Mercator Blog

Observations from Recent Industry Conferences: Customer Experience and Omnichannel Banking Are Front and Center
Date: November 19, 2013
Ed O'Brien
Director, Banking Channels Advisory Service
Now that we’re all back in our offices after attending the recent ATM, Debit & Prepaid and BAI Retail Delivery conferences, this appears to be a good time to digest the many goings-on at these large industry events.

First, it’s energizing to see where the industry is heading after the half-decade of doom and gloom. This isn’t to say that everything is perfect and all financial institutions are as profitable as they want (and need) to be, but we are heading in the right direction. In many ways, the often-mentioned movement toward true omnichannel retailing—and omnichannel banking—just might be the catalyst needed to make financial institutions more customer-centric, more efficient, and more profitable.

For many FIs, this journey begins with a new and critical look at their channels, because this is where the action is, where the interaction with customers (and members) occurs 24x7 and across all channels. A recurring theme has been the need to design channels platforms and processes that offer an outstanding customer experience. This theme—customer experience —was a message often repeated throughout the many presentations and discussions, and motivated further discussions about the burgeoning movement from multichannel to omnichannel banking.

At the center of these discussions is the desire to better understand how customers want to buy rather than be sold to. A good comparison is a review of how retail consumers in other industries choose to interact with their chosen retail stores. In these discussions, such retailers as Apple, Nordstrom, and even airlines are used as comparison points for purchasing through both brick-and-mortar and digital channels.

The Apple store theme has piqued the interest of many FIs. Apple stores’ open design and knowledgeable and helpful staff are but two of the features thought to excite prospects and customers. In fact, the attraction is based on far more complex factors, including product innovation, quality, and market execution. Similarly, the customer-centric management philosophy permeates a Nordstrom store, and airlines’ use of self- and assisted-service kiosks for check-in, boarding passes, and seat assignments has parallels to the banking industry.

Airport kiosks are also being reviewed as FIs look to integrate self-service and semi-self-service methods of serving customers. In addition to using new technology with the kiosks to validate customers’ credentials and help them with the check-in process, the use of greeters and customer service agents on the concourse floor provides personal service when needed, a self-service experience when not needed, and helps to ensure an efficient check-in experience. In many ways, retail stores (including the retail banking channel) are undergoing a metamorphosis that is just beginning.

What is occurring in the retail environment today is an integrated approach to reaching customers, one that transcends individual channels and includes the best aspects of each channel so customers can choose when and where they use one or more channels. Consequently, FIs are moving closer to a true real-time, 360-degree of the customer to better serve—and anticipate—overall customer needs and create an outstanding customer experience.

Follow Ed O'Brien on Twitter @ed_ob.