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Is banks’ focus on mobile to the detriment of omnichannel customer service?

Multiple lockdowns over the last 12 months resulted in mass bank branch closures and the rapid shift to digital payments and financial services. With increased dependency on online channels, it was inevitable that the pandemic would cause an uptick in engagement with digital channels. According to research by RFi Group, there was a sharp rise in mobile banking use monthly from 52 to 57 per cent of people between 2H 2019 and 1H 2020. And in November last year, Forrester data revealed that 53 per cent of UK online adults carried out their banking on a mobile website or app in the month prior.

Even before coronavirus struck, banks were ploughing investment into their apps. Interestingly, the aforementioned Forrester research also found that leading UK banks are beginning to treat mobile as the primary hub for engagement. This is something that has long been the case in other geographies across the Nordics, South East Asia and Australia. Now, the country’s leading banks use a range of capabilities such as notifications, conversational interfaces, and analytics to generate mobile experiences that are tailored to each customer and their preferred means of interaction.

Banks have taken their eye off the ball

However, all this focus on mobile apps has had a detrimental effect. Banks have taken their eye off the ball on non-digital channels and have stopped thinking about the entire end-to-end journey. Instead, they need to make sure that all of their digital services are given the same attention to guarantee a consistent customer experience across the board. This becomes more important as banks accelerate branch reformatting and closures.

During the pandemic, Deloitte made the point that banks will need to revisit their optimal channel mix, whether that includes bank branches, telephone banking, banking apps etc. and accelerate the shift to digital self-service transactions to cope with demand. At the moment, most customer engagement channels remain human-led. However, in advisory channels, the focus tends to concentrate on the increased use of tools for remote communication instead of the replacement of advisors with technology which would increase productivity and boost customer service. This is particularly important because COVID-19 helped expose the gaps in digital and remote channels that were highlighted due to high user volumes.

With banks typically having disconnected channels and a lack of visibility into customer behaviours, it has been near impossible to deliver the true omnichannel experience their customers want. On top of that, these barriers make it difficult for banks to personalise customer experiences or adapt quickly enough to meet users’ ever-changing needs.

How can banks achieve true omnichannel service?

True omnichannel applications ensure that interactions are consistent and up to date, whether customers prefer using a mobile app, social media, live chat, co-browsing, web self-service, or a phone call. With banks forging ahead with branch closures and moving away from services provided by a person, how can they make sure they are delivering a high level of customer service across every single channel, and end their siloed channel mindset?

  • Implement data analytics and intelligent automation – many tools allow banks to automate processes and anticipate customer needs so they can respond faster with more relevant answers. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can also be used to generate intelligent suggestions to give customer service representatives step-by-step guidance for a personalised service experience.
  • Analyse the customer’s context in real-time – whether a customer is on the web platform or in a banking app, AI-powered recommendations can allow banks to take relevant and personalised actions and achieve that tricky balance between customers’ needs and the bank’s.
  • Execute a centralised real-time decision engine, unifying inbound and outbound channels – implementing a case management system that connects all their support staff and systems across all channels will enable more personal, and relevant customer experiences. 

Omnichannel banking for all

The pandemic also served to highlight the financial inequality in our society. From this perspective, banks need to make sure there are channels available for everyone, no matter their personal circumstance. This underscores the importance of not focusing too much on banking apps, because not every customer will have access to a smartphone, or the confidence to use an app.

While it is fantastic to see that banking apps have come on leaps and bounds over the last year, financial institutions cannot afford to neglect other channels. Customers must receive excellent customer service regardless of how they want to interact with their bank and be able to move seamlessly from one touchpoint to the next. It only takes one bad experience for a customer to potentially move to a competitor, so consistency is key.


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Steve Morgan

Steve Morgan

Banking Industry Market Lead


Member since

04 Sep 2019



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