Rapidly changing customer expectations and steadily increasing competition within the banking sector are forcing financial institutions to digitalise their operations, while at the same time ensuring that they humanise their digital experience to gain a competitive edge.

By Dharshan Naidoo, sales team lead for SADC at Infobip

More and more banks are now trying to move away from brick-and-mortar environments and traditional communication channels, such as email and SMS, with the adoption of omnichannel digital banking platforms which include increasingly popular applications such as Chatapps, social media messenger services and chatbots.

The conversational nature of these apps brings the human touch that email for example typically lacks, though email is still very much a preferred form of contact in some instances. In this sense, being able to offer all platforms is key to achieving a seamless omnichannel experience for the consumer.

Interestingly, the main catalyst for this transition has been Covid-19 that prompted the banking industry – which remained largely unchanged for many decades – to embark on a digital transformation journey. While these digitalisation efforts are largely driven by economic and efficiency considerations, the main driver seems to be the realisation that the new generation of the digitally-connected customer expects not only convenience, but also a memorable customer experience (CX).

The pandemic has created the need for banks to re-engineer their customer engagement strategies and seek innovative ways to keep their customers engaged and loyal, which is key to growing revenue. To achieve this, banks must look at evolving their online platforms to more digital-focussed engagement strategies that enable the consumer to have the best experience through multiple touchpoints during the customer journey.

Fundamental change

Today’s modern customer for example expects more than ever before, to be able to transact on their mobile device and the way they want to interact with a brand has changed fundamentally. While this requires banks to significantly reposition themselves as omnichannel organisations, this model and different use cases it offers also presents an opportunity for growth.

Humanising digital interactions means customers are now able to engage in two-way, multi-channel conversations not available to them before. When customers are given the opportunity to interact in this way, they become more open to receiving information that is not purely transactional – for example, personalised marketing offers.

Essentially, this requires banks to personalise messages relating to their products and services, and deliver them via preferred channels, at a time that suits a customer. Banks are also expected to respond to customer requests quickly – night or day – , and in order to do this they must-add new features to their platforms, such as integrating automation with a chatbot across a variety of banking channels.

Taking this approach will help banks to connect with their customers in a more meaningful way and also provide a personal touch via the digital interactions that they provide. A stronger customer connection will ultimately result in better customer experience which inevitably results in increased acquisition and better retention rates. Happy customers stay longer and buy more in that sense.

In an increasingly competitive market, one of the best ways in which banks can differentiate themselves is by listening to their customers and deploying the services that they require to meet their needs. Customer data is the new currency. Used properly, it will ensure customer loyalty, which is one of the biggest problems for brands these days. Modern customers are generally not loyal and will readily switch brands if they do not get what they expect from their bank.

Enhancing the customer journey

An omnichannel personalised and conversational banking approach is therefore key to enhancing the customer journey and ensuring that banks can meet their customers on the channels they prefer at their time of need or want. Omnichannel banking essentially bridges the gap between online banking and traditional face-to-face banking. It provides customers with a choice of banking channels and allows them to seamlessly transition between channels without ever needing to visit a physical branch.

As part of an omnichannel banking strategy, banks can provide customers with the convenience of digital channels such as WhatsApp, Telegram or Viber, depending on the preference of the particular customer. However, they can also introduce automation such as a chatbot that can handle tasks like answering frequently asked questions, opening accounts and sending statements, all the while keeping the interaction personalised.

Yet, banks often fail to take advantage of this when they rely on isolated touchpoints like video conferencing or an online banking service, instead of building a more integrated customer experience. This is where the omnichannel aspect really comes into play.

When banks become innovative in terms of client engagement, they get the opportunity to gather customer information throughout that entire customer journey. This is insightful data that you cannot put a price on. This data can be leveraged to create meaningful and personalised campaigns that are relevant to customer segments across a bank’s typically broad customer demographic. This allows customer data to be monetised to the fullest.

In order to successfully humanise their digital experience, banks have to listen to their customers and respond by providing the engagement and banking channels that they require. The right omnichannel approach can literally simplify customers’ lives by allowing them to enjoy the convenience of managing all their finances in one place by delivering a uniform and integrated experience across multiple channels. In return, this will ensure brand loyalty and translate into revenue gains.