Service as a bank differentiator looks different now

It’s all about leveraging digital for a better experience for customers and employees.

The past two years have accelerated digital experiences across the banking industry, and customers have embraced the change. Banks learned they could move quickly in a crisis. They stood up new digital channels in days, changed processes and leveraged portals to handle service requests. As digital transformation has accelerated for banks, customer expectations have shifted in meaningful ways as well.

Banks today need to break down silos and effectively leverage data across their organizations with modern technologies like artificial intelligence and automation. They must understand the customer journey, anticipate customer needs and create seamless and exceptional end-to-end service experiences. In addition, improving the employee experience leads to a better customer experience.

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Banks that intend to stand out for service must act upon the following imperatives:

Deliver proactive omnichannel service

Traditional service channels—in person at a branch and via phone—are still important. But digital can now be the first line of support for all customer service.

A service event can start via self-service and eventually leverage capabilities like chatbots, live chat, SMS or other digital tools. Decreasing the number of queries from phone and in-person interactions allows organizations to reserve live support for situations when it matters most. And as a bonus, digital interactions generate a wealth of data that banks can use to deliver a better experience.

Enable a unified workspace

Many banks are now navigating a hybrid model, with some employees returning to the office and others continuing to work from home. In addition, there aren’t enough workers, so call volumes per agent have gone up dramatically. Banks need to enable employees to be more productive by spending less time searching for answers. That means leveraging the rich data they have on customers across channels and systems to derive insights.

Another concept is keeping the customer’s story whole and connected. Almost nothing feels less personal or more frustrating to customers than having to repeat why they are calling. Say a new small-business owner used a digital channel to open an account. Wouldn’t it be great if that customer received a welcome call from a business banker to describe the account’s features, connecting a digital experience to a very human one?

Empower everyone with automation

Automating service processes can improve customer experiences by using data to recognize the customer journey, anticipate needs and automate the response. It takes unnecessary human interaction out of the experience to offer excellent service at scale. But each customer is still delighted and feels seen and valued, which builds trust.

In the fifth edition of Salesforce’s State of the Connected Consumer survey, more than 80% of respondents said the experience of dealing with a company is as important as its products and services and 90+% will make another purchase from a company that provided good service. Only a quarter of respondents felt financial services companies provide great customer service and support, so there’s a lot of room for banks to do better.

Scale and personalize with data and AI

Data and analytics have two jobs. The first is to provide business leaders with better insights to manage and operate the business. The second—which banks haven’t quite mastered yet—is more systemic, involving questions such as: How do we understand what’s happening across a specific customer base? Is there a trend we need to address? How can we be proactive?

Leveraging data and analytics leads to a better customer experience and helps banks with risk and compliance. Why are there so many fee reversals with this new product? Was it built correctly?

The common theme among these four imperatives is artificial intelligence. AI serves up the answers to critical questions when it comes to providing consistent, intuitive, quality service right now. While we’re early in its adoption as a financial services tool, AI promises to be a major differentiator for banks – but only if they continue to innovate quickly and think well outside their traditional comfort zone.

Kelly Horn is a banking solution and strategy director at Salesforce.

Find valuable insights for banks and credit unions as they adapt their customer-service strategy across ever-evolving channels in the BAI Executive Report, “Changing priorities in bank customer service.”