Roadmap to advisory services on-line

In a previous blog post, I argued that banks that recognize that they have multichannel customers have to take the next step and have their advisors follow their customers on-line. But we are not there yet. A search on Google returns three occurrences of “Multichannel advisors” (I am responsible for one of them) whereas you can find more than 30.000 references to “Multichannel Customers”. In this blog post, I will present a road map on how to implement on-line advisory and thereby provide both optimal customer experience and unmatched sales effectiveness.

Based on my discussions with players in the industry, I would guess that few, if any, banks will take a “plunge” and launch a multichannel advisory offering immediately. They will probably take it in steps to address their concerns sequentially. The table below present a possible road map but I want to stress that the number of steps and the order of these steps will depend on each player’s strategy, organization and IT Governance.

Contact Center On-line

The initial step is probably to hook up a number of designed agents at the contact center on-line. A roll out to a limited number of internal users will address the fear that resistance from advisors will provide a poor quality of service to customers. It is not only the risk that is contained with this initial step. The IT investment is limited, even if most players that make this investment probably will bundle it with a chat service. The financial services sector will eventually learn from success stories in the public sector and recognize that chat provides an accessible and cost efficient customer service channel.

We will probably see solutions where the chat is provided on the open pages for insensitive questions that can be answered without asking the customers to authenticate themselves. But when personal advice is needed, the advisor will call the customer and start an on-line advice session or schedule an on-line meeting that will be hosted on the on-line banking service. Calling the customer or inviting them to an on-line meeting on the protected pages will provide authentication and ensure Know-Your-Customer compliance.

The business case for this phase will probably be based on increased up-selling where agents will capture opportunities on-line that probably would be lost if the customer was asked to visit an advisor at a branch, e.g. a customer asks how to invest his/her tax refund.

Remote Experts

The next step on the road map is probably to connect experts on-line so that they can complement the service offerings to small branches and remote customers. I have long awaited the first mover that will think outside of the box in Private Banking. And the box in this, and many cases, is Stockholm. Everyone recognize that the number of Private Bankers in the capital has increased but the number of High NetWorth Individuals and Affluent customers are roughly the same. Why not evaluate a geographic expansion by starting with a remote private banking offer where customers can connect to experts using video facilities at the local branch? I think that is a more profitable alternative than eroding the exclusiveness and profitability of the offering by taking on new local clients that add more work than assets to manage.

Multichannel advisor

I am certain that we eventually will see banks with advisors that will follow their customers when they use the different channels during their buying process. Banks have to increase their conversion rates in order to improve the sales effectiveness in the branches. But, taking this step doesn’t have to be a massive roll-out. I would recommend a pilot with selected branches where the management is committed to carefully manage that their advisors make themselves available on-line.

The customers to the participating advisors will see whether the advisor is available when logging into the on-line banking service and then be able to start up an on-line session with a single click. During the session, the advisor will be able share applications with the customer to ensure that they have a common understanding of the situation and how to best attain the customer’s financial objectives.

Conclusion

Contrary to the hype in the industry, the customers do not want to limit their interactions with the bank to a mobile banking app. They want to leverage several channels during their buying process and they want advisory services and they expect the advisors to follow them on-line.

The good thing that the technology to enable a multichannel advisor is here already and it will be even more prevalent in the next years. Microsoft’s $ 8,5 billion acquisition of Skype indicate that Microsoft is making a huge bet on communications using video with their product Microsoft Lync.

I sincerely hope that the initial move from Skandia and possibly this road map can contribute to a changed mindset where advisory services are leveraged both in the branches and on-line to promote continuity, trust and a superior customer experience during the multichannel customer’s buying process.

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