Consumers and businesses are increasingly embracing digital technologies and devices in all stages of their buying process. Although banks have embraced a multi-channel strategy where customers are able to research and buy financial products through multiple channels, including the branch, online, and customer service, banks have yet to embrace an omnichannel strategy. The primary difference between multichannel and omnichannel is that omnichannel banking provides a consistent experience across channels with seamless access to financial products and services where and when they are needed.
Today, consumers and businesses are able to choose from more than 100 financial products at almost any institution. There are many variables to consider including demographics as well as eligibility and the product recommendation process can be fairly complex. It is very difficult for all customer-facing bank representatives to learn the intricacies of 100 financial products so that they can assess the needs of a prospect and make the appropriate product recommendation. It is quite possible for a small business owner to visit two separate branches at the same financial institution, visit the website, and call customer service and receive completely different recommendations from all four encounters.
At a large regional bank with hundreds of branches, it was recently discovered that nearly 98% of customers in a particular segment were in the free checking account. The most likely reason for this is that free checking is easiest to sell. Needs and eligibility based analysis revealed that over 30% of these customers were not in the optimal account – for the customer or the bank.
Banks need to implement technology to help develop a consistent sales process across all channels. However, the omnichannel initiative has extensive IT implications that could take years and millions of dollars to implement.
There are steps that banks can take to ensure consistency and bridge the gap between the online and the in-branch experience that require smaller investments, that can be deployed with minimal IT enrollment, no infrastructure disruptions, and can be implemented within 90 days.
The first step to bridging the gap is to implement guided selling. Guided selling is a process that helps potential buyers of products or services to choose the product best fulfilling their needs. Guided selling simplifies and accelerates the sales process by automating the first part of the process.
Consider this – when a prospect peruses a banking web site or when they walk into a branch, they already realize they have a need for financial products. From this point, there are several things that need to happen before this prospect can be converted into a new account opening including:
1. Conducting a needs assessment
2. Determining the right products
3. Establishing eligibility for those products
4. Overcoming objections
5. Closing the deal
Guided selling automates the first three steps in this process. Guided selling starts with a needs assessment that includes asking a series of questions to understand the prospect’s current situation. The guide uses the collected information, banking thresholds, and eligibility to evaluate the responses and returns recommended product bundles to meet the specific needs of the customer in real-time. The needs assessment can be used directly by the prospect on the website or by banking personnel using a tablet or PC in the branch and call center as an interactive tool to provide a consultative, direct touch experience for the customer.
Guided selling provides the following immediate benefits:
• Consistent product recommendations - Automation creates consistent product recommendations across all channels.
• Reduced complexity – Guided selling takes the complexity out of determining eligibility and product recommendations enabling bank representatives to focus on overcoming objections, closing sales opportunities and developing long term relationships.
• Qualified leads - Highly qualified online leads are generated based on the prospects’ needs today, not outdated demographics data.
• Real-time market snapshot – Customer data collected at the point-of-sales is representative of real-time market conditions and can be used for marketing and product development. With real-time data bank executives can quickly spot branch trends, gain actionable insights about their customers and reveal potential fee-generating sales opportunities that are otherwise difficult to find.
• Robust management tool - Once banks are able to make consistent product recommendations they are able to track what has been recommended against what was sold. Management is able to quickly determine whether the revenue in each channel is generating fee income or interest income. They have real data that shows which channel and which branches are profitable and which branches need coaching or even closing. The knowledge of real data helps banks efficiently allocate resources, improve profitability and enhance banks value.
Guided selling is a practical first step to transform a multichannel strategy into an omnichannel reality. It is easy and quick to implement and provides significant immediate benefits.
Mitchell Orlowsky is the CEO of Ignite Sales, a provider of data and analytics-based sales and marketing solutions for banks.