The thing with every silver lining is that it has a cloud attached to it. In the last few decades, banks have taken giant strides in the use of automation. The electronic channel became – and possibly still is – the poster child of banking technology. Starting with the ATM, banks have used online channels, including the Kiosk, Internet and Mobile to revolutionize banking operations, service delivery and reach. And to engage with customers on an unprecedented scale, one-on-one, anytime, anywhere, at really low-cost. But the flip side of success of customer engagement in online channels is that it is putting offline engagement in the shade, very often at the cost of customer loyalty.

This is why I believe banks should be concerned.

1. Despite the explosion in unassisted channel usage, the branch is still the most popular channel of banking in most parts of the world. While the proportion of branch transactions to the total may have fallen, the absolute number has not.

2. Most important, even customers who routinely use self-service banking, seek the help of a bank employee when faced with a complex transaction, an important financial decision, or an annoying problem that they’re unable to solve by themselves. Thus the branch or call centre is still customers’ go-to channel for transactions that matter more than others.

And hence, nothing is more important than using that interaction to engage with customers deeply and meaningfully.

But how can the banks match the convenience at the branch or call centre with that of online channels, which are not only open all-hours, but also have the support of powerful interactive tools, such as websites, Personal Financial Management apps, blogs and social networks? Simple. By leveraging the one thing that these have, and online channels don’t – people.

In my book, empowering bank staff is the first step to creating better engagement.  Employees must be trained and empowered via technology in functional aspects as well as soft skills; the more versatile the technology, the greater the quality of engagement.

Umpqua Bank – a small bank in the U.S. – is living proof of this. The bank has a flat hierarchy in which a single “bank store” (as their branches are called) manager is assisted by a team of universal associates, all of whom are trained to perform multiple roles. By freeing employees of a “departmental” mind set and making service everyone’s responsibility, the bank has managed to build long-lasting relationships with customers.

Creating intimacy is equally important. With customers walking into the branch less frequently, every visit must be viewed as a rare opportunity to get to know them better. Banks must create a welcoming environment and allow them enough “free” time to attend to customers. Only then will staff – currently immersed in transaction fulfilment – be able to focus on customer engagement. They must also be provided customer information in an easy, intuitive manner so they can put their best foot forward in serving customers better. Also, banks must equip their employees to engage customers better is by providing them with adequate insight. This does not only mean giving branch and call centre staff visibility into customers’ transaction history and entire banking relationship in real time; the information must come with intelligent suggestions on what they can do to take the current interaction to the next level of engagement.

– By  CustomerXPsCustomerXPs offers real-time, intelligent products that empower banks with instant insights enabling influenced outcomes of deeper customer engagement and fraud-free transactions.Learn more about CustomerXPs Clari5

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