Amid today’s ultra-competitive banking landscape, you might think at first glance that digital and physical channels remain locked in an all-out battle, each using any advantage to lure customers to their side. But a closer look reveals that’s far too simplistic an interpretation: In fact, in a recent McKinsey & Co. survey, global banks reported that while 60% of customers use digital channels (online and mobile) to conduct their banking needs, digital accounts for only one-quarter of sales — 20 percent online and 5 percent mobile.
The takeaway? While digital channels have transformed banking in astounding ways, a significant percentage of sales still happen elsewhere, most likely in-branch and involving face-to-face interaction.
Banking leaders who seek to deeply understand when and why customers turn to both online and offline offerings are poised to benefit their institutions most.
Similar to McKinsey’s findings, JRNI’s third annual Modern Consumer Banking Report illustrates that customers want human interaction with their banks. However, they also want to use technology to enhance their relationships, and research and purchase products and services.
In other words, consumers demand multichannel journeys from their banks. They want to schedule appointments online, attend in-branch events, and receive outstanding service — and they expect all of these personalized touchpoints to reflect their individual preferences.
Bridge the digital/physical divide through one-on-one appointments
In-person conversations fuel the banking industry, as consumers turn to their institutions for individualized advice that helps them reach their financial goals.
That’s why consumers visit banks to complete high-value transactions, such as finalizing mortgage applications, refinancing, or analyzing long-term finances. They can’t receive the same strategic counsel online as they would offline, so they schedule appointments with their banks to discuss complex questions in person.
In fact, 61% of consumers express interest in scheduling appointments online to meet with branch staff. Interestingly, 35% of consumers, up from 25% of consumers in 2016, visit banks to talk face-to-face.
When customers schedule appointments with bank representatives, they can have in-depth conversations. These one-on-one dialogues focus on customers’ specific needs, putting them at the center of the conversation and strengthening relationships on both sides of the table.
Most importantly, appointments bridge the digital-to-physical divide, enabling customers to schedule appointments online before visiting branches for their meetings. It’s the perfect blend of online and offline.
Make the most of in-branch events
Banks might not be known for their events, but there exist tremendous opportunities for them to organize their own gatherings. These can range from financial planning seminars to college preparation workshops, which not only impart important information but also help banks grow their customer relationships, establish themselves as real partners, and develop loyal communities.
While only 20% of consumers have been invited to banking events over the past year, 63% of them would consider attending events. When consumers step into branches, banks can educate them about new and existing products and services, while fostering communities of like-minded individuals.
For example, if many customers frequently ask branch employees about retirement, banks may consider holding retirement seminars to introduce strategies for managing finances for this milestone. Participating customers can network with others planning and saving for retirement, while receiving expert advice from staff.
Consumers who attend events can become some of a bank’s most engaged customers. These customers voluntarily share their feedback about products and services because they’ve shown their loyalty. It’s time for banks to reciprocate the allegiance.
Outstanding service remains paramount
The good news for banks is that the overwhelming majority of consumers — 72% of them — rate their in-branch experiences as “excellent” or “good.” Additionally, overall retail bank customer satisfaction has improved in the past decade, as have satisfaction scores with in-person branch service, according to J.D. Power.
However, customers point to many areas where banks can improve their services to provide better business.
Long wait times continue to impact branches, and 67% of customers want banks to reduce time spent waiting in lines. Customers just don’t have time to stand in lengthy queues. They want their bank visits to fit into their day, instead of planning their day around these visits. When customers arrive in-branch, they expect staff availability to match their demand.
As customers want to know more about products and services that can improve their financial lives, 69% of them want bank representatives to increase their knowledge of their offerings. When branch staff better understand their products and services, consumers will bank more with them because they’ll understand how these items affect their finances.
Physical locations of banks remain very important to consumers, and 70% of people say they want more convenient locations at which to bank. Customers will visit banks more often if branches are more accessible, and close to their homes or offices.
The state of banking is changing as technology continues to evolve and makes consumers more productive and efficient. Consumers still want to forge personal relationships with their banks, and while technology can enhance their relationships, it can never supersede them.
Customers want personalized multichannel interactions, and banks must deliver. If they don’t, customers will walk away instead of continuing down the path toward long-term loyalty.
John Federman is CEO of JRNI, an enterprise SaaS scheduling platform that helps financial services companies personalize and optimize the customer journey.
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