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Bringing the human touch back to digital banking

  • Posted on October 6, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 5 minutes
Avanade Human-centered digital banking

This article was originally written by Avanade alum Michelle Baxter.

The need for emotional connection

These are turbulent times. Customers really need their banks to show some support and empathy. They need that personal touch. I’m often baffled why banks don’t do more with my personal information. Why should my bank know less about me than my rideshare firm or my food delivery application? Shouldn’t banks be doing better than simply selling me products? Shouldn’t banks be helping me make better financial decisions? Isn’t that what matters?

It feels to me that in the drive to become digital, banks may have improved process and lowered cost. But they’ve created transactions lacking in emotion and lost that connection with the customer. There’s a need to balance human interaction with digital transaction.

Fintechs have simpler portfolios and were born in the cloud, which means they can focus on better customer experiences. Traditional banks have more complex portfolios and systems, which limits what they can do – especially their frontline staff. But if they can unleash their people’s expertise and give them the collaboration tools they need to engage much more effectively with customers – effectively balance the human and the digital – the opportunities are significant.

Gartner found that customers who use a mix of digital and human channels have a much higher revenue potential than those using only digital. They also found that customers will return to branches post-pandemic. Surprisingly, the youngest consumer demographic in this study was the least likely to select a digital-first engagement with their financial institution. Accenture research concurs: “Digital on its own seldom differentiates the bank, makes the customer feel special or builds authentic relationships.”

Balance between human and digital is the basis for differentiation
To put humanity back into banking there are four key principles we have found essential:

  • Put context back into every conversation: Surprise customers by showing what you’ve learnt from them. Ask more focused, smarter questions as a result. Customers will feel like they are being listened to, not part of some random conversation.
  • Truly meet customers where they are: Understand the particular situation your customers find themselves in. They may be struggling to pay a mortgage. They may be overdrawn after years of being solvent. Imagine how that feels - and demonstrate empathy.
  • Predict customer intent – and act on it: Listen to what your customers are saying. Hear their ambitions and challenges. Find out about their goals. Leverage data from similar customers to predict what might be next.
  • Build experiences that feel personal: Make the most of data given to you by your customers. Use it to build confidence and trust. If you know a customer’s purchasing history or family situation, tailor the conversation accordingly. Most customers will appreciate it. Being truly human in your banking interactions is the basis of real differentiation and the way to grow wallet share. The promise is deeper customer engagement and higher revenue per customer, while operating at substantially lower costs, closer to that of the fintechs and neobanks. Striking a balance between human and digital engagement drives retention, relationships – and revenue.

Everyone is customer facing
Traditional thinking about omnichannel is dead. Imagine if we could shift to an operating model where everyone who services your customer could be customer facing. Imagine if customers could engage naturally via voice, video or text, and then seamlessly transfer into a dialogue with an expert, who has the full context of their conversation (wherever they are in the discussion) and can not only resolve their issues but enrich that conversation with empathy and advice. This blend of both human and digital creates loyalty and growth.

This is now possible. Effective use of AI and collaboration tools can empower associates. What were once back-office specialists can now be brought into customer conversations to solve specific challenges, enabling more banking employees to engage with customers and leading to a much better outcome for each customer. We are now envisioning experiences with our clients that use AI and navigate customers to experts for contextual conversation when it matters, rather than relying on IVR, contact centers, cold hand-offs and reauthentication by non-experts.

Collaboration is the key
This coupling of sales and service with collaboration tools has put Microsoft in pole position when you consider the transformation that has to occur within a bank to compete with new, leaner entrants. Microsoft had a head start with Microsoft Dynamics and several other important platforms already neatly integrated inside Microsoft Teams. That is precisely what Avanade and Accenture have been pioneering with Microsoft. This will fundamentally reposition and differentiate the applications you want to design for your bank and create exciting new customer experiences.

Human-centered digital banking: A North American bank
For one North American bank, we developed a secure, personalized approach, where every interaction can be mined for data, insight, intent and context. In partnership with Microsoft’s Cloud for Financial Services, we created a bank-branded portal, which staff could access, where meetings were booked on Outlook, tasks were assigned and every conversation could be tracked. Clicking on a client profile gave immediate context (messages, products, tasks, documents, etc.) – all without emails or calls, solving a major pain point and freeing up capacity.

Everything the customer does in the portal drives data on their workflow and servicing behavior and generates a truly integrated customer profile. Significantly, we were able to modernize the bank’s existing CRM operations without the need to replace any systems, books of record or infrastructure. We seamlessly stitched ecosystem components together to align with use case requirements in a bespoke manner.

Let’s get the balance right and blend the efficiency of digital with the human touch. Your employees want it. Your customers demand it. If you want to win back trust and grow your business, you have little choice. Let’s do what matters.

Want to find out more? Read our guide and listen to our conversations with The Banker on this topic.

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