Create meaningful, personalized, and efficient digital experiences for your prospects and customers — or they’ll take their banking business elsewhere. This is the reality of today’s financial services sector, accelerated by the trend toward a younger, more tech-savvy clientele.
As I wrote in a previous article, digital channels and tools play an increasingly important role in meeting and exceeding consumer expectations. It starts at the moment you engage with prospects via marketing, such as paid digital media, search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns, web content, and social media.
But the digital experience goes much deeper, touching every facet of your customer relationships. And your customers demand a lot. They expect to interact with you simply and intuitively, on the device of their choosing, anytime, anywhere. Not only do they want automated services, but they want personalization to their needs and preferences.
By delivering on these expectations, you’ll increase customer loyalty and prevent defections to your competition. Easier said than done, right? Well, the good news is that innovative thinking and emerging technologies are enabling community banks like yours to attract and retain customers without breaking the budget.
Keep in mind, also, that digital technology can benefit your business in other ways besides strengthening relationships with your customers. By doing more “heavy lifting,” digital technology frees up staff to focus on more complex and value-added functions.
The road ahead
Bots, also known as virtual assistants, will become an increasingly important tool for boosting customer engagement — at little to no additional cost. Studies show that a majority of consumers prefer virtual assistance to help them resolve issues on a timely basis. Bots have become amazingly good at interacting with customers naturally, conversationally, and contextually. Using “sentiment analysis,” they can gather information through dialogue, while understanding context through the recognition of emotional cues. With this information, bots can quickly evaluate, escalate, and route complex issues to humans for resolution.
Branded mobile applications, now ubiquitous in community banking, are evolving. Of course, customers expect your app to be fast, easy to use, fully featured (think live chat, voice-enabled digital assistance, etc.), secure, and regularly updated. But some banks have begun reimagining what a banking app can be. For example, mobile banking functionality enables customers to use their phones like secure digital wallets, allowing them to instantly transfer money to family and friends.
In a growing number of instances, a customer’s digital experience extends beyond the bank itself. Specifically, community banks are opening up their platforms to other service providers via application programming interfaces (APIs). Through these partnerships, customers enjoy secure cloud-based access to a variety of complementary services, further cementing their affinity with their community bank.
Questions to consider
Digital technology pervades every aspect of a community bank’s operations and customer relationships. To better understand the effectiveness of your digital initiatives, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions:
- Are you fully tapping into the power of digital marketing channels to acquire new customers?
- Have you created a digital experience that enables customers to get what they want, when they want it, on the device of their choosing?
- Do your back-end operations support your ability to create an engaging digital experience?
- Have you implemented or explored new opportunities to expand the use of existing digital technologies, such as your mobile banking app?
Kevin Fread serves as CIO and CFO of Ironcore, Inc. He possesses more than 40 years of banking and technology experience in a variety of settings, including a community bank, a data services firm, and a global FinTech and payments company. Kevin works closely with Ironcore clients to assist with technology, integration, and strategic planning. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.