Non-channel banking, not multi-channel

Building the customer experience: Access and Delivery

The intent of multi-channel banking is very clear, though it’s a misleading term. The goal is to enable customers to choose how to access services: the equivalent of “Do I fly, drive or take a train?” “Multi” means maximizing the options – branch or Internet or mobile or, coming fast, social media. So, multi-channel integration is a sensible and clear goal – for the bank.
It’s a misleading term in two regards. The first is that no customer today who exercises “or” choices regularly, such as shop at the store or online, pay by cash, check, debit card, credit card or PayPal, thinks in terms of a “channel". In payments, adding Bitcoin or smart wallet doesn’t mean opening up a new channel. No consumer has ever posted something on the Facebook “channel” or used the twitter or Instagram “channel”.
Many of the goals of multi-channel banking are to make channels disappear. That’s the “integration” in the concept. The ambitious long-term goal, towards which several retailers and online platform players are moving fast, including Google, Amazon and PayPal, is that customers can complete the entire customer request – the “satisfaction loop” — without regard to or even awareness of channels.
If, for example, the process begins with a shopper wandering around the store and using her smartphone to scan a bar code, the app then switches to Amazon for a comparison offer, and then to some product reviews. If the purchase is made, payment is handled as she prefers, and any relevant shipping, warranty or special offers automatically woven in to the shopping cycle. If she interrupts the process, leaving the store or phoning home for discussion, the process picks up from where it was left.
In banking, a customer might begin looking for a home improvement loan by accessing the bank’s web site. He or she then sends a twitter message that gets an answer from a sales specialist who invites the customer to contact the bank via Skype or a phone-you-back link. Again, the dialog picks up at the current point without having to go back and reenter data. The customer should never be aware of the channels that the agent must tap into; they might include real estate listings or title companies and the bank’s internal data bases.
The concept of channels isn’t very applicable here and tends to limit scope of thinking and design. A common criticism of multi-channel bank initiatives is how often they are essentially the same functionality in a different pipeline. So, for example, mobile banking is often just an online version of standard transactions and access to account data, and far too many Facebook sites are just the plain old web sites with a Like button attached.
Looking at channels from a customer perspective, they should disappear. There are two major dimensions of the customer experience: Access and Fulfilment. The experience loop begins with a request – “Please”, has a customer condition of satisfaction, indicated by the simple answer “Thank you, that’s fine” to the question “Is there anything more I can help you with?” This simple framework is powerful and has been widely applied in the design of such bank services as mortgage application processing. Success in smoothly meeting the customer’s condition of satisfaction (“I’d like information on….” or “I want to…”) may need to make additional loops; before accepting a loan application the software, for instances, requests credit approval, which in turn involves a request to a data base.
The agent that accepts (or renegotiates the request-accept interaction – “Sorry, that’s not available but how about…?”) may be a person or embedded in software The “channel” issues are:
  • Access: what range of choices do customers have in how make their requests? The spectrum ranges from (1) Designated contacts (2) Registered toolkits, to (3) 4A Any place, Anytime, Anywhere, Any device.
  • Designated contacts: means there is a given place to start the interaction: the branch, a person, call enter number or Web site menu list. Quite often, all these do is pass customers on to the right place/person/service to address their need. Since this is often the first point of contact for many of them, designated contacts can have a lasting impact in branding: “Always helpful and responsive” versus “A pain to deal with” and “Their call center people don’t know anything” versus “They really stay with you and are very reliable in getting problems solved.”
  • Registered toolkits: are the range of customer devices at hand that they can use without having to think. That isn’t as easy for a bank to cater for as many assume. The very same service for the very same customer may result in a wide variety of expectations and outcomes. For instance, people are far more willing to spend time when they are accessing a service from a tablet than their smartphone. If they are in an area with slow communications, then the neat multimedia snip that was great yesterday is a frustrating waiting time today. While most Android/iPod/Microsoft differences are no longer constants, there are still such problems as Flash, firewall/antivirus blocking of popups and cookies, and “compatibility” issues. (The IT field has many terms for “this should work but it doesn’t with incompatible, need to load the update, and change your configuration the main ones, to be followed with “Have a nice day and thank you for banking with us.”
    The range of toolkits that a bank supports affects the brand. “They have lousy mobile banking” and “It’s awful trying to use their system” is really “You’re using an old version of the operating system, you don’t have 3G/4G, you need to change your settings…” The concept of registered toolkits is that the bank needs to explicitly address what tools customers use that they will provide not just support but reliable.
    The 4A ideal has cost Google and Apple billions of dollars and is still a little far off. The goal is that it makes no difference whether you access a service by phone, laptop, or smart TV. The TV is the last barrier and if you are a customer who really, really is wired up, then the hardware is ready to go. The software and security, though, are still channel-dependent: multi-channel integration requires one-time authentication, session management and many network tweaks. So for a bank, TV is not yet on the registered toolkit list. If, when and why customers contact the call center or branch and say “I’m up on my Apple TV – can you show me the information so I can complete the application?” does the bank have a channel problem or an access opportunity?
  • Delivery: What Conditions of Satisfaction can be met? Here, the range is (1) Independent Transactions, (2) Clustered Services and (3) Dynamic Loops.
  • Independent transactions: are the norm in every industry and the every leading firm is moving as fast as possible to integrate them. That relies on extensions of the very limited CRM and CIF databases they maintain and moving quickly to exploit make customer data analytics a core capability within the IT platform.
  • Clustered services are generally a compromise: all DDA/savings and credit cards are linked and transaction rules can be automatically applied so that they work in concert. The multi-channel integration challenge here is when, where and how coordinate these within a time frame: how quickly do transactions post and update balance information? A firm can offer all the mobile banking a customer needs but if the transactions and master date are not updated immediately, then forget about the customer seeing multi-channel anything. “It hasn’t posted yet” flags multi-channel customer access and separate channel bank delivery.
  • Dynamic loops: means that all the interaction that starts with a customer request get completed, with no breaks, information gaps out of sync transactions/account status, or need to repeat steps and inputs. Amazon and eBay already have this up and running. Their platform architectures have the advantage of green field technology with no core or legacy systems to get in the way of integration.
Yes, these are all awkward terms but if one sticks with “designing the customer experience for multi-channel banking,” it’s just as opaque and the shift in language helps both stimulate a shift in thinking and look at “customer-centric” as “how customers see things” and not as how the bank would like them to do so. Customers don’t want to see channels.
Banks should target their offers to the experience not to the channel. So where on this diagram would you place your multi-channel initiatives in terms of the customer view? Do you have the IT architecture that will ensure you can position and exploit all your services?
If you would like to learn more about how Fisa Group can help you establish a robust and flexible basis for a customer-centric business, please get in touch with us:

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