Omnichannel Banking: From Aspiration to Engagement

Banks must optimize and integrate channels to deliver exceptional customer experience.

omnichannel banking

Bank customers have embraced omnichannel. Nearly two-thirds of customers now use four or more bank channels.1 But banks haven’t necessarily kept up, by their own admission. Less than 10 percent say they’re actually executing on an omnichannel strategy, with the rest still in some stage of researching or planning.2

The problem is that omnichannel is hard, as companies in industries from retail to logistics can attest. Delivering a consistent, integrated experience across channels, one that lets customers start a transaction at one touch point and seamlessly complete it at another, remains more aspiration than actuality.

But today, customer engagement — that connection with the brand that influences buying decisions — depends on omnichannel. Banks that do it well will gain a significant advantage.

Best of Breed

Omnichannel banking starts with understanding and optimizing each channel:

Branch — The number of bank branches could shrink by one-third by 2025. The nature of the branch will also change, as banks slash branch employees by up to one-half.3 Yet for many customers, the branch remains the face of the brand. If their local branch closed, 43 percent would simply use another branch. Only 16 percent would switch channels.4

As customers use other channels for transactions, they’ll rely on the branch — and branch employees — for complex processes and guidance. Branch technology can help. Mobile devices enable staff to serve customers flexibly. Internet of Things (IoT) solutions enable self-service kiosks and other options that offer a personalized experience.

Among Millenials, 71 percent say it's very important to have a bank app.

ATM — The ATM occupies a central position in an omnichannel strategy, especially as the number of branches shrinks. But the ATM is more than a cash machine. ATMs can enable cash and check deposits, mini statements, bill payments, internet banking access, credit-card and express-loan applications, and personalized ads. They can also allow customers to buy postage stamps or top up prepaid mobile phones.6 

ATMs must be digitally integrated into the omnichannel experience. Banks need to be able to track ATM transactions and behaviors for new insights that will lead to personalized services.

Call center — Call centers aren’t going away. In fact, millennials are 1.7 times more likely to use a bank call center than boomers.7 Why? In part it’s because younger customers make more transactions. But it’s also because digital channels can be confusing. For example, 42 percent of customers who turn to tellers first try other channels.8

Rather than view the call center as a cost, smart banks are leveraging the channel to improve use of digital self-service. Using video, screen sharing and other tools, reps can teach customers how to use internet or mobile touch points for future transactions — and cost savings.

Internet — The internet is a core channel, as evidenced by the rise of online-only banks that compete by undercutting traditional banks on price. Of the 11 percent of North American customers that switched banks in 2015, 19 percent moved to online-only.9 But as consumers shift from PCs to mobile devices, banks will have to follow. That means optimizing your internet presence for mobile access and shifting more information and services to mobile apps.

Mobile — No channel is more important than mobile. Among millennials — who make up 34 percent of the employed U.S. population10 — 71 percent say it’s very important to have a banking app, and 60 percent say it’s very important to have a payment app.11

But mobile devices can do more. At least one bank links customers’ phones with beacons to automatically open ATM vestibules. Another lets customers get ATM cash more quickly with a phone-generated code. A growing number support mobile deposits that let customer avoid branch visits. And at least one banking app offers a chatbot with artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics to help users manage transactions and make financial decisions.

Come Together

But each channel doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Your channels need to deliver a consistent experience so that customers recognize your brand — and the level of service it stands for — across every touch point. (See infographic.)

Even more important, your channels need to be integrated, for two key purposes. First is to capture data on customer behavior and preferences that will help you fine-tune your offerings to respond to changing customer needs. Second is to provide a seamless experience. Ideally, your omnichannel strategy should allow customers to begin a transaction online, say, continue it in a mobile app, and then complete it in a call center or in person, with bank representatives instantly able to see transaction history and preferences.

The goal is better customer experience — and the customer engagement that leads to higher revenues over time. But the smallest hiccup in your channel strategy can result in dissatisfaction. When customers rate satisfaction with every channel 5 out of 5, they’re 55 percent engaged, according to Gallup. But when satisfaction with even a single channel drops just slightly to 4 out of 5, engagement plummets to only 15 percent.12

The imperative of a consistent, integrated and exceptional omnichannel experience is clear. Banks that do omnichannel right have the opportunity realize stronger customer relationships and higher revenues — through every channel.

1 “Most Bank Customers Would Trade Personal Banking for Digital Banking,” Gallup, April 2015
2 “A Survey of Retail Banking Channel Systems in North America: Omnichannel Emerges,” Celent, February 2017
3,4 “Say Goodbye to Your Neighborhood Bank Branch,” The Washington Post, April 2016
5 “The Future of Banking: IoT, Retail and Mobile Banking Industry Trends,” Business Insider, December 2016
6 “ATM Benchmarking Study 2016 and Industry Report,” Accenture, 2016
7,8 “The Bank Branch and Call Center Traffic Jam,” Bain, November 2016
9,10 “The Future of Banking: Growth of Innovative Banking Fintech Services,” Business Insider, December 2016
11 “The Future of Banking: IoT, Retail and Mobile Banking Industry Trends,” Business Insider, December 2016
12 “Most Bank Customers Would Trade Personal Banking for Digital Banking,” Gallup, April 2015

Accenture® is a registered trademark of Accenture. Bain® is a registered trademark of Bain & Co., Inc. Business Insider® is a registered trademark of Business Insider, Inc. Celent® is a registered trademark of Oliver Wyman, Inc. Gallup® is a registered trademark of Gallup, Inc. The Washington Post® is a registered trademark of WP Co. LLC.

All data cited in this article is used by permission.

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