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Five ways banks can enhance and master the human touch


Since the proliferation of ATMs and rise of digital banking, many banks have touted their human credentials to win back loyal customers and deepen relationships. Brand campaigns depict warm smiles exchanged over increasingly symbolic countertops—assumedly to defrost the image of the self-serving bank and promise an understanding of the people they serve.

Yet some of the greatest human needs remain unmet by banks despite the best marketing efforts, including Chase’s beautifully crafted Mastery 2.0 campaign. If financial services organizations want to remain profitable, it’s time to harness data and technology to offer products and services that truly fit customers’ financial lives.

Passing the test of consumer stress

People are not walking calculators. They don’t always know which financial decisions best fit their individual life stages. And money remains a top source of stress in the U.S. Most Americans don’t feel in control of their financial futures, and financial decisions have an enormous impact on people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

When taking all of this into consideration, a need emerges for financial brands to offer services that enable healthy financial behaviors and better individual financial control. And for those banks slow to calibrate, beware: Fintech innovators such as Mint, Penny, Qapital and Stash are proving to intuitively meet people’s needs and help them achieve their financial goals better than traditional institutions.

Outside the banking industry, Spotify and Blue Apron are raising people’s expectations of customer service. Instead of relying on brand taglines, these services put user needs at the center of their products and inherently create a human touch—even as they conveniently serve people, instantaneously, through apps.

The path to better bank products: Paved with human values

Banks serious about championing human values must take cues from these brands and reimagine how banking fits into people’s everyday lives. Here are five tactics to utilize when doing so:

1) Redefine your role in people’s lives

Building an enduring brand presence requires a bank to precisely understand and empathize with customers as financial needs evolve. The more a bank serves each individual, the more valued the brand will become in a person’s life. If done right, a bank can elevate its purpose to the role of a life partner, advising and coaching people on financial behavior.

2) Craft a road map for organizational behavior change

You must fulfill your people-centric brand promise in every product, service and customer interaction. Transforming customer experiences demands executive alignment, an examination of team structures and a redesign of the way data and systems connect. The bank must:

3) Seek to understand individual financial behaviors

The wealth of transactional data available to banks means they possess the power to unlock a richer understanding of the individuals they serve. Data is a lifeline that enables brands to listen to people’s preferences and predict their needs. Leverage data to get a unique window into individual behaviors, and strive to view individuals in the context of their lives, not just as customers.

4) Make every. Moment. Count.

People judge a bank based on their many interactions with the brand over time. The brand’s foundation is built on millions of these individual moments. Thus banks must pinpoint the emotional highs and lows of each and identify the “micro-moments” that create friction or joy. These ripple through people’s lives and determine whether they progress on their journeys with the brand. Hunt for signals in the data and identify the precise contexts that shape people’s financial behavior.

5) Add value to the financial lives of every individual

Ultimately, a bank’s success depends on how the brand shows up at key moments in customers’ everyday lives. Focus on improving people’s relationships with their money and enable your bank to advance your customers’ financial health. Banks can achieve enormous traction by designing unique, emotive experiences that spur people to perform actions that shape business outcomes.

A faceoff with the future: Using data, deepen emotional ties

The industry is now engaged in a faceoff with its future. Banks need to stop trying to convince people they are human and, instead, better understand what it means to be human. Another way of putting this: Show, don’t tell.

Armed with this more precise understanding of people’s financial behavior, banks can leverage data and technology to fundamentally re-craft their relationships with their customers, deepen emotional ties, fuel advocacy and grow customer lifetime value. Banks that realize the opportunities ahead will change the nature of the industry forever, forging lucrative and enduring bonds with the people they serve. Put another way, banks that invest this way in consumers—delving into data and employing empathy—will find consumers who invest in them. 

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Paul Blockey serves as senior vice president, director of experience strategy and design for RAPP. A strategist and behavioral designer, he works at the intersection of psychology, data, technology and creativity.

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