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Three Tips for Delivering a Superb Retail Banking Experience


Warren Buffet once said that “it takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” This is just as true for the individual as for the banking industry these days. One bad online experience is enough for a customer to take their business elsewhere. In fact, the only point of differentiation left today is the customer experience itself. Banks are faced with challenge of delivering the same value (or even more) to customers that they don’t interact with as often as they did in the past. To provide a truly customer-centric experience, banks have to fundamentally reorient themselves from a transactional relationship of pushing products to one in which they play the role of a supportive financial partner. It all starts with understanding your customer.  

1. Understand customer movement & motivations

Better customer experiences begin with a deep knowledge and understanding of why and how customers interact with the bank over time. We know that a seamless end-to-end customer journey improves a customer’s overall experience. But many banks still operate in silos, which means that customers are on the receiving end of a disjointed and sometimes contradictory experience. Take, for instance, the process for applying for a mortgage. The process has numerous touch points and often involves multiple channels. The customer can start with the call centre, which over time, evolves into a branch discussion and then moves online using a mobile app or web interface. For the customer, these movements represent one and the same interaction with their bank. The bank needs to optimise each one of these steps, so it truly is a unified experience for the customer.

Map out the journey

Don’t expect a linear customer journey – the customer is going to bounce around between devices and desires. Map out the stops and starts, the circle-backs and false-starts. Include the multiple devices, the phone calls and the in-person visits, and even the customer motivations and emotions. The goal is to understand how your mix of contact channels work together (or not) and how customers use them.  With a bird’s eye view all these touch points, you’ll have a better understanding of what paths your customers follow. Make this path the blueprint for improving the customer experience. And of course, create an internal culture that continually asks: How can we better meet customer needs? What is challenging for them? How can we reduce their frustrations? What other products might they need that we can develop?

2. Build trust and focus on long-term relationship building

Ernest & Young recently completed a global banking survey of key themes affecting customers. Of the many trust factors measured, two stand out for scoring the lowest among customers:  

  • provide me with truly unbiased advice suited to my needs and
  • tell me if there is a better product for my needs/situation even if it means less money for the bank

The survey results indicate that banks have considerable work to do in empowering agents and advisors to better serve customers. In the same survey, respondents who believe that they are receiving the best digital experiences, were also more open to sharing personal information in order for banks to better anticipate their needs. The implication is that an excellent digital experience leads to a stronger relationship with customers. When this level of trust is achieved, a greater share of wallet usually follows.

Empower agents to provide unbiased high-quality advice.

Again, organisational silos and legacy IT systems are major obstacles for an agent who is eager to do the right thing for clients.  Front-line agents need easy access to full histories and financial overviews in order to provide customers with quality, relevant advice. Without it, agents can’t provide well-informed recommendations to customers. It also limits their ability to answer questions about existing accounts or resolve issues. They need data, tools and technology to deliver truly exceptional service.

3. Treat Different Customers Differently

There are many different pathways to a completed purchase. Some customers want a high-touch experience from their bank, with guidance and product recommendations throughout the application process. They may start their process online, but they want to end it by looking their advisor in the eye. Meanwhile, other customers want a quick and easy ‘checkout’ – these usually are customers who have done their research and know what they need. Their experience needs to be seamless. These aren’t customers who want to visit a branch to complete the process – that would be an annoyance. Banks need to recognise that there are different paths to purchase for banking products and cater to all scenarios.  

Banks have a lot to gain by pursuing these improvements in customer experience. Customers have indicated they are willing to engage more with banks, if in turn, they receive relevant, high-quality experiences that are tailored to their current context.