Digital Shaping Customer Experience in the Banking Industry

Sara Rountree, SVP Digital Strategy, Union Bank & Trust

Sara Rountree, SVP Digital Strategy, Union Bank & Trust

There’s a revolution happening around the way we live and work which is driving the most rapid change in digital customer experience we’ve ever seen. Data and analytics are being used to develop increasingly more personalized experiences and consumers are becoming more fluent in the connected lifestyle. We see this most prevalently with Amazon with one click ordering and two-day shipping to the ultrafast delivery of household items with Prime Now. Amazon’s algorithms are becoming so adept at understanding customer preferences that they are often anticipating customer needs through recommendations far in advance of purchase.

"Digital will be the underlying thread for all customer interactions to drive a more seamless customer experience"

We’re experiencing a change in the Banking Industry, too. Today, customers have a different connection with money than they did five to ten years ago and their expectations around payment and card are changing. Customers have moved into a culture of speed and convenience, and now are expecting a fast and seamless experience when paying electronically. A negative customer experience can be as simple as experiencing delays or hassles when making electronic payments.

While cash and cards are still the primary mode of payment in the banking landscape, the digital channel lines are going to blur in the future. Digital will be the underlying thread for all customer interactions to drive a more seamless customer experience. While this benefits the customer, it will also require that banks re-think customer acquisition since consumers will be looking for a holistic, seamless experience rather than slowing down their day to complete tasks in only one channel. We’re living in the age of the customer which calls us to ask the right question now more than ever before – how can I best serve this individual and provide the banking experience they want and need.

How are customers’ expectations changing?

The amount of time that the “wow factor” lasts is simply decreasing and innovation is reaching the market at an exciting new tempo. Years ago, having a mobile app was “innovative” and now it’s just table stakes. We’ve come a long way from the check, but most recently customers’ expectations have changed dramatically with the emergence of wallets, contactless cards and tokenization.

Digital is a way of doing things and interacting with customers, and one of the big game changers in the digital space is the shift to real time payments. Zelle was one of the first companies to bring faster payments to the market. Rather than waiting days for a transaction to be processed, a customer can access the funds in only minutes.

Simultaneous cultural shift

While real time payment opens up new conveniences, there’s also a simultaneous cultural shift taking place. Don’t have time to mail a check or run to the ATM? No problem. Now that a transaction can be initiated whenever and wherever through a personal device, the rush of a last minute errand around banking is alleviated. Freeing up both time and relieving anxiety – but also taking away the excuse that you don’t have cash on the spot.

It’s important to look beyond the technology to understand how new forms of banking may be changing social norms. Today, a generation of people will grow up with the understanding and expectation of an instant transfer of money. Imagine seeing your money in real time – if you split lunch, then you can share $8.64 instantly. A new generation will grow up with a very different mindset than “pay you back later” approach when accountability and exchange is instantaneous.

Be aware of the human aspect.

It’s arguable that with this culture of instantaneous, the emotional aspect to how people manage their money is more important than ever. Customers still want to know that there’s a person there to support them when it comes to accessing their money and executing some of the most important financial decisions of their life like purchasing a car, home or securing retirement. Banks will see the most success if they’re able to leverage the freedom of customer autonomy while still having a real person to help them in a time of need.

This is a unique advantage that we have at Union Bank & Trust, Virginia’s first statewide, independent bank in more than 20 years. According to the Harris Poll on behalf of D3 Banking, 58 percent of Americans would rather bank with a local/regional financial institution over a national one, but 42 percent said they prefer to bank with a national institution because they offer a better digital banking experience.

At Union, we believe banking should be easier. That’s why we’re bringing a digital experience to our customers so they can experience the best of both worlds – customer service and a better digital banking experience.

How to navigate customer needs

But it’s easier said than done to navigate these changing customer needs. Especially when no two customers have the same exact banking needs. It’s important to support all spectrums. From the customer that primarily has a cashdriven business to the person on the go who wants to seamlessly interact with their checking, savings and investments.

While we can’t say what the next five years in the payment and card space will look like exactly, it’s certain that agility will be the underlying key to success. The most successful banks will be the ones that are able to respond nimbly while listening to the customer. Because isn’t serving the customer really what it’s all about?

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