When Providing “More” Service Leads to “Less” Satisfied Customers

An often-misunderstood concept in banking is that of what constitutes “multichannel.” The problem lies in the fact that there is no universal definition of what multichannel is, leaving each vendor or article scribe to craft their own version of the term.  I certainly cannot speak for the entire financial technology vertical, but let me suggest that the import of multichannel, as it is most frequently used, describes the various points at which a customer can come into contact with a financial institution for any given service and that there is a consistency of that experience across any and all available touchpoints.

By way of example, say you offer online account opening on a mobile device and as an option for funding a new account, you allow an ACH debit to an external account.  Yet, if that same customer is standing in your lobby and opening a new account with a CSR, an ACH debit to an external account is not a funding option.  If that scenario is true at your institution, you are not exhibiting a multichannel approach to banking services.  There are dozens, even hundreds of examples similar to the one I highlight above. You can see just how frustrating it would be for a customer if the experience of interacting with their financial institution was so incongruous across multiple touchpoints (channels), so a critical activity that you should perform in the near term is a customer journey across all your services to root out existing multichannel shortcomings.

Financial Brand’s article “6 Steps to Delivering a Satisfying Multichannel Customer Experience” interested me (read the full article here). The key focus of the article explains as an FI expands its channels in the interest of providing a more robust service, it can literally create a scenario where the multichannel service mismatch creates more problems than it purports to solve.  The lack of integration and standardization across channels can tank the best intentions of financial institutions seeking to increase the customer experience. The article highlighted six specific steps to building an effective multichannel customer service experience that is consistently outstanding:

Embrace technological integration: Establish the proper integration to enable data to flow across all channels and to be available across all channels. Nothing is more frustrating for a customer than constantly providing basic account or personal information that a) You already have and b) they just entered 5 minutes ago. Lack of proper data integration also prevents customer service representatives from accessing a comprehensive view of each customer’s interactions and history, making it challenging to tailor solutions effectively.

Invest in advanced analytics: Deploy analytics tools that track all relevant customer data and activity, including relevant activity that occurs outside of the FI. This enables you to analyze and gain insight into sentiment analysis and customer behavior patterns. Then train your staff to properly use the resulting wisdom to make meaningful and paternalistic recommendations that result in a dramatic increase for the customers’ experience.

Prioritize automation and AI: I have written recently about AI and ChatGPT. Most bankers are still very wary about integrating these types of tools, but we have to get over concerns that are grinding us into inertia and work with vendors who can make the tools work for us with appropriate controls built in.  True AI powered chatbots are the future but make it easy for customers to opt-out of chatbot conversations if desired.

Empower all employees who are providing customer care: If you properly address the previous three elements, then go one step further and make sure that all customer facing employees have full access to all relevant customer data appropriate to their level of customer contact. If an employee is charged with providing support to customers using mobile or online banking, then they should access to see what the customer is seeing, so they can provide immediate and contextual response to a customer issue.

Gather and act on customer feedback: Every institution can poll their customers to ascertain sentiment on the customer experience. Every in-person interaction can be an opportunity to ask two questions and have the responses entered into the CRM for analysis.  We don’t have to guess what our customers think, we can ask them.  Offer a monthly open house on a Thursday afternoon with refreshments and have an open forum on how the institution can improve the customer experience.

Monitor and measure: It strikes me as odd that very few FIs monitor social media to see if anyone is talking about them. Good or bad, you should know ANYTIME your FI is mentioned online.  If good, you might reach out and thank someone for the kind words or do nothing and let the good times ride. If bad, you should definitely contact the commenter on the same platform they used to comment, apologize for any inconvenience and let them know that you will contact them offline and work to remediate the problem.  Everyone else that sees the bad comment will also see your response and that is all that is needed as evidence that you are an organization that watches the store and pays attention to customer satisfaction.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you officially embrace a systemic multichannel approach to banking, but what you must do is identify all mismatches of customer interaction across different touchpoints and eliminate them.  When your customers can see consistency across common areas where their needs and your access to data and systems intersect, then they will know that you are focused on making a high level of customer experience happen.  They could care less if you call it multichannel.

By the way, just because a vendor purports their services to be multichannel (or omnichannel, universal banking, etc.) doesn’t mean it actually is. You need to ask many questions to sort out exactly whether the technology you are acquiring will “play nice with others.” Sometimes you need to align a new technology’s features to your existing capabilities. Sometimes you need to adjust what you do today to align with new features you are rolling out. Either way works, just make sure you take the time prior to licensing to know which is going to change and how to achieve it.