The buying process for multichannel customers

Channel integration is the new Holy Grail for banks. They are making substantial investments in developing mobile banking solutions while improving their web presence and Contact Center solutions. Personally, I am glad that front office finally is allocated a larger share of the IT-budget after been neglected in the fury to replace back office systems to minimize transaction costs, operational risks and time-to-market. But, I question whether the customers will gain any real benefits from these investments. They will most likely appreciate the improvement in the contact points but will it provide the channel integration they expect for their buying process?

This blog post will take the view of the multichannel customer to identify gaps during the buy process that hampers the customer experience and the conversion rates for the banks. In addition, I will try to present four solutions to how these gaps can be bridged.

The picture below gives a conceptual view on the customers buying process and how the customer may leverage different channels for each step.

Gap 1 – the generic home page

In this example, the buying process starts on the Internet. The customer is browsing web sites of travel agencies, car dealers, real estate agents or other sites that trigger a financial need. It may be awkward for banks to recognize that the financial need is subordinate to the customer. It is merely the means to attain the idea that is triggered outside of the banks’ public pages.  So, how does the bank welcome this potential customer when he/she enters the bank’s pages? In most cases, we have a gap here where the customer enters the static home page or, if the customer has used Google, a detailed level three page.

Imagine that the home page would be tailored to the customer based on his/her profile, information on what site the customer arrived from and, optimally, that the content is continuously fine-tuned to the customer based on the customer’s behavior at the site.

Gap 2 – the barrier to fast answers

Next, the customer will start analyzing the data that he/she has gathered on the bank site. It is not uncommon that the brochures and marketing material render questions. As a customer, I want quick answers. I am not interested in waiting in phone lines, traversing voice menus or having to authenticate myself using a code box to get a quick answer to a simple question.

I was asked once by the head of the customer center for one of the largest public organization in Sweden what they could learn from the banks. It was probably a trick question because she didn’t look surprised when I told her that it is the other way around. I find it puzzling that the banks have not embraced chat as an opportunity to serve several customers simultaneously with quick answers. Yes, there are compliance aspects in the banking industry and a need to archive conversations but that can be resolved. Another issue that has to be resolved is the need to “upgrade” the session to a 1:1 dialogue when needed.

Gap 3 – no immediate scheduling

During the conversion between the contact center agent and the customer, it may become evident that customer needs to meet a certified advisor in a physical meeting at the branch.  Currently, contact center agents at most banks are unable to schedule a meeting between the customer and an available advisor at the branch of choice.

Most of us are used to make reservations to our favorite restaurant using the web. The same functionality should be available to contact center agents and eventually to customers.

Gap 4 – the lack of continuity

When meeting an advisor, it is common that customers want to postpone the decision so that they can talk to their partner when they get home. It is just as likely that the discussion at home will trigger questions that were not addressed during the session with the advisor.  So the customer is now faced with the options to take the questions over the phone or scheduling a new meeting with the advisor.

Imagine that the customer can log into the on-line banking service to check whether the advisor is available and then start a video conference session where they can build on their previous discussion and the advisor can share his/her desktop and advisor guide to answer remaining questions.

Conclusion

To summarize, I think that banks that want to build a relationship to their customers and recognize that the customers use multiple channels will yield a higher return on their IT-investments if they bridge the gaps in the buying process instead of optimizing each customer contact point.

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