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Bank, Digital & Technology, Customer Experience, Credit Union

Omnichannel Banking Trends to Drive the Customer & Member Experience

A man in a blue button-up.
Marc Healy, executive director of retail and marketing
6 min read
Reading Time: 6 minutes

What is Omnichannel Banking?

On the customer’s side of customer service interactions, there is no greater frustration than being passed from agent to agent, platform to platform, and having to re-explain your issue over and over again. We’re living in an age of Amazon delivery drones and facial recognition software — why can’t organizations get their customer relationship management (CRM) channels to coordinate?

The good news is that they can, but it takes the right kind of technological infrastructure. In retail banking, this means implementing a CRM system in which all touchpoints integrate and share data, so that bank customers and credit union members — or staff — never have to go digging for their information. This is omnichannel banking.

Omnichannel infrastructure provides access to the same real-time data across all touchpoints. This growing retail banking trend is right on schedule, since consumers no longer want universal, siloed experiences. They want to be able to interact with brands and services wherever, whenever, and however they prefer, seamlessly leaving off and picking up mid-interaction if need be on the platform of their choosing. Omnichannel banking allows customers and members to self-service without repeating any steps along the way.

While tech-enabled omnichannel banking can flatten some of the hurdles along the customer journey, financial institutions (FIs) need to remember to keep the human side of banking at the heart of the retail experience. Most people prefer their banks or credit unions to have a physical space, even if they don’t use it very often; branches build trust and serve as a hub for more complicated financial transactions. For example, people of all ages still prefer to open new accounts or discuss mortgage options in person, even if they’ll continue the process online.

In order to build and maintain solid, long-lasting relationships with customers and members, banks and credit unions need to build a physical element into their omnichannel initiatives.

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel

The primary difference between omnichannel and multichannel banking is integration. While multichannel banking offers customers and members a suite of options for conducting transactions and communicating with their FI, these options often remain siloed. For example, a credit union member may begin a transaction on their banking app, encounter an issue, visit their local branch to fix the issue, only to find they need to re-explain the problem to the teller and start back at square one.

Omnichannel banking gives customers and members access to the same suite of tools, but allows for seamless movement between interfaces. Using the same example as above, a credit union member starts a transaction on their app, encounters an issue, visits their local branch, and finds that the teller can pull up all their recent activity — not just their transaction history — using their account number. The member can then pick up where they left off in their transaction. This enables a much smoother, hassle-free banking experience.

Omnichannel Multichannel
Customer/member-centric Institution-centric
Promotes interaction between multiple channels Promotes transactions using multiple channels
Channels are integrated Channel are siloed
Predicts what customers and members need Tracks what customer and members like
Based on a system of dynamic engagements Based on a system of static records
Built with insights from Big Data Built with service-oriented architecture

Benefits of Omnichannel Banking

While full system integration can feel like a tall order for some FIs, omnichannel banking delivers multiple benefits beyond time savings.

Omnichannel banking:

  • Personalizes the customer/member experience
  • Closes the gap between online and in-branch interactions
  • Enables fast problem resolution
  • Reduces support and operational costs
  • Increases customer/member satisfaction
  • Improves the customer/member experience
  • Attracts new customers and members with a digital-first approach

Challenges of Omnichannel Banking

As much as the omnichannel approach might simplify the user experience, implementing this kind of infrastructure isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. And not all users will have a positive response to their FI integrating their communication channels or insisting that they learn new tech tools, especially if they are long-term customers or members.

The following are some of the top challenges FIs face when they catch the omnichannel wave:

  • Omnichannel optimization involves building a new tech infrastructure, which means partnering with an experienced firm, training employees on new systems, and potentially hiring a new support team — all of which takes capital and time.
  • A new over-reliance on digital tools can alienate certain demographics, causing them to turn elsewhere for their banking needs.
  • Complications in the rollout of new tech can cause interruptions in service, which can frustrate users while they wait for the problem to be fixed.
  • Some FIs can be tempted to automate all services and neglect to foster meaningful personal interactions.
  • New channels mean new data and methods of collection, and FIs need to prepare to gather, analyze, and manage a higher volume of customer interactions and information.
  • Likewise, all channels need to be able to share and exchange data. ATMs need access to the same customer/member data as web chatbots, online account portals, and the tellers in-branch.

Above all, FI customers and members do not want to be treated like a monolith. While the banking experience has traditionally had some measure of universality, today’s consumer expects a personalized experience tailored to their specific needs and preferences. Any omnichannel infrastructure will need to respond in kind; this means not pushing users to adopt one channel of communication over another and using analytics to “learn” users’ patterns of behavior when it comes to transactional journeys.

Omnichannel Security Considerations

Security is the number one concern for banking customers/members and the number one challenge for FIs — which is why it gets its own section here. U.S. banking is so heavily regulated that implementing any new virtual services can feel like a Sisyphean task. To stay ahead of security risks as you deploy an omnichannel approach, keep these tips in mind:

  • People are now more willing than ever to give their banking information freely online, but with this growing trust comes the expectation of protection. Verify that your mobile channels are secure so that your users don’t have to.
  • ATMs and safe deposit boxes are subject to tampering, so consider adding biometric security features like fingerprints, facial or voice recognition, or multi-step verification.
  • Use your omnichannel analytics to track customer and member behavior, and leverage an AI rules engine to alert staff, customers, or members to unusual transactions.

Unfortunately, as technology becomes more advanced, there will always be someone out there trying to outsmart it. While one security option likely won’t protect all of your channels forever, building security into every user touchpoint will keep their information that much safer.

Implementing Omnichannel Banking

Each omnichannel rollout will be different for each FI, but there are some best practices that apply across the board. Here are some tips to give your customers, members, and staff the smoothest omnichannel experience possible:

  • Adjust your perspective: Omnichannel banking is not meant to serve the FI’s interests above all others’. Before shifting your infrastructure around, ask how the proposed changes will benefit the customer or member.
  • Don’t forget the branch: The physical branch is still at the heart of retail banking. As we’ve mentioned, omnichannel means all channels of communication, including the in-person ones. Optimizing your physical space to support a seamless customer experience will solidify your brand’s customer-centric stance. Think intuitive wayfinding and in-branch choreography, dynamic signage and digital displays, and multifunctional spaces that adapt to visitor and staff needs.
  • Empower your employees: Before cutting the ribbon on any new tools, make sure your employees are experts on using the new interfaces and systems. Every staff member who touches your CRM system needs to know how to navigate the front and back ends while delivering personalized, engaging service.
  • Enhance scheduling abilities: Give customers and members the ability to schedule virtual or in-person appointments via your app or website. This cuts down on wait times in-branch and allows customers and members to book guaranteed facetime with someone who can help them navigate their transactions.To meet this need, build time into each employee’s schedule for longer one-on-one appointments with customers and members. This budgets their time accordingly, delegates more involved customer service interactions across the entire team, and empowers staff to build stronger relationships with customers and members.
  • Gather feedback: Make it easy for customers and members to leave feedback on every channel. This data then gets added to their profile and informs their preferences for future interactions.
  • Understand your data: Omnichannel banking delivers hordes of user data, but key performance indicators (KPIs) are nothing without analysis. Identify which KPIs will provide the most relevant insights (hint: not all available options will be applicable) and make a plan for organizing and drawing conclusions from that data.

Omnichannel Banking Trends

Generally speaking, omnichannel banking is on the rise. Though banks and credit unions are traditionally slower to adopt new technologies and trends, more FIs are realizing the cost savings and customer/member satisfaction that results from omnichannel capabilities.

With more users than ever conducting standard transactions online, FIs are reducing their physical footprint and adapting their branch locations to serve more complex banking needs and products, such as financial planning and loans. Branches are also adapting to better serve local micromarkets and demographics; this often includes implementing newer technologies such as virtual teller pods, video conferencing services, and interactive teller machines (ITMs).

Looking to the future, FIs can stay limber by identifying the right combination of digital and face-to-face interactions that best serve their existing and prospective audience. An omnichannel approach can help FIs gain a 360-degree view of customer/member wants, needs, and preferences, and establish a scalable infrastructure that will support operations for years to come.

For more tips on becoming a truly omnichannel institution, reach out to the Element team today. Let’s see how we can design your space to welcome the future of banking.


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A man in a blue button-up.
Marc Healy
executive director of retail and marketing

Often greeted by the team as “Mr. HEALY!,” with all suitable pomp, Marc is known to be a positive force of nature in the office. After graduating from Western Washington University with a degree in Business and a concentration in Finance, Marc proceeded to leap right into leadership positions. His career now spans over 35 years, with experience in marketing, sales, and finance.


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