Hanging up on yet another pesky call offering me a loan that I’ve repeatedly refused, I’ve often wondered whether my bank really knows me. On a meaningful level.

With the proliferation of channels, banks and customers today are engaged in incessant dialog over email and direct mail, SMS, phone and the occasional branch visit. Space is no object when there are online channels to shrink distances. Neither is time, with 24/7 banking being the new reality.

But does this really mean that banking providers and consumers are coming closer? Not in my view.

The truth is that this hyper multi-channel connectivity is accompanied by a rising disconnect as intimacy, personalization, and customer confidence go out of the banking relationship.

The signs are plain to see in the carpet bomb communication, impersonal transactions and undifferentiated treatment meted out by modern-day banking. But for those who would like some validation, here are a few numbers:

  •  In their 2011 Global Consumer Banking Survey, Ernst & Young say that over 40% of customers complain about not getting sufficient personal attention from their bank.
  •  In a study that Forrester conducted a couple of years ago in the U.S., Credit Unions – which typically have much smaller networks, and still have some characteristics of old world banking – took top honors in trustworthiness, and were perceived as doing what was best for their customers. The biggest banks came in last, global reach and channel network notwithstanding.
  •  An April 2011 report from Accenture says that consumers are not only banking on more channels, they’re also banking with more service providers. Multi-channel banking is now hygiene – customers will change banks for it, but will not stay because of it.
  •   The latest edition of the BAI-Finacle survey of customer sentiment shows a big gap between the banking industry’s view of how customers perceive it and the actual perception of customers.

The irony is that today, banks have access to extensive customer information and tools of technology, which they can leverage to engage more closely with customers. For instance, they can compensate the impersonal aspect of banking channels by incorporating “human-like” interaction management technology. They can connect with customers en masse or one on one, over social media platforms. With the right channel solution, they can deliver a personalized banking experience through the ATM, Internet and mobile.

By exploiting these technologies, banks can use their multiple channels to not simply contact, but to connect with customers in a way that counts.

Discussion highlights from LinkedIn group 


Rob MallensRob Mallens • Banks like many other organisation struggle with the question “Who would we like to be for our customers?” – The Identity Question. Or more easy: The answer to the question: How are our customers going to experience our customer contact as a typical “our company” contact? The answer(s) to that question should also be reflected in the branding messages
Sumathi Venkitaraman

Sumathi Venkitaraman • Rob, that’s very true. In fact, the bigger the bank the greater the challenge! In my mind the distance between who formulates the value and its mode of communication is just too far removed from who actually delivers it..don’t you think?

 Rob MallensRob Mallens • Sumathi, I think your observation is right. There is number of causes for this:

– not all (banking) organizations have a well defined corporate identity;
– not all (banking) organizations have a strong branding in which this identity is communicated to its environment (which defines customer expectations)
– and foremost almost non of the (banking) organizations have made a translation of these brand and internal values to a desired customer experience

This desired customer experience should be the starting point and the reference point for organizational change. From the defined desired customer experience the organization can determine what employee behaviour should be encouraged to construct these desired customer experience with the customer. After that the questions: “What leadership will enable our employees to construct the desired customer experience? and “In what environment (culture) should our employees work to be able to construct the desired customer experience? should be answered. In answering these questions it is important to include various levels in the organization, this to create a common ground and commitment.

After this the translation of outcomes above to the many different organizational processes can take place. For example, the coaching process in a customer service environment, the product development process and the organizational performance management processes.

Rick KirkhamRick Kirkham • Some great points made above. It’s not enough to just communicate with customers, that communication should be personal and relevant otherwise it may as well be spam. Start with what experience you want to provide and how you want customers to feel when they interact with you and work back from there.
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