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Humanizing digital channels is all about empathy

The key is putting the customer first: Know what they need, what they are trying to achieve and how you can best help them.

Sep 22, 2022 / Digital Banking

Customer experience in banking has changed. While digital capabilities and new apps have made banking more accessible, visiting branches remains important for many customers. With these dynamics, understanding today’s customer has become complex and requires banks to rethink their operating model.

While some may see this as more work, it’s really more of a change in priorities—an opportunity to differentiate the bank’s brand. The best way to do this is to put the customer first: Know what customers need, what they are trying to achieve and how you can best help them.

It’s about empathy.

Putting the customer first doesn’t mean your bank needs to dramatically change or compromise current operations. You can strike a successful, profitable balance. Financial services organizations can maintain their emotional connections with customers and deepen their customer relationships. Empathetic customer service in both human and digital channels is a critical differentiator in a time of growing faceless automation and commoditization in the banking industry.

While personalized empathetic customer service has traditionally been delivered face to face, digital transformation has accelerated the opportunity for banks and financial institutions to deliver empathy in digital channels as well. Advanced technologies like the cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learning help deliver a sensitive and seamless customer experience across all channels.

Enabling fluid customer conversations across channels allows bankers to anticipate customer needs and desires. Regardless of channel, customer-centric banking translates to trust, a financial services organization’s most valuable asset.

Here are four steps to create empathy through your digital channel:

Listen: To stay competitive, financial services organizations must capture and analyze their customer interactions to gain a 360-degree view of the customer. Collecting and collating data across all interaction channels will help banks understand who customers are, where they’ve been and what’s happening to them now. AI captures data across all channels, so banks can pick up cues and intents in real time. This results in better self-service experiences, reduced handling times, increased outbound connection rates and higher customer satisfaction.

Understand and predict: Banks can transform the data collated and collected across their organizations into meaningful information. These insights from customer care, marketing and sales departments can be used to segment and cluster customer data and enrich it with AI to understand intent, predict outcomes and recommend next steps. Banks must leverage data to deliver seamless experiences, breaking down silos among ATMs, branches, mobile apps and online banking.

Act: Banks need to engage at the moment of truth, in the right way, with the right context. They need to be able to route engagements across any channel to the best resource for the situation—whether that is a self-service tool, a bot or an employee. When it comes to branch and remote bankers, this means surfacing dynamic knowledge as the conversation unfolds to help employees confidently guide customers to a resolution.

Learn: The last step is to capture and monitor the outcomes of interactions for continuous improvement. Understand where customer service is failing to add business value and determine how to correct course to deliver authentic experiences. This is done by capturing customer sentiment and feedback at varying levels, both during interactions and after. Banks can stay in control of processes such as customer onboarding, mortgage applications and account opening.


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With a sense of empathy and purpose at each step in the customer’s preferred channel, a bank is more efficient, and the customer is more satisfied. The benefits of operational efficiency and customer satisfaction accrue to the bottom line.

Financial services organizations that seamlessly connect the dots along the customer journey and communicate with customers in a consistent and compassionate voice across channels will have a significant competitive business advantage.

Benoit Malherbe is an industry executive with the banking practice at Genesys.

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”