The best of both worlds: weaving the personal into the digital in order to grow

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Is the branch dead? Not quite yet.

In a recent study by market research company Mintel, 38% of consumers said that they believe that stationary locations are no longer necessary. However, almost as many (37%) responded that branches are still an integral part of their banking experience.

Similar to checks, branches will also play an important role in banking. Many customers prefer face-to-face communication when they have complex questions about their finances. Others prefer to come to a branch for personal attention. Knowing that someone is responding directly to their needs brings comfort.

On the other hand, online channels have the advantage that they are faster and more convenient. Users can access it from anywhere, anytime. This convenience promotes the rapid acceptance of digital banking by tech-savvy consumers.

Even during the pandemic, more and more consumers have turned to digital banking. BAI reports that more than 50% of consumers have made increased use of digital banking apps since the beginning of the pandemic. Of these, 87% plan to maintain their increased usage after the pandemic ends.

The next generation of customer experience combines the best of the digital world with the personal experience of the branch and the call center. Typically, the digital and personal experiences take place in separate channels. It is expected that an inexpensive digital solution will gradually, but inevitably, replace the expensive, personal experience. However, a better way is to marry the two of them to get the best of both worlds. This brings the loyalty and human connection that result from face-to-face interaction to the lower-cost digital world.

Personal experiences about digital

The personal connection is the branch’s lifeblood. To improve the digital banking experience, banks need to integrate the key benefit of the branch – personal interaction – into the digital channel. They must include personalization at all levels of the online banking process. This creates stronger customer loyalty without the need for personal interactions and expensive stationary branches.

A strong customer experience starts with the workflow. Users need to have an intuitive workflow for every online task. Whether opening a new account or applying for a loan – customers want to navigate easily through the process and have access to bank employees if they have any questions.

The second step to a powerful digital experience is customer support. To do this on the digital channel, you have easy access to resources to solve problems. This can take the form of online live chats, video instructions or chatbots.

AI-driven text chats have become very popular. Since more than a third of customers value personal interaction, a video chat function could be even more helpful for customers. Live chat gives customers security, answers to their questions and provides the information they need to do their job.

This chat must be seamlessly integrated into online and mobile banking so that customers can easily access the functions they need. It’s inconvenient, time-consuming, unsafe, and lacks the deep integration that a single solution can provide when customers need to download an external chat or video app.

Test and reduce abandonment rates

Financial institutions that offer customers the option of opening an account online have a number of advantages, including the ability to lure business from other banks.

Online offers offer smaller banks the opportunity to compete for customers with larger banks and to address a younger population group.

The key to building a digital banking experience that reflects the benefits of in-store service is improving the customer journey when opening an account or completing tasks online. In the current situation, it is more important than ever for customers to be able to flexibly open an account or fill out a form from home.

Online account opening doesn’t matter if customers can’t do their job online. A 2019 Signicat study found that 40% of consumers abandon the bank onboarding process. The most common reasons were the time it took to go through the onboarding process or the need to provide too much personal information.

In contrast to the high abandonment rates when opening digital accounts, abandonment in the branch is very low. Because questions are answered quickly and there is a human connection between the branch manager and the customer. The next generation of digital account opening brings a personal touch to the digital account opening process.

High abandonment rates are a threat to the growth and success of any bank. Community banks need to find ways to fill the gaps. You need to make sure customers have access to the right information at the right time and provide real-time feedback on their progress.

The simplest products tend to have the lowest abandonment rates. These are products that do not require extensive documentation or verification of assets and income. When creating online tools for more complex products like mortgages or new accounts, banks need to find a way to simplify the process. Make it easy for your customers to save their progress. Banks can also automate data import and share customer data between channels.

It is imperative that banks begin to incorporate personal face-to-face experiences into the digital channel if they are to survive. The best online offers are of no use if customers don’t understand how to use them.

Banks need to personalize the digital experience to meet the increasing demand for digital banking. You need to find a way to integrate online and in-person service. Only then will they maximize customer growth and retention regardless of which channel customers choose.


Chris Doner, Founder and CEO of Access Softek


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