Retail banking trends come and go, but the one thing that remains constant is customer experience. Therefore, it’s imperative that banks and credit unions stay up-to-date on customer experience best practices, regularly train and retrain their teams, and solicit customer and member feedback to ensure they deliver the best service possible.
But customer experience is about so much more than simply meeting customers’ and members’ expectations — it’s about delivering a comprehensive retail experience. In this post, we’ll explore the top trends in the banking customer experience today, as well as ways to identify and address areas for improvement.
What Is Customer Experience in Banking?
Today’s consumer, regardless of the product or service they’re purchasing, values the retail experience. Once a transaction moves beyond the level of a vending machine, the customer expects a seamless buying process, excellent customer service, and maybe a little fun along the way. Not every retail experience needs to be memorable; but chances are, customers will have more positive associations with a company or organization that provides a user-friendly buying experience.
The customer experience (or CX) revolves around how customers perceive their interactions with a company. This includes how they are treated by the company’s employees, how simple (or complicated) the processes are, and whether they feel their money was well spent. Or — when it comes to banks and credit unions — how safe they perceive their money to be with a particular institution.
A positive customer or member experience has a direct effect on revenue; according to Forbes, “73% of companies with above-average customer experience perform better financially than their competitors.” Satisfied customers and members may invest in more products or services, and will likely stay with a financial institution (FI) indefinitely. Also, the more well-cared-for a customer or member feels at a particular FI, the more likely they are to recommend the bank or credit union to others — a powerful marketing concept called “social proof.”
The customer or member experience isn’t limited to interactions with a teller or financial specialist. It’s informed by a customer or member’s interactions with every retail touchpoint they encounter, including websites, mobile apps, call centers, chatbots, social media, email communications, and even passive marketing, such as seeing a billboard or television commercial. Every encounter matters; according to Gartner, 81% of companies compete for consumers based solely on their customer experience.
Since the customer or member experience has the ability to make or break your FI’s success in the market, it’s imperative that both leadership and frontline teams understand how to harness that power.
Key Trends Impacting Customer Experience in Banking
Technology moves fast. In retail banking especially, it can sometimes feel like the industry at large manages to master one trend or tool, only to be met with high consumer demand for an even newer piece of technology. Specific tools aside, it’s fairly guaranteed that consumers of today and tomorrow will require the following from their favorite brands:
- Digital presence and mobile compatibility
- Consistency across messaging and channels
- Fast service and quick issue resolution
- Corporate alignment with their personal values
In 2021, the Financial Brand’s Digital Banking Report found that financial institutions around the world ranked improving their CX second only to digital transformation on their list of priorities. The two go hand-in-hand, as consumers are able to tell in milliseconds if a company is right for them based on their mobile app interface alone. Therefore, the overall customer experience will be determined more quickly than ever, and word of a negative experience can spread with a few taps of a smartphone keyboard.
Let’s look at a few of the elements poised to determine the customer experience going forward, as well as the ones that already do.
If your bank or credit union doesn’t offer a mobile experience, it’s time to start building one — or say goodbye to prospective customers who prioritize that convenience. Since self-service is the fastest-growing banking customer experience trend, it’s imperative that banks and credit unions provide simple, comprehensive ways for their users to manage their finances without having to stop at a branch. Fortunately, there are plenty of low-code app development platforms to help you build a banking app from scratch.
In addition to completing basic transactions, app users can purchase banking products, open new accounts, and make appointments to speak to a financial specialist. Apps can also collect customer data that can then be used to promote products and services to the users most likely to need them. Omnichannel compatibility — or the ability for all banking platforms to integrate with one another — ensures that customers can expect the same level of convenience and efficiency on your app as in your branch.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
While not every financial institution leverages this technology, AI-driven chatbots or answering services increasingly appear as an FI’s first line of customer service. Programmed to recognize certain keywords or phrases, chatbots can then direct customer inquiries to the right live specialist who can address and deliver more nuanced service. Depending on their capabilities, AI-driven tech can even reduce staffing needs by resolving the most common customer issues without human intervention.
Consumers like to feel seen and acknowledged by their favorite brands, even with something as simple as a customized email greeting (“Hi, [your name here]!”). Whether their first touchpoint is digital or face-to-face, bank customers and credit union members appreciate recognition from their financial institutions. As such, when prompted to provide their account number or any other identifying information, customers and members expect their FI to draw upon existing data to provide tellers and specialists with the right information, suggest helpful products or services, and even predict when a customer or member is due for an account upgrade or special offer.
Small, personalized touches like these go a long way in ensuring customer loyalty; in fact, personalization in banking can increase annual revenue by 10%, according to Boston Consulting Group.
Humanizing the digital
A combination of AI and live customer service may deliver the best customer experience available. Consumers desire speed and simplicity, but they also value empathy and personalization. There’s no true substitute for the “human touch,” so incorporating the ability for a chatbot to escalate an issue to a live representative (or even provide that as an alternative) can have a positive impact on the overall customer experience.
This is perhaps the most difficult trend to adopt gracefully, since it’s easy to turn consumers off by being too proactive — for example, one too many email newsletters can quickly trigger a click of the “unsubscribe” button. However, by utilizing all digital channels and consumer touchpoints to monitor users’ financial health, life events, purchases, and customer service requests, savvy FIs can proactively offer opportunities to help customers and members better manage their finances or plan for their financial future.
7 Customer Experience Tactics for Banks and Credit Unions
The number one tip to remember when growing your CX program is to demonstrate that you truly understand the customer or member journey. Deploying CX surveys can help put an objective lens on the customers’ journey, which will inform the specific tactics you use to improve their experience.
Here are some approaches you can take to make your customers’ and members’ experience as seamless and positive as possible.
1. Build your “branch of the future.”
This isn’t so much about upfitting your physical branch with holograms and a laser show; rather, this approach takes reimagining what a bank or credit union branch can be. Physical branches are steadily transforming into hubs of consultation, rather than storefronts for routine transactions. Since mobile apps grant anytime access to users’ accounts, there may be little need to visit a branch to make a deposit or withdrawal — unless the branch is the place to find expert consultation and financial guidance.
Boost your branch’s customer experience in banking by utilizing new self-service technologies. Interactive teller machines (ITMs) present a helpful opportunity to offload transactional interactions, freeing up human agents to fill more of a consultative, educational role. Financial institutions can increase credibility by positioning financial agents as advocates who are the experts at helping customers and members find the best ways to manage their finances.
Think outside the box when reimagining your physical space; take cues from Capital One’s cafe spaces, Apple’s walk-up Genius Bar, or even a furniture showroom, with designated seating areas that encourage conversation. Replace the straightlaced teller line with self-service options, conference pods, and community spaces that offer flexibility and set visitors at ease.
2. Provide digital support.
Even while retail banking makes the mass transition to digital, not every consumer is a digital native. Some customers and members may be uncomfortable with apps and remote services — and herein lies the opportunity. Banks and credit unions undergoing a digital transformation should provide educational and support services to bring customers and members along with them. This means offering in-branch video tutorials, designating a point person (in-branch or remote) to onboard new digital users, or even holding regular classes that introduce customers and members to new digital tools.
3. Offer and expand self-service options.
At this point, self-service in banks and credit unions is a must. Not everyone can get to the branch during business hours, so providing a way for customers and members to access their accounts, make deposits, and even reach a live teller off-hours is crucial. Self-service equipment is an ideal alternative for those who are still not comfortable with banking via an app.
This type of self-service is now widely available through the use of ITMs. Unlike traditional automated teller machines (ATMs), ITMs offer expanded services, such as:
- Real-time video conferencing and chat support
- Cash withdrawals in increments under $20
- Check cashing
- Cardless transactions
- Check and money order issuance
- Investment account transactions
Adding ITMs to your existing infrastructure helps redirect customers and members to machines for routine transactions, while allowing agents to focus on building relationships to learning how to better serve each person. This small change can make a big difference in the credit union and bank branch experience.
4. Automate onboarding processes.
Related to providing digital support, digitizing and automating new customer/member onboarding will save time, paper, and personnel. Enable customers and members to open new accounts, replace their debit cards, and apply for loans from the comfort of — well, anywhere! Provide video or step-by-step tutorials along the way, and always make on-call service available in case users have questions.
5. Leverage omnichannel support.
Your customers and members likely spend a good deal of time online — so meet them where they are! Offer customer support on the channels your target demographics use the most, whether that be through your mobile app, on Facebook, Twitter, via chatbot, or live chat. Not sure where they spend their time? A survey can tell you!
6. Expand consultative services.
If the physical branch is where customers and members come to seek expert advice, banks and credit unions need to be prepared to meet the demand. Using customer data collected from every touchpoint, advisors can gain a 360-degree view of customers and members at a glance and make informed recommendations that address specific financial needs.
Again, to improve the banking customer experience, financial agents should position themselves as advocates and educators, rather than focusing simply on fulfilling one-off, routine transactions. By learning more about each customer or member’s lifestyle, preferences, and pain points, agents can make suggestions that improve their lives, which is the true embodiment of superb customer service.
For example, if in the course of getting to know a customer or member, an agent discovers they are overpaying for a car loan with another institution, this presents an opportunity to offer a better alternative, which benefits both parties.
7. Do the right thing with data.
It’s hard to define what “the right thing” is, but by and large, consumers value transparency from brands. When it comes to brands that store large amounts of customer data, it’s especially important to be honest about how you use it and how you keep it safe. Data provides visibility into your customers’ and members’ experience and preferences, but it also requires that you use it responsibly. Seek customers’ and members’ consent before using their personal information for marketing purposes, and then analyze it to target your marketing initiatives to the right people.
Finally, it’s become increasingly important for brands to reflect what their customers think, feel, and value when it comes to their communities and the world at large. Consumers want to know that their favorite brands take sustainability and equity seriously, and that they invest in causes that improve lives. According to LoyaltyLion, 68% of consumers are motivated to remain loyal to a brand if they feel the brand shares their values.
For example, even if your institution doesn’t have the means to fight climate change on a global scale, you can make small investments in your immediate community by cutting down on paper processes, increasing mobile services to reduce carbon emissions, or donating money or volunteer time to local green space initiatives.
Tips for Improving Customer Experience in Banking
If you follow the best practices above, you’ll be well on your way to building a seamless, memorable, and even enjoyable customer or member experience. Your specific tactics may vary, but keep the following in mind as you build or expand your CX program:
- Assemble a dedicated CX team, perhaps led by a Customer Experience Officer, to oversee all customer touchpoints, solicit feedback, and analyze data to improve processes and digital infrastructure. In smaller branches, tellers could do double duty as members of the CX team, but it helps to have dedicated team members who can devote their full attention to improving the customer or member journey.
- Create a strong brand strategy that strengthens recognition and positions your institution as a trustworthy company with customers’ or members’ best interests at heart.
- Remember that you can’t improve or build everything all at once. Maintain an iterative approach to building your CX program, continually taking all feedback into account at every step of the way. Your customers and members will never stop giving feedback, so your response should operate on the same continuum.
- Establish ongoing training for agents to develop a consultative approach to customer service, where they prioritize getting to know customers’ and members’ personal preferences. Emphasize the agent’s role in educating customers and members on the products and services that can improve their lives — a major aspect of the credit union and bank branch experience.
- Your CX program would be nothing without the customer or member, so keep them at the center of every change you make. You should be able to state exactly how and why a certain change will improve the customer experience; if a change seems like it would benefit the institution more than the customer or member, it shouldn’t be a priority.
Transform the Banking Customer Experience with The Element Group
At Element, we’re all about helping banks and credit unions deliver the most intuitive, memorable, and comprehensive customer experience possible. From dynamic in-branch signage, to interior design, to location analysis that identifies the most valuable site for your new branch, we collaborate with expert partners and your institution’s leadership to maximize both revenue and customer/member satisfaction.
Send us a note today to learn how we can turn a banking errand into a banking experience.
Banking customer Experience FAQs
What is the customer experience in banking?
In retail, the customer experience is defined as the way customers perceive a brand. The customer or member experience in banking can include any interaction someone has with your institution. Mobile app performance, self-serve banking tools, customer service calls, and even your brand identity can all have an impact on the customer experience.
What do customers expect from a digital banking experience?
Bank customers and credit union members overwhelmingly expect fast service, intuitive interfaces, cross-platform consistency, and quick issue resolution from their digital banking experience.
How can I measure my customers’ satisfaction?
With their permission, you can collect and analyze customer data to target promotions to the appropriate demographics and even predict when certain customers or members will need new financial products or services. After every customer or member interaction, it’s also recommended to deploy surveys that will collect actionable feedback.
How can I improve my FI’s customer experience?
Before making any changes or improvements, you need to know whether said changes will actually benefit the customer/member. Start by collecting feedback through surveys, then implementing chances that address specific needs. If you can’t identify how a certain change will meaningfully benefit the customer/member, you need to reassess.
Want to learn more about how The Element Group can improve your customer experience in financial services? Download our look book to discover the possibilities.