Meeting the Shifting Needs of Customer Experience in Banking

Banks are in a predicament.

Three-quarters of banks report they’re actively working on a customer experience (CX) improvement plan. It’s imperative that they tackle the demands of today while preparing for the needs of tomorrow.

I recently spoke with David Porter, Managing Director of Financial Services at Genesys, who participated in the panel, “Partners in transformation: Meeting the demands of today and tomorrow” at the Genesys G-Summit in Australia. David has spent many years building and growing businesses at financial services companies like J.P. MorganChase and American Express.

He shared some insights on how macrotrends like inflation and labour shortages will directly affect customer experience in banking. And he explains how the financial services industry needs to be agile enough to adapt to these shifts to gain the competitive edge and thrive in challenging times.

What will the next two years look like across financial services? 

David Porter: We can’t predict the future, but we do see facts and trends in interest rates, inflation, production difficulties and labour shortages. Together, these are headwinds. The question is: How long will the headwinds last and how strong can they get?

There are obvious impacts on margins as interest rates increase — these can be good and not so good. There are consequences on default rates as consumers face economic shocks. An economic downturn often means fewer mortgage applications but more requests for refinancing and possibly more delinquency.

Many financial services companies will need to offer an exceptional customer service experience to compete for business. They also might have to increase staffing to address a higher volume of collections calls. Many will be more focused on preserving balance sheet strength and cost savings.

Banks have invested in self-serve capabilities over the last 10 years. How will that continue to evolve?

Porter: Together, data and people are usually key elements to driving better outcomes in financial services. Humans are social; they want real-time, human-to-human contact. To be successful, banks should establish both digital and human interaction channels.

Bringing humanity back into the banking sector and putting empathy into action requires executives to think of better ways to do customer experience in banking. The technologies to achieve this are cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learning. These technologies empower banks and their customer service agents to better understand and engage customers.

And as channels expand to meet clients’ needs, so does connectivity. Digital banking is bringing a new wave of contact volume, with 3.5X higher contacts in 2022 than in 2017.

What is the future for physical bank branches?

Porter: There’s no one universal correct answer for what these new connected channels look like. To illustrate this, think about French consumer banks.

The model is: We’re keeping the branches but changing the role of the folks in them. We’ll equip branch personnel with new training, connectivity technology and put local humanity into digital channels. That’s a more definitive trend than what we see in North America, where banks are still figuring it out. We expect to see this adoption slowly spread to this region.

What do Millennials and Generation Z consumers expect from their banks?

Porter: Financial services companies are shifting from delivering products and services through physical distribution to a new client experience driven by digital and a close alignment to client needs and preferences.

As digital banking experiences become more ubiquitous, the financial services industry faces a new paradigm where consumers expect immediate, contextual and personalised solutions.

That means much more contact. If banks don’t have aligned contact mechanisms, clients will just pick up the phone and call. And that can be a problem, especially if banks are wrestling with retention and have challenges filling all their open job requisitions in customer care.

Consumers also want the ability to interact with their advisors on their preferred channels. They want financial advisors to know them and be there at the moment of truth with the most personalised solutions. Again, that means an increase in contact volume and channel use.

You mentioned the trend of labour shortages. What do banks have to do to attract and retain highly skilled customer experience teams?

Porter: The pandemic has led to a shift in employee behaviours, expectations and how workers want to manage their work-life balance. While there are strong signs of a “return to work,” banks still face tight market conditions this year. A senior bank executive recently noted, “Never in my 40-plus years in banking have I seen labour shortages at the level they’re at now.”

We think this translates into “fewer suits, more hoodies.” This doesn’t mean a focus on dress codes — it’s a mindset. It’s important for work environments to reflect how we live. Banks see key competition for top new talent — not from other banks, but from Google, Microsoft and tech start-ups.

Employees are no longer restricted by geography in jobs. So, attracting the right talent has also become a challenge.

Training is key in a modern, digital workplace. For example, video-advising, which seemed unthinkable for advisors in branches only months ago, is now a reality.

According to a 2020 Accenture study, only 15% of consumers had spoken to a bank advisor via video call before the pandemic. But 46% said they would use a video call even after branches reopened. Thirty-five percent would prefer to use this method over an in-person meeting.

Employee engagement has become just as important as customer experience in banking. One out of two companies are working on reducing turnover rates through flexible hours, increasing compensation, adding agent analytics, supervisor coaching, career planning and gamification.

By taking an empathy-first approach toward customers and employees, banks can improve the overall well-being of contact centre teams. For example, the Thrive Reset program gives employers access to a stress intervention solution that focuses on the root causes of employee burnout.

Banking Customer Experience Success Starts with Employee Engagement

Meeting customers where they are — on their channels of choice — is vital for success. As banks embrace more digital channels, they need to also be sure they can fill physical branches with highly skilled, engaged and motivated customer experience teams.

To ensure their customers are met with personalised and empathetic experiences, banks must also treat their workforce with empathy. They need to properly train them and give them the tools needed to do their jobs efficiently. Improving employee satisfaction will boost retention. And that will benefit the overall banking customer experience.

To learn more about insights on the shifts driving CX priorities, download The State of Customer Experience in Financial Services.