Be Interested. Be Interesting. Be human.

December 8, 2014
Bryan Clagett

The data dialog is missing a significant component as it pertains to retail banking. It focuses on getting data and leveraging that data to drive relevancy and context. In other words, we’re all suppose to use data so we can better target consumers for offers that they respond to. Ok, we all get that. But if all financial institutions start using data as they should, and eventually they will, we’re just falling right back into the same commodity trap we’re in today.

Omni-channel banking, the terribly overused, if not antiquated phrase, is also missing the consumer banking boat. David Gibbard recently blogged on the subject and said “the future of banking is bi-directional channel banking, the next step beyond omni-channel banking.” In short, he logically proposes that channels used by consumers and bank/CU staff, be closer aligned and share the same data. David goes on to say “The best customer experience can only occur if both the customer and the bank/credit union customer facing teams are on the same page.” This makes complete sense, particularly if the financial services industry can use data and interactions, regardless of channel, to genuinely connect with consumers on a more emotional level. This is includes predicting consumer needs and serving in more of an advisor role.

The neo banks have done a good job of trying to reduce the chore of banking with its friction, and you of course should too (and you are likely beginning to do so.) Neo banks have realized that traditional banks are viable distribution partners, and in fact, their survival may depend on partnering with banks, not competing against them. While they focus on UX and digital solutions, they are in essence simply repackaging and distributing other banking services and products. What some may lack is personal consumer engagement. Guess what? Virtual and physical sales channels are going to grow in importance for consumers financial product decisions that are deemed high emotional value.

Retail bankers must continue to recognize that consumer banking is very much tied to a human experience. When consumers use your services, for whatever reason, there is context tied to an event, a need or a purchase. We’re so focused on the transaction, that we can forget that. If I’m applying for a car loan, I’m dreading the loan process, but I’m excited about getting behind the wheel of the car. That new car smell is intoxicating. It’s a human experience. The mortgage application process is a nightmare from a consumer POV and anxiety can be overwhelming. The borrower is excited about the new home, but the process of applying for a mortgage and waiting for approval and funding, is a real drag. The consumer interest and emotion is tied to the purchase and that is where financial institutions have tremendous opportunity. Unlike neo banks, financial institutions (FIs) are well staffed and have broad distribution capabilities. Perhaps that’s why startups like Manilla failed and why dot.coms like Simple and Moven have turned to retail banks for distribution.

Communication can’t be a one-way street where FIs broadcast their products to customers who may or may not buy them. The user experience (UX) and human experience (HX) must collide and bankers need to show interest, be interesting and be human. Listening and reacting to the customer's voice and recognizing that the FI is enabling human fulfillment, can result in more satisfied and loyal customers. Offering products and services that make the consumer feel good and cared about, is an obvious imperative. This helps create a sense of belonging, empowerment, trust and security, all critically important to helping you differentiate in an evolving financial services arena. We have so much data, and all the channels in place, we just need to find more ways to be relevant and in tune with needs and motivational and behavioral factors that impact financial decision making. The banking industry needs to remember, it's in the people business.

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