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Life Without Channels: How to Provide a Seamless Customer Experience

Banks that fail to provide a seamless, singularly branded experience across all customer touch points risk alienating a new generation of customers. Here are some tips on developing a delivery strategy for a world without distinct channels.

'Channels Don't Go Away'

The urgency for channel integration will only intensify in the future as more channels emerge, says Diarmuid Mallon, head of product marketing, global messaging and mobile commerce for Dublin, Calif.-based mobile solutions provider Sybase 365. "The challenge for banks is that channels don't go away," he says. "In the 1990s, the Internet was added; in the 2000s, mobile and then the tablet. And while the customer's focus may shift between channels, none are going away. Just as the Internet didn't enable banks to close their branch network, neither will mobile or tablets."

Equally important, adds Mallon, is the fact that bank customers do not want to be bound to a single channel; instead, they want to choose the channel that works best for them for any given transaction. Banks that want to provide the best possible customer experience, he says, need to embrace multichannel banking.

"Driven by the consumerization of IT, the expectations of bank customers are changing," Mallon insists. "Mobile apps are reshaping the way users interact with their phones, and customers are increasingly demanding the ability to access both online and mobile services seamlessly. As a result, customers want an integrated and consistent banking experience across all channels. By far the biggest challenge is that users expect to self-serve and never read a manual."

Mallon adds that social media presents an interesting opportunity for banks to help facilitate channel integration, but also some real challenges. "Banks need to be aware that even if they decide not to proactively engage with their customers through social networks, they have to realize their customers will be having these conversations about you no matter what," he notes. "One approach we would recommend is integrating your social network approach with your contact center, as you can use your existing business processes — and trained staff — to resolve any customer issues that you encounter."

Fifth Third's Clossin says the bank continues to bolster its social media leadership and expertise, and that it plans to engage in and utilize social media to launch new products and services and to acquire feedback. "These new channels are developing so quickly that it is important to listen to customers," he comments.

The Rise of Tablet Banking

Tablet banking, for example, has become popular more quickly than expected, according to Sybase's Mallon, who says banks should expect the channel to grow even more. "When the iPad was first introduced, most of the banks we were speaking to looked at the tablet as a platform for corporate banking, and that made a lot of sense at the time," he recalls. "The bigger screen real estate meant it is easier for the complexities of large companies' finances to be displayed on one screen. I don't think many people saw how fast, in certain markets, tablets were being adopted by consumers and that they would use them even when sitting next to a PC."

Mallon adds that the banks that have best utilized the tablet thus far are those that realize its unique potential apart from mobile. "We're now starting to see some users pick the tablet channel over the PC, even when they are at their desks, as they prefer the interface that the tablet apps offer," he relates.

Regardless of which channels bank customers use more or less in the future, the organization that can eliminate the differences in the user experience among all channels will be ahead of the game, opines Forrester's Wannemacher. "We are moving toward a post-channel world" in which the customer is the center of operations — "what could be called the Agile Era," he says.

[4 Keys to Connecting With Customers In the Mobile Age ]

Bryan Yurcan is associate editor for Bank Systems and Technology. He has worked in various editorial capacities for newspapers and magazines for the past 8 years. After beginning his career as a municipal and courts reporter for daily newspapers in upstate New York, Bryan has ... View Full Bio

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