Anthony Morris Feb 1, 2016

Becoming the bank your customers love

Like many other large, complex and regulated industries, the very foundation of banking is being challenged, to the point that we often hear the saying,“Banking is necessary; banks are not.” Yet, here we are today with hundreds of financial technology (FinTech) startups gunning for wallet share and disrupting an industry that is at the very root of our modern economy.

The changes we have seen in the past five to 10 years have brought an onslaught of complexity, cost and frustration for banks and customers alike. Today,customers are demanding one-on-one, smarter and simpler relationships with providers, but banks offer little in this space beyond the commoditized digital movement of money.

Is it actually possible for banks to truly know their customers and be their trusted financial partners, to the point where those customers can say, “I love my bank”?We believe this is possible and here are five steps to achieve this level of trust and intimacy:

Change your mindset and the bank will change. How many banks have tried and failed to move to a customer-centric model? The list is long. Who owns the customer? Who is the chief customer experience officer? Hard questions to answer, but some response to these questions is required in today’s market. When banks stop thinking in terms of products, processes and channels and start thinking about the customer in totality, they have reached a major pivot point. Product teams that look across product boundaries, coupled with marketing programs, organizational alignment and process steps that focus on the overall customer experience, are all key ingredients in pivoting the bank to become truly customer-centric. When a“customer obsession” mindset and business line transparency are in-sync, then legacy systems, disconnected tools and cumbersome operating models can be challenged in a whole new light.

Go for a 180-degree view of customers rather than 360. For over 15 years, the industry has been struggling to achieve the mythical 360-degree customer view. The ability to define this view and reach agreement on its components – to say nothing of gathering the data necessary for it to actually be delivered – has eluded most banks. The reality is, combining the most basic customer account and analytical information with customer transaction and activity data is enough to significantly move the needle.

Connect things. Connecting data around a customer entity provides the foundation for doing almost anything from a solution perspective, including selling, on-boarding, servicing, cross-selling, collaborating and creating engaging digital apps. However, these processes cannot be thought of in isolation or as independent components of the customer banking lifecycle. Everything must be connected. One process bleeds into the next, which feeds data into the customer view and is used to surface ongoing knowledge and strategies that generate amazing customer experiences.

These connections really start to add value when banks stop thinking in terms of functional and process silos and realize they are all part of a continuum. These services and capabilities can then be propagated across channels to provide management and customers a full view into any action. When this concept is delivered via a platform that can orchestrate services together, the net result is a connected end-to-end and consistent experience.

For example, a mortgage process encompasses dozens of different steps and functions and in most banks is brought to life through different, often disconnected apps, data and people. When this entire process is connected, from lead to closing, everyone benefits. Costs are reduced, efficiencies are gained,customers and third parties are more informed and management has insight and control. Extrapolate this example to hundreds of disconnected banking processes and you begin to realize that when you connect them together, oriented around customer interests, you can begin to change the model radically.

A platform for solutions. The term “platform” is thrown about loosely a lot these days in technology. It seems everyone has a platform capable of doing a myriad of incredible things. One needs to understand, however, what an enterprise technology platform is and specifically the value it can bring when you standardize your customer engagement on a singular platform. It means efficiency, speed, lower cost,agile innovation and the ability to generate solutions on that platform that are all interoperable and interconnected as business needs evolve, regulations force change and channels keep expanding.

Creating apps that meet these needs is vital. However, doing so in isolation, as opposed to creating them from a source platform, means that you are recreating the past maze of disconnected apps, data and tools. A business platform that provides the foundation for the majority of your customer engagement apps, across the banking lifecycle and different businesses, means you are enforcing a model of connectedness, data sharing and consistent delivery.

Innovate on your own terms; fail cheap, succeed quickly. No one has the appetite for large scale projects, major capital expenditures and then to wait months or years to see even the most basic results, to say nothing of innovative apps and solutions. If the concepts outlined here cannot be proven in 90-day sprints, then the underlying assumptions are not valid.

Mr. Morris is senior director, Financial Services/Banking,with San Francisco-based Salesforce.com. He can be reached at amorris@salesforce.com

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