Karl Dahlgren
Karl Dahlgren Apr 19, 2019

Channeling greatness: Mastering the touchpoints of the omnichannel customer experience

Frustrated by their omnichannel banking experience, customers say they want more control over their financial journey. They also want their financial services organization to give them the tools to bank when and where they want.

The ability to customize their own solutions was the top customer experience priority in BAI’s 2019 Banking Outlook survey of more than 800 consumers. The next leading priority was an improved omnichannel experience, followed by transformation of branches.

Customers say they’re annoyed when they are required to start over in each channel. They don’t like re-identifying themselves or re-explaining what they did online, or in the call center once they get to the branch.

Existing customers would like to open second accounts online and first-time customers want to open new accounts online. Unfortunately, that’s not an easy request. BAI research found that 53 percent of financial services organizations don’t allow new customers to open a first account online. Banks and credit unions that can’t accommodate online first accounts often cite compliance concerns. But some find a way.

Another consumer pain point is how poorly financial services providers use the personal data they collect. Customers don’t think financial services organizations effectively leverage the data they have in order to provide more personalized product and service offerings. According to BAI research, customers are pushing back on banks’ requests to share more personal data.

The reaction is particularly pronounced among millennials, who’ve been traditionally amenable to sharing personal information. When asked in 2017 if they were willing to share more information than in the past, 46 percent of respondents said they were. But a year later, that figure plummeted to 29 percent. GenXers dropped from 36 percent to 26 percent, and baby boomers slipped slightly from 28 percent to 25 percent. This may reflect a reaction to social channels sharing customer data without consent. Whatever the reason, many customers don’t believe the personal data they have already shared is used enough to make their lives easier.

Obstacles to data sharing

The growing resistance to customers sharing personal data with their main financial services provider is disheartening for several reasons:

  • First, data can help providers know their customers.
  • Second, the right information can reduce security risks associated with online account opening.
  • Third, adroit use of data creates a more seamless digital experience, especially when opening accounts online.
  • Finally, to deliver the kind of tools customers want to customize their experience, financial services organizations need real-time insights on how customers interact with them. You do that through data, the flight fuel of analytics.

Financial services providers can use a variety of tools to customize a customer’s experience—from alerts to chatbots to financial management or budgeting software. The most powerful tools are mobile apps that enable such functions as remote deposit, money transfer, reviewing account balances, making payments or managing multiple accounts.

When we asked consumers if their main financial services organization’s mobile apps met their needs, 82 percent of boomers, 88 percent of GenXers and 90 percent of millennials said yes. These are impressive statistics.

But in the next breath, consumers sounded fickle when asked if they would leave their main financial services organization for one that offered a better mobile app and digital capabilities. More than half of millennials said they would switch for a better digital experience, which means financial services providers are potentially one app away from losing their younger customers.

Millennials won’t tolerate a disjointed omnichannel banking experience. Raised on Amazon, Netflix and Uber, they can’t understand why financial services organizations don’t provide the same kind of smooth digital experience.

Branches without boundaries or tellers

But some financial services providers have responded proactively. For example, Bank of America has launched a series of initiatives to make its omnichannel customer experience more productive and pleasant. In 2018, BofA introduced its AI-driven virtual assistant Erica, and added it to its mobile app. (In 2018, Erica captured the People’s Choice Award at BAI’s Global Innovation Awards.)

The bank also allows customers to apply for a mortgage within its mobile app or online. In some cases, customers can land conditional approval in a single day. And while BofA maintains a nationwide network of 4,500 human-staffed branches, some new locations will become tellerless. It has already opened Robo Branches in Denver and Chicago; it expects to open about 500 more in the next three years.

In a tellerless branch, a virtual concierge greets customers and can direct them to a private conference room. There they can meet Skype-style with a specialist such as a loan or mortgage officer. It’s a different kind of branch experience, perhaps one our survey respondents had in mind when they said branch transformation was their third-highest customer experience priority for 2019.

Putting it all together: Customers won’t wait

The innovations driving omnichannel customer experience excellence are much more than a nice gesture. They’re absolutely essential as banks lose relevance with each generation.

In 2017, when we asked millennials if they would prefer an online-only financial services provider if it offered better rates, 18 percent said yes. A year later, the percentage soared to 28 percent. GenXers went from 16 percent to 21 percent, and boomers went from 9 percent to 11 percent.

When customers do open an online account, two-thirds of the time it’s at an online-only bank, according to our 2019 Outlook research. Such organizations don’t have the overhead of a branch network or the burden of legacy data systems that don’t efficiently talk to each other.

But customers want it all, from the personal touch of branches to state-of-the-art, AI-powered mobile apps. The financial services providers that master all omnichannel touchpoints will remain relevant by providing customers the right tools and establishing new standards for customer experience excellence.


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Karl Dahlgren is managing director of Research at BAI.

For more articles like this, check out our recent BAI Executive Report: Raising the customer engagement bar

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