The Re-Birth of Banking

The 2008 financial crisis was an event like nothing the market has seen since the Great Depression. Like its 1929 predecessor, this catastrophe wreaked havoc on the banking industry, but also on the long-established trust between banks and their customers.

Since then, the banking industry has made a concerted effort to regain their customers’ trust, evolving from a transaction-centric business model to one that now focuses on the customer experience. In fact, we could all learn a little something from the rebirth of the banking industry over the last seven years. Following are four ways the banking industry has made their customers the focal point of their engagement, and you can too.

1. Re-establishing trust. When it comes to our finances, we want to know that our money is in good hands. And banks have been working feverishly over the last seven years to re-establish that trust. But in today’s market, banks understand they can’t just build trust with a few simple transactions, but rather via a consistent and repeated set of value-add interactions over time. Whether it is helping customers more efficiently sign up for new accounts, walking them through complex financial terms, quickly resolving inquiries and issues, or providing insightful financial expertise, banks are working hard to become a trusted advisor. And today’s banks are increasingly using sophisticated customer and knowledge management tools to help their employees stay abreast of their customers’ financial goals, account changes, upcoming purchases, life events, employment, and other changes. Combine that with a strong understanding of current market conditions and the risks involved in any given product or investment, and bankers today can have more meaningful and relevant customer interactions that in turn breed trust.

2. Offering more relevant products. By the time you were in your teens, you probably had your first bank account or credit card. Since then, your needs have likely evolved. But those relatively simple products pale in comparison to the complex and varied financial products that today’s banks offer. And along with this choice the sophistication of the customers that banks serve has also grown. Banks today are employing sophisticated CRM tools, predictive analytics, and algorithms to sift through mounds of data, better anticipate their customers’ needs, and ultimately recommend more relevant products. Products that offer more favorable terms, products that add value to one another and help their customers achieve their dreams and aspirations, and products that evolve and change as their customers’ needs change.

3. Becoming an omni-channel organization. Consumers have been able to engage with banks via phone, the web, email, or the local branch for years. And now, even as chat, videoconferencing, and social channels are added, banks are working hard to make sure the customer experience across all of these channels is a seamless one. And via sophisticated CRM and call center tools, banks can share customer data across the banking organization, attain a true 360-degree customer view, and better serve their customers.

With the advent of social sentiment analysis tools, banks can gather data from social and online sites and see what customers are saying, even when they’re not saying it to the banks directly. If a specific product is confusing or certain topics are causing customers pain, banks can take corrective action or use it as a vehicle to get additional feedback. By providing a connected, seamless experience across multiple channels, banks can communicate with customers on their terms at their convenience.

4. Revitalizing the local branch. When online banking was born, many prognosticators and even some financial institutions saw it as prelude for the demise of the local branch. Yet, while fewer customers enter branches today, many would argue branches are even more important today as banks try to re-build trust. It is exactly through these institutions that customers can walk in, look a banking expert in the eye, go over complex financial products, review legal terms, and get real-time recommendations and suggestions. Rather than branches going away, branches are instead being re-tooled. Many branches are being re-designed today to emulate the feel of a hip retail outlet or a Starbucks cafe, offering snacks, Wi-Fi, nice furniture, and cool technology. Sure, the branch still remains a place to take care of rudimentary tasks such as deposits and withdrawals, but more than ever before, it has become a place for banks to showcase their financial expertise and offer more meaningful, personalized interactions.

And it is this rebirth of branches that provides a good physical analogy for the rebirth of the banking industry and banks’ renewed focus on creating a superior customer experience. 

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