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That old multichannel issue

I’ve just been working on a new presentation around banking trends in the retail space. One of the key things that comes out of this is the old multichannel nugget, which has also reared its ugly head in a new report from EFMA.

The headline news from the report is that almost half of Europe’s retail banks are seeking to harmonise and improving cooperation between branch, internet and call centre channels this year as their top strategic priority.

Part of the reason for this is that branch sales are declining (from 82% of sales generated in 2007 to 78% today) whilst internet sales of bank products doubled (to 10%) and are predicted to double again between now and 2013.

Similarly self-service is heavily on the rise, with teller transactions down by 3.5% whilst self-service has gone up by 15% over the last year.

The reason I say it’s ugly is that this comes up as a theme so often that it sits with ‘customer service’, ‘process management’ and ‘employee satisfaction’ as a phrase that is meaningless because no-one really deals with it.

OK, OK, so I’m cynical, but I’ve already explained why in a recent blog entry, and the multichannel challenge is no different.

How can I say such a thing?

Well, we were saying it way back in 1997 when I worked for NCR.

Way back then, new channels were rising fast.

Call centre was a problem, and ATM was viewed as a sales and marketing opportunity.

Then the internet hit and email was rising as a communication tool with the banks.

Yes, amazingly, this was an issue way back in the dim, distant past.

So NCR launched a thing called the multichannel integrator.

The multichannel integrator was meant to be a single platform that could enable bank consistent interaction across branch, ATM and call centre, and then yes, across the internet and mobile.

You may not believe it, but here’s a few slides from my old PowerPoint deck back then.

Bearing in mind this is 1997, we were talking about the rise of 24*7 mobile and wireless banking …

Martini Banking

… which we called Martini Banking (anytime, anyplace, anywhere … the strapline from an old Martini advert).

The rise of new web communities …

Web communities

And the early signs of the experience economy …

Experience Economy
Thanks to consumer demands …

In fact, looking at these slides it amazes me how much of what we talk about today is still the same.

It’s all about getting the most from employees in delighting customers to create good business.

But then, that’s always what business is about isn’t it?

Happy people = happy customers = happy business.

Now then, back to the multichannel bit.

Multichannel back in 1997 was an issue as customers were starting to interact over many access channels and consistency was a big challenge.

Could the branch tell the customer the same thing the customer read online yesterday?

Would the call centre know what the branch said?

Can the ATM be used to provide advisory notes on receipts?

All of these would be handled by the multichannel integrator.

Now, we’re in an even bigger dilemma as answering emails and phone calls has escalated to sending and responding to text alerts, blog comments, tweets and facebook wall posts.

The immensity of demand over remote channels has significantly changed the mix and complexity of handling multichannel interactions.

And handling them consistently is the key.

After all, I wouldn’t want the branch to say they couldn’t offer me a loan after going through an online self-assessment test the previous evening where I’m told it’s no problem.

Similarly, I wouldn’t want a call centre to ring offering a loan when I’ve just paid one off the previous night through my mobile payments app.

And it goes further than just having consistency across these channels and interactions; it’s also mining the data intelligently, as discussed last week.

What I mean by this is that if the bank knew from my IP address – which they know from my online banking records – that I had been looking at their mortgage offers the previous night, then it would be great marketing to get a call the next day saying: “can we clarify anything related to our mortgage offers? Is there anything you specifically are considering and did the online service answer all of your questions?”

I know that some folks, like Jacques, may find that scary … but I personally like it and, as a bank service, believe this will again become more predominant and notable.

After all , it’s all about happy people = happy customers = happy business, and the more that technology can manage and bridge those gaps to create consistent service, responsive people and profitable products, the better.


About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here…

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  • Agree that this is the perennial problem. It is why we are seeing the emergence of the Customer Experience Director role in many banks. The problem is that, in almost all banks, the Customer Experience Director is not focussed on all channels i.e. they tend to be focussed on the internet and the call centres but not the branches or vice-versa or they are focussed on a product line e.g. the Customer Experience Director for credit cards. Until the banks address their organisations so that there is responsibility and accountability across all channels, partciularly as for a single transaction customers may traverse several channels, then there will continue to be differences in the experience. Once they fix the organisational structure then they need to ensure that the incentives are driving the right behaviours i.e. that a person in the branch is paid just the same when a customer completes a transaction in a branch as when they refer the customer to the internet channel to complete their transaction.
    Until these issues are addressed multichannel will continue to be seen as a technology issue and the customer experience will not significantly improve.

  • Happy happy joy joy?
    Amazing how we can envision such advanced and complex technologies and then mold them into a rather cartoonesque socio-economic model.. Supply defines demand to a very high degree.
    Maybe, if we look at it from a business intelligence angle, things are much more in line with Citigroup’s plutonomy memo, and most of a bank’s customers are more akin to articles than to being their clients.
    As most things go, that is just an accidental result of not having a clear policy stimulating the contrary. Now that the communication infrastructure, the internet, is becoming such that communities are becoming a reality, and the multichannel predictions have indeed happened but in not in a regulated way, as proposed, we are reaching a phase where the cost/revenue ratio for a mature multichannel strategy will likely pay off. A more involved, cost efficient and re-humanized form of ‘involved’ service will surely highlight any bank from the amorphous grey most customers mistake them for, and with a little help gravitate them towards them, but it’ll likely involve a certain degree of Schumpeter’s creative destruction for banks to get moving.
    Very much agree though, in the long run.

  • Jonathan Charley makes a valid point – in fourteen years, technology may have changed but what consumers want and expect hasn’t. Long before social media, customers wanted positive experiences not just products, value for money, and choice. The difference is back in the 1990s, the banking channels of communication available to the consumer were only three: the ATM, call centre, or their branch. Today, there’s the internet and mobile as well. A multichannel integrator solution is critical –customers don’t want to keep repeating themselves when engaging with their bank, or they’ll turn to a competitor.
    Footfall in branches is declining and the rise in self-service through the internet and mobile will continue, especially as generation Y and its successors mature and become the demographic that banks need to deliver to. To succeed, banks will have to ensure their processes and systems are integrated and security protocols are in place so as to endear and engage the customer and earn trust.
    Banks must be able to synch up all their channels of communication to deliver an optimum customer service to its customers and to cross and up sell its products and services. By evolving retail banking to a self service model, banks will take much of the burden and running of accounts away from themselves and will empower the customers to take more control of their finances. Banks should be motivated to concentrate on developing an integrated e-banking strategy. It will help them to reduce costs, utilise the social media tools available to them on-line to listen and learn about what the customer wants, and ultimately increase their profits.
    The question is, ‘Are the security protocols really in place to support an integrated multi-channel banking system, and how will banks convince their consumers of the advantages, without the consumers feeling like they are trapped in a big brother house?’
    Comment from Hemant Lamba, Banking and Capital Markets Practice, Infosys, and posted by Infosys Press Team

  • Hi,
    i agree but i will go a step further. I think for most people banking is boring. And you have to make it more boring to get happy customers. And it will be more boring by making it simple and automatic. Your proposal is just the first step but it´s the right direction
    best regards Boris
    you inspire me