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Why digital-first, not digital-only, is key for banks to deliver stellar customer experiences

The last remaining bank branch on the Isle of Scilly has announced that it is set to close in April next year, marking the end of in-person banking for the island’s residents.

While the decision is due to changes in consumer behaviour, with the branch used less often, this removes a key banking touchpoint for customers. The branch closure is one of many in recent years, as a recent report from Which? shows 4,299 bank branches and building societies have closed their doors since January 2015.

As banks forge ahead in the transition from in-person to complete online banking, they are leaving valued customers in their wake. There will always be customers who prefer to bank in-person, with research showing people want to return to physical bank branches post-Covid-19, rather than continue banking online.

The transition to ‘digital only’ is a great opportunity for banks to deliver new products and services to customers faster. However, banks must remember that these digital elements are most effective when combined with a human touch. Individual customers need an individualised approach. Not every customer is comfortable with a ‘digital only’ experience, as shown by the popularity of the Isle of Scilly’s Post Office branch to carry out bank transactions.

As the last bank branch closes on the Isle of Scilly, and many other regions lose their local branches, high street banks should aim to be ‘digital first’, rather than ‘digital only’. If in-person banking services are to be closed, banks must improve and personalise their digital offering. This may include providing additional support to vulnerable or less tech-savvy customers or bolstering staff on other platforms such as social media or webchat. In this way, banks can communicate on customers’ terms and restore some of the human touch that would otherwise be lost in the move to digital.

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