool of mobile customers, but also segmenting, identifying preferences, and targeting them.  At present this is a very different problem than simply knowing your online customers.  Mobile technology is changing rapidly, and gathering mobile analytics is still a nascent capability across the industry.  It is however, an absolutely critical component to getting started with unified channels.  Identifying the mobile customer, segmenting the mobile customer, correlating the mobile customers behavior with other customer segments, and developing the best approach for communicating and offering your product or service is at the heart of your bank’s competitiveness.

Delivering the right information to the customer at the right time

Delivering the right information to the right customer is an incredibly complex endeavor.  There are critical elements of information management and integration that must be considered if a bank is going to be successful bringing new capabilities to market quickly across the proliferation of mobile devices.  In many cases, the “online customer” from the online banking days is assumed to be the “mobile customer” of today.  Such approaches are short sighted, and banks will find that trying to piggy back on the channel will ultimately increase costs and constrain mobile capabilities in the medium and long term.  New and more flexible approaches to managing and accessing customer data must be put in place if a bank is going to support customers across multiple channels with a complete view of the customer’s products and preferences.

Delivering the right mobile experience for the right device

Building unique and differentiating mobile app experiences is the hot topic right now, but a bank should not forget the fundamentals.  Each device potentially supports a customer in wildly different situations.  The mobile phone is great for a quick transaction, preferably one that the customer can execute with their thumbs, or better yet, a notification that gives the customer information that helps them manage their busy lives.  The iPad is great for researching and learning in a leisurely environment, and perhaps fulfilling an action that requires a couple button clicks or finger swipes, but probably not filling out complicated forms.  The PC is still the great customer workhorse.  A customer is able to learn, and will be much more comfortable filling out forms, typing detailed customer information, and even requesting chat support.  Having an appreciation for how the customers are likely to use the device will inform the bank as to what information, services, or alerts should be pushed to each of its digital channels.

Unified Digital Future

A unified Digital Future is inevitable, and will separate the competitive banks from the rest.  Having a unified strategy that uses analytics to support investment decisions based on mobile preferences and use, manages information to provide real time services, and delivers the right mobile and online experience to support the customer in all of his or her environments will be the winning approach.

-Clay Almy (calmy@bstonetech.com)

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