Customer experience will become even more critical for banks in 2022, but those that can figure out how to provide the right mix of human and digital service will differentiate themselves from traditional banks and digital-only banks that provide little if any personal service.
1. Branches make a comeback
With life steadily returning to normal, we expect more bank customers to visit branches in 2022 seeking help and advice. The pandemic, and now surging inflation, has created new financial challenges for consumers and small businesses – challenges that require a human touch to address. But banks must be ready to serve these customers in ways that didn’t exist before the pandemic but should have.
2. Banking when and where you want it
No customer should have to stroll into a bank hoping that the appropriate representative is available and able to devote the time necessary to serve them.
Banks should add a scheduling feature to all digital channels as well as integrate the feature within each relevant product journey. For example, if I click on a bank’s mortgage link, I should be able to complete an application and upload documents. However, if I want to speak to a mortgage expert about my options first, I should be presented with options for how and when I can interact.
If I want my questions answered right then, a live expert should be available on-demand via chat (not a chatbot!) or phone call, during and perhaps outside of regular banking hours. Even my cable-TV provider — never known for its customer service — has live chat.
If the on-demand wait is too long (a problem that should be addressed) or I don’t have time to devote right then, I must still be able to schedule a meeting in my preferred medium – chat, phone, video chat, or in-person.
We assume most banks use scheduling software for internal meetings, so we’d simply be opening the system up to customers as many other service industries have done. Upcoming appointments should be confirmed via text, similar to what many doctors already do.
Think about how simple it is to use the OpenTable mobile app to make, change, or cancel a restaurant reservation. Banks should be able to provide the same customer experience.
3. New digital tools for bankers, too
Providing new digital tools to improve customer interactions is a helpful first step, but unless customer-facing employees are better trained and coached, banks may fall short of their goals to differentiate with personalized services.
The largest banks are starting to use virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology to improve training and coaching, perhaps also resulting in lower branch-employee turnover. We expect other banks to follow, particularly as the cost drops with more widespread adoption.
Bank of America announced in October that it will launch virtual reality (VR) training by the end of 2022 for its employees in nearly 4,300 branches nationwide. Simulations enabled by VR headsets will be used to practice a wide range of skills such as strengthening and deepening relationships with clients, navigating difficult conversations, and listening and responding with empathy.
Through real-time analytics embedded in this technology, managers can also identify skill gaps and provide follow-up coaching and guidance to teammates to further improve performance. Following a successful pilot with 400 employees, 97% of the participants felt more comfortable performing their tasks after going through the simulations.
4. Financial management tools go beyond credit
Banks have done a poor job teaching consumers and small businesses how to manage their finances, leaving the door open for upstarts such as Chime and Acorns to fill that void.
In recent years, the largest consumer banks have added credit-management features – such as live credit scores – to their mobile apps, but credit is only part of the picture.
We expect more banks to partner with personal financial management (PFM) fintechs and data aggregators such as Plaid to offer a more complete financial view to their customers. Popular apps enable users to track spending by category, set goals for savings, and learn to invest.
5. Better, more-targeted services & experiences
We believe that more regional banks will seek to develop or acquire banking businesses that focus on a specific customer segment, whether it be serving a specific industry or a specific demographic. The result should be an improved experience for customers in those segments.
Acquired in 2019, KeyBank’s Laurel Road offers services designed to address the personal and business banking needs of medical professionals nationwide, not just in its retail markets in the Midwest.
A range of fintech start-ups has emerged in recent years to serve specific market segments, while larger banks have largely retained their mass-market approaches, perhaps because they believe these markets are too small or not growing fast enough to warrant investment. We believe this will start to change in 2022.