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This is a guest post, contributed by Marc DeCastro, Research Director, Consumer Banking, IDC Financial Insights​.

The banking industry is no stranger to transformation, albeit every institution has its own pace and investment strategy for digital transformation. What cannot be denied however, is that the new normal post-COVID-19 will have an even larger reliance on digital technology while creating a "touchless customer experience."

IDC Customer Journey title slide

In this new-experience economy, banks are going to need to not only meet, but exceed customer expectations. What are financial institutions going to do to ensure that their customers can have the experience that they desire while feeling safe when visiting a branch, interacting with an advisor, or conducting routine and complex financial transactions?

Supporting the touchless customer experience will require the right amount of technology and acceptable in-person interactions to ensure that the financial institution is providing the necessary level of empathy while ensuring that the customers and employees remain safe. While handshakes will need to be put on hold, there are ways banks can safely engage with customers from the time that they enter the branch or reach out through digital channels.

Suggested actions include:

Develop and deploy solutions that can provide "empathy at scale." It’s important to recognize that many customers might be going through personal issues and the bank needs to identify those customers proactively. For example, providing loan amnesty is not something that a bank may want to run a promotional program around, but providing highly customized outreach programs using AI to analyze data and rapidly identify customers who are likely in need of outreach makes sense. Offer those customers the ability to skip a payment or temporarily increase a credit line and remove friction to make that happen. 

Understand what the data is telling you about each individual customer and respond in a way that evokes a response back, not just a marketing message.

Provide more self-service solutions within the branch, including interactive teller machines, kiosks, lockers to pick up negotiable instruments, and instant-issue debit card solutions.

Authenticate existing customers upon entry into a branch by using touchless biometrics, pre-staged transactions that simply require a quick ID verification, and beacons with geo-fencing solutions attached to mobile banking apps. The ability for a customer to be rapidly identified, or complete their transaction in the shortest amount of time possible will help limit the number of individuals in a location at any time, and will provide customers with an improved experience and less need to pull out plastic cards, use their mobile phone, or touch keypads to authenticate themselves.

The ability to successfully understand what a customer might be going through by using artificial intelligence to really analyze what is happening to the customer that might require modifications in outreach and product recommendations. It is not just about understanding the financial trends of the customer, but also identifying solutions that can help them get through difficult times or improve their position during and after a crisis.

If not already available, accelerate plans to implement scheduling solutions to allow individuals to meet either virtually or in a branch. These solutions need to be agile enough to allow existing clients and prospects the ability to connect with someone who has the knowledge to assist them with their financial needs. Scheduling solutions must work across online, mobile, chatbot and third-party apps to give the customer the platform flexibility that they need.

Review onboarding and account application processes and streamline as much as possible to minimize the need to come into a branch or interact with an employee. Taking advantage of QR and barcode reading solutions that can be read on a mobile device that authenticates government ID's will help with KYC requirements while minimizing the data entry requirements of the applicant. Photos from ID cards can also be used to populate facial recognition solutions.

As things progress, we may see more "hot spot" type activity where localized action is needed. Be prepared by targeting branches that require closure and have a plan in place to allow those employees to either become contact center agents, work in operations, or support an open branch. In addition, new processes may need to be developed to allow customers to take advantage of government led initiatives and those could change based all the way down to a city or town initiative. Banks will need to become much more agile and react swiftly to meet their customers ever changing needs.

The good news is, most of the above recommendations can be implemented using or enhancing existing infrastructure, and the industry has been unknowingly prepping for something like this for years by investing in the platforms that will allow for rapid deployment and scalability. This platform was built relying on mobility, analytics, and the cloud. The investments have allowed for the next wave of fintech solutions that will bring even more innovation and created a new vision on how customers will do their banking.

While regulation may drive some of this innovation, it will be incumbent upon the financial institution to properly transform its customer experiences by investing in solutions that provide the bank flexibility and agility in deployment models and offerings. Some of this technology includes things like advanced chatbots that utilize natural language, AI/ML, decisioning and process automation solutions to streamline bottlenecks in operational bank servicing processes. Equally important is the infrastructure and development of a microservice architecture which allows for flexibility, scalability, and continuous change.

Creating the necessary environment that will allow the bank to implement modifications based upon our rapidly changing world and create banking experiences tailored for the customer will be the key to success and building long term relationships even in our new touchless environment.

See also: "Improving the Customer Experience: The Top Objective for Financial Innovation," an IDC whitepaper sponsored by Red Hat.


About the author

Marc DeCastro is Research Director for IDC Financial Insights responsible for the consumer banking engagement strategy practice.  Mr. DeCastro’s core research coverage includes the complete omni-experience journey for the retail customer, including branch transformation, digital product strategies, and onboarding. Based on his background covering the consumer banking space, Mr.

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