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The most successful, competitive banks and credit unions continually strive to find new ways to better serve their customers, and provide them with a truly outstanding customer experience. Many banks are finding that differentiating themselves, while keeping their service costs low, is a difficult task. The challenge then, is for financial institutions to balance their needs to reduce costs with their clients’ demands for better technologies and processes.  This is what makes up a superb customer experience.

The majority of financial institutions have already realized that providing an ideal banking experience for their clients is a critical success factor, which results in growing and strengthening their relationships. Customer interaction preferences, and a tendency to lean towards digital banking options, is a phenomenon that is occurring at financial institutions, both large and small.  Fundamental changes that are occurring in the branch banking model, and customer service that is often substandard, is ample evidence that institutions both large and small are playing a catch-up game.

Thus was born the ‘ideal banking concept,’ that emphasizes understanding what consumers preferences are when conducting their banking transactions. Factors that influence an ‘ideal banking experience’ often include topics such as the importance of, and the variety of, such elements as branch reconfiguration and optimization, digital banking solutions, as well as universal banker and options for omnichannel banking deployment. A total of 60% of survey respondents find that digital banking channel availability (i.e. online or mobile banking) is their most important banking feature.

The ‘ideal banking experience’ can mean many things to many people.  Possibly, it can range from interactions with traditional tellers, to methods that are partly or fully accomplished by self-service and assisted-service, via a model that uses universal banker deployment, or a combination, as part of an omnichannel banking servicing model.

Also critically important are employee knowledge and insight, with over three-quarters of respondents reporting that these attributes are ‘essential components’ that make up an outstanding customer experience.  Over a third mentioned that access to such knowledge could help their banking experience be “ideal”. Other factors that contribute to an ‘ideal experience’ include inviting, conveniently located branches, devices and machines designed to make banking sessions easy and quick, and full feature digital banking capabilities.  Systems, such as analytics solutions, can significantly help financial institutions better understand customer wants, needs, and behavioral patterns.

For financial institutions that are interested in increasing their organic growth, likelihood of customers opening additional accounts is an important metric that assesses customer satisfaction. The expectations of banking customers continue to increase and evolve, as the offerings in other areas of retailing increase. What this indicates is that financial institutions should strive to not only meet, but to exceed these expectations. For example, when asked what made respondents consider switching to another bank, 37% of them mentioned they were interested in incentives, (such as reward programs) with another 30% mentioning that reduced or no fees on checking accounts, and promotions/special offers could entice them to switch banks.

In summary, banking institutions that are interested in protecting and growing their market share should be mindful that customer wants, needs, and behavioral patterns are constantly shifting. They should also be familiar with the products being offered by traditional and non-traditional banking services, such as banking payments, and financial services. Not only should they be alert to customer needs, but they would be best served by offering superior customer service, and building out their new digital banking capabilities and reconfigured branches.