During the last ten years, the border that separated the digital world from the physical world has blurred a lot. The ubiquity of mobile devices in our lives and the digitalization of communication channels are both cause and effect on this blurring process. Clearly, this evolution is having a huge impact on how customers and brands interact.
Think for instance about the impact Amazon has had on the retail industry, or how Spotify has influenced the way we consume music. As consumers have become more connected, they have also become more sophisticated and demanding. They now expect the brands they engage with to be easily accessible from any of their devices, when they want and where they want. Further, they want their brand experiences to be seamless, no matter which device they are using, when or where.
This holds true for any industry, including the financial sector. The vast majority of consumers have already moved from the traditional ways of banking to its online version, and new online non-bank alternative lenders have started eroding the core business of traditional banks.
As such, it is essential for banks and financial institutions to meet their customers’ expectations in order not to lose their market share. While many financial players have launched new digital solutions in the last few years, such as mobile banking apps an intelligence-based chatbots, they still have a long way to go to meet their customers’ expectations.
In order to deliver the type of service their customers demand, banks should embrace the omnichannel approach. “Omnichannel” has been one of the hottest buzzwords in the financial sector for the last few years. Nevertheless, few organizations show they actually understood the meaning of this concept and the steps required to implement an omnichannel strategy. Luckily, artificial intelligence is making this transition easier.
Omnichannel strategy: taking multichannel to the next level
Modern consumers expect to be able to get in touch with businesses through many different channels, both online and offline. The multichannel approach responds to this need.
Multichannel consists in offering a variety of consumer touchpoints, such as voice, email, web chat and physical branches. It makes it easier for customers to get in touch with a brand but doesn’t integrate the channels with one another. As such, channels result disconnected and become siloed units, potentially leading to a frustrating customer experience.
Indeed, consider that 98% of Americans switch between devices in the same day and 46% of people managing their finances online switch between devices before completing the activity. As users jump from one touchpoint to another, they expect not to face any gap between different channels and devices. In order to meet the customers’ expectations, the customer experience must be smooth and seamless, effortless and consistent.
This is where the omnichannel strategy comes in helpful. Omnichannel refers to the smooth integration between channels, both digital and offline, in order to ensure a seamless interaction between customers and the brand.
Customers should be able to access to same set of services across all touchpoints. Their data should be synchronized in real-time between all different channels so that whenever they decide to switch to a different channel, all the information and activities connected to their profile is already available.
There should be only one source of content to ensure users are not asked to provide the same information twice. This way, whatever the individual’s customer journey looks like, his/her experience is consistent and unified, personalized and contextually relevant.
In synthesis, omnichannel is an integrated multi-channel approach centered around the user. However, it would be a mistake to think of omnichannel simply as a smart way to approach customer service. The omnichannel strategy must include the back-end and involve the sales and marketing teams. This will allow for a deeper understanding of customers’ needs and generates additional value.
Omnichannel should be considered as an overall attitude, deeply integrated within the company’s culture, that guides employees in every customer interaction. The pleasantness of the customer experience offered by the company should be a responsibility shared by all departments in the organization.
In the case of the banking industry, this means for instance that clients should be able to perform the same banking operations whether they use a website, a mobile app, a call center, an ATM, a bank’s branch, or any other available channels.
Limiting the integration to the digital channels would lead to customers’ disappointment, as for some categories of customers, such as the elderly, or offers, such as complex financial products, face-to-face communication remains the preferred option, despite the generalized digital shift that the banking industry has seen in the last years.
Deploying a omnichannel strategy will make face-to-face communication even more effective. For instance, when a customer enters a branch to request a loan, the branch representative would have immediate access to meaningful information about that customer and the activities he/she previously carried out.
Omnichannel intelligence: the benefits of combining omnichannel and AI
Omnichannel intelligence refers to the integration of artificial intelligence-based technologies, such as text based and in-app support options, into the omnichannel approach. By adding AI to their strategy, businesses have a chance to maximize the positive impact of the omnichannel approach. Indeed, companies that resort to AI are able to deliver hyper-personalized customer-retailer interactions, offer a better customer experience and appeal to a larger audience, thus becoming more profitable.
What follows is a list of some of the main advantages offered by omnichannel intelligence:
- Meeting expectations and minimizing the cost to serve:
cognitive tools help identifying new paths to increase profits and meet customer expectations. By enabling cost predictions along all the dimensions of the omnichannel strategy, AI prioritizes the features customers look for while minimizing their cost;
- Maximizing omnichannel fulfillment capacity:
one of the central aspects of the omnichannel approach is that customers must be free to switch from one channel to another with no disruption. This maximizes the positive aspects of the user experience. On the other hand, it also makes the customer’s buyer journey more complex. AI tools help create a strategy that’s flexible to meet the customer's buying journey and allow for continuous real-time updates;
- Making dynamic adjustments:
by giving access to real-time data, AI allows managers to take decisions and act faster and more effectively than ever, without requiring any IT intervention or cross-platform communication;
- Increasing emphasis on the entire customer journey:
the average app loses 77% of its daily active users (DAUs) within the first 3 days after the install. Only 10% of DAUs resist at least 30 days. This data suggests companies focus too much on the acquisition process and too little on engagement and retention. AI technology allows to measure across all devices and stages of the customer journey, thus enabling companies to deliver the most customized in-app messaging, automated responses, and recommendations;
- Elevating the customer experience:
AI can analyzes huge amounts of customer data to identify patterns with impressive speed and accuracy. Once they have this information, firms are able create more tailored and personalized experiences;
- Freeing customer service agent time by handling simple requests:
intelligent chatbots improve customer service by helping direct customers to the assistance they need and replacing agents at solving the easier problems. By providing simple, quick and context based interactions, chatbots increase the amount of resources available to the agents, thus improving the overall quality of customer service;
- Directly assisting agents with support requests:
chatbots can be your agents’ best friends. Not only they can free their time: thanks to their ability to process massive amounts of data much quicker than humans, they also expand the agents’ knowledge base and help them find the best response to a customer’s issue;
- Improving your entire customer service system:
machine learning contributes to a better customer service by determining where, when, how and why problems typically develop and, eventually, how to improve your customer’s journey to solve these issues.
In conclusion, implementing an omnichannel strategy requires a large investment, not only financially speaking, but especially in organizational terms, as it requires to implement changes in the way the company manages its operations and its corporate culture.
However, artificial intelligence facilitates the implementation of such a change process and the benefits of omnichannel intelligence clearly outweigh its cost. indeed, omnichannel intelligence is the future of the finance industry. Those who will miss out on this revolution, will lose relevance, clients and profits.