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10:32 AM
Paul Schaus
Paul Schaus

How to Achieve Omnichannel Success

Some key considerations for banks looking to develop and execute on an omnichannel strategy.

Branches, contact centers, ATMs, mobile, online banking, and interactive voice response (IVR) all remain relevant in today’s retail banking landscape. Most banks will be forced to continue to support all these channels because customers demand to contact banks on their own terms, whether those terms are making a check deposit at 2:00 a.m. using a mobile phone or downloading a monthly statement on a Sunday. It may even mean visiting a physical branch on a Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.

In addition to being able to use these myriad channels when and how they choose, customers also demand that they have a consistent experience across channels. They expect these channels to be integrated in real time.

Creating a consistent omnichannel experience is a differentiator banks can use to acquire and keep customers. Customer experience done well translates into increased revenue and a competitive advantage.

Be ready for channel evolution
A consistent customer experience across channels is critical. However, the type of customer experience you need to provide is evolving based on customer demographics. While banks should strive to provide an experience that all customer age groups will appreciate, be especially cognizant of the impact on the younger demographic, since these digital-natives are the future of banking.

While it will be difficult for community banks to compete against the largest banks with larger technology budgets, it’s not an excuse to give up. Treat mobile as a channel, add personal financial management (PFM) features to make the channel more compelling, and train employees in how to use your channels so they can demonstrate that knowledge to customers and answer questions. It’s great to offer the latest customer technology, but you also need a well-trained staff to support it.

Although branch traffic continues to decrease, branches are still relevant. They are, however, market-dependent and you need to analyze and track customer behaviors to determine if you need to put more or less resources into your branches. For example, some banks have invested in the branch of the future by installing video banking terminals. What they found, however, is that their customers much preferred to speak with a banker in the flesh rather than through a video screen.

Know your customers on a branch-by-branch basis and recognize that what works in one branch location may not work in another.

Strategy first, then technology
The banks that are most successful in creating an omnichannel experience for their customers are those that have formulated their omnichannel strategy before acquiring technology, rather than buying technology and figuring out how to implement it after the fact. The former approach allows them to make much more informed technology decisions and maximize their technology spend.

Although it’s optimal to design your omnichannel strategy before purchasing technology, many banks already own standalone technology solutions to support their different delivery channels. The reality is that integrating different applications is difficult and requires an investment in time and resources. That investment is well worth it.

Organize for omnichannel
Creating a consistent customer experience is a challenge organizationally since banks are often structured in business line silos. For example, branch employees may not have access to the same information available to their peers in the back office or the contact center, or they may have different processes for handling customer requests.

A best practice is to develop a written and standardized communication process to ensure all employees, and especially those of the branch staff, are working in step with each other and with other areas of the bank to deliver consistent information.

This communications process should be intentional. Consider using monetary rewards or recognition to incentivize organizational silos to work together. Use technology such as an internal blogging platform to allow bank staff to communicate.

The focus and drive for an omnichannel experience starts at the top management levels of the organization. Banks with a successful omnichannel customer experience almost always have a CEO who believes that an omnichannel experience is key to the success of the bank.

The best approach to channel optimization is to be very strategic in breaking down technology and organizational silos, and to evaluate painstakingly customer wants and desires. Make peace with the fact that these wants and desires will change over time as demographics shift and new technologies are introduced. But no matter what the delivery channel looks like, integrating the different channels to create a consistently great customer experience will cause revenues to surge.

Paul Schaus is the president, CEO and founder of CCG Catalyst, a bank consulting firm providing strategic direction for banks. He leads a team of banking subject matter experts across North America. In addition to maintaining the firm's traditional consulting of business and ... View Full Bio

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