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Smartphones, tablets and wearable technology have changed consumer expectations when it comes to service delivery. People are used to connecting with friends wherever they are, through any device, and they expect the same from their bank. In order to keep up with consumer expectations and offer a true omni-channel experience, banks face the challenge of moving from a passive service-provision infrastructure to proactive, digital interaction with customers.

“For many years, the branch was our main banking channel – the bank would open the doors and wait for the customers to walk in,” says Marcelo Marquez, director of business development, worldwide banking industry at Microsoft. “We moved into digital channels with a similar state of mind – to provide an infrastructure for customers to take the initiative and serve themselves. But omni-channel is different. Any technology that the customer has access to could become a channel – not only the phone, but wearable devices and the internet of things. Instead of waiting for the customer to serve themselves, omni-channel is about reaching out and engaging with the customer in different ways.”

Marquez says that in order to achieve success in the omni-channel era, banks need to be:

    • Insightful – using real-time analytics to translate customer information into knowledge and actions that enable different conversations
    • Always connected – using mobile devices as a window for the bank’s compute power, on premise and in the cloud
    • Always available – a click away from customers, always ready to have a conversation
    • Attentive to customers and able to anticipate their needs.

“All these qualities demand digital reach, and real-time analytics will be key to creating the smart omni-channel layer that can enable this,” explains Marquez. “Instead of having a web or digital mobile experience where customers take the initiative for every action, banks will have to create a digital advisor that is proactive, reaching out to the customer.”

Through his discussions with customers, Marquez has found that the bank’s omni-channel strategy must address some key issues. “First, banks need to modify their own culture around becoming digital. This transformation starts from the inside out and requires a balance of providing access to the latest technology to customers and ensuring simplified processes for employees. Banks will always have early adopters, but to make them mainstream it will require a platform for customers to learn and share experiences. As we move forward, new and different service models will be tested and, in many cases, banks will provide the training and resources for consumers to adopt these.”

Rising to those challenges can also open up a wealth of opportunities. “Banks will be able to use the technology in different ways and uncover new types of opportunities,” says Marquez. “For example, in terms of being insightful, machine learning will redefine how banks interact with customers. It will enable us to create smarter applications that will leverage information and customer behavior insights to create a segment of one experience with customers. While building a better, more relevant interaction with the consumer, the bank might also find an opportunity to generate new ways of marketing, for itself and for partners it works with, to create a one-stop shop for financial needs.”

With so many possibilities ahead, there is no magic formula for omni-channel service delivery, and Microsoft is working with its partners to demonstrate what they can achieve. “We’ve been working with our partners to share with customers the state of the possible; to show them the disruptive technologies of the future and how we foresee these could make a big difference in the way we bank,” says Marquez. “We build demonstrations of how some of these things can be achieved with Microsoft technology and the knowledge of our partners. For example, technology designs with Infusion Development or our Smart Banking initiative with Accenture and Avanade shows what is possible in this omni-channel world, where technology is redefining how the bank interacts proactively with its customers.”

One thing is certain: driven by consumer demand, omni-channel is set to transform banking service delivery, and banks need to consider how they will achieve it. “We all agree on the objective of omni-channel, but the most important thing is that it is a journey,” concludes Marquez. “We have been doing banking the same way for many years, but now the consumer is driving change and demanding new service models. Banks need to have a strategy in place to deliver those models as new technologies emerge.”

Originally published in OnWindows