How financial services brands can make omnichannel customer experience a priority

Learn three expert tips for a successful omnichannel customer experience implementation.

Key Takeaways

  • Omnichannel customer service prioritizes consistency across all channels for a seamless interaction between customer and brand.
  • The number and variety of channels offered should balance customer preference with logistics and functionality.
  • Omnichannel customer service requires "super agents" who understand the customer journey, fully grasp the technology and demonstrate a high degree of empathy.

Posted November 15, 2017

On the surface, the terms “omnichannel” and “multichannel” seem straightforward enough — both appear to describe the delivery of customer service across a variety of channels and platforms. Upon closer examination, however, the difference between them is huge.

While multichannel is about offering a wide variety of customer service options, omnichannel customer support takes it one giant step further by creating consistency across all channels for a seamless interaction between customer and brand. The interconnectivity between channels creates a more nuanced view of the customer, allowing financial services brands to tailor their offerings to the individual.

From top-line growth, to reduced cost of operations, to enhanced customer experience, the benefits of a customer-centric omnichannel strategy are substantial. Implementation, however, is not always a straightforward and seamless endeavor. A banking priorities study conducted by IT service management company CSI found that 23 percent of financial executives believed creating an omnichannel experience would be their biggest challenge in 2017.

If your company is among those still struggling to get it just right, here are three strategies designed to help you achieve your customer experience goals through an omnichannel strategy.

Assess the customer journey, along with your company goals

It’s safe to say that over the past decade, the way customers interact with brands has evolved. Consumers have come to expect their financial institutions to offer a similar level of frictionless service as that of fast-growing tech companies like Amazon.

This blending of customer service expectations between industries has prompted companies including JPMorgan Chase & Co and Bank of America to launch digital solutions like mobile banking and artificial intelligence-based chatbots. But doing so without first understanding their clients’ wants and needs could lead to misplaced resources, or even a banking experience that falls short.

According to Kirsten Jepson, director of product marketing at TELUS International, analyzing the customer journey is the stepping stone to implementing a successful omnichannel customer experience. “You want to make the customer experience as comprehensive as possible,” says Jepson. “But if you’re an existing organization, you can’t just go from being single-channel or dual-channel to omnichannel overnight.”

All brands are on a continuum, Jepson explains, and there are a number of key steps to creating a transparent customer experience. The process begins by determining how many channels your company has today, and whether they are still relevant to your customers’ needs.

Next, Jepson recommends asking how much your company is willing to invest in creating a true omnichannel experience. After that, determine your benchmarks. Your industry, and the nature of your business, will dictate the sophistication — or simplicity — of service that’s required.

Finally, define your measure for success. Is your ultimate goal to differentiate through experience, or to be cost-competitive? The insights companies glean from asking these kinds of questions can help determine the right course of action.

Engage consumers through their channel of choice and leverage ‘super agents’

The concept of omnichannel customer service provides companies with many options, but it’s important that businesses don’t spread themselves too thin. While it’s true that banking customers are rapidly migrating toward digital channels, investing in every new platform, social site and technology isn’t the way to consumers’ hearts.

Jepson stresses that the key to connecting with customers is learning as much about their wants and needs as possible.

Some questions worth asking:

  • Who are your typical consumers?
  • What is their channel or channels of choice?
  • Are they accustomed to having that type of channel available to them?
  • Which channel makes the most sense for the types of queries they submit?

The idea is to balance personal preference with logistics and functionality, while continuously working on process improvement. Inevitably, in working to meet customers’ needs, businesses will identify a need of their own. Organizations are recognizing the value of “super agents” who understand the entire customer journey, the increasingly sophisticated service technology and the nuances of today’s customer conversations. “A different set of skills is really coming into play in this industry that wasn’t in demand in the past,” Jepson says of contact center agents. Retraining agents to be what she calls “process improvers,” can help organizations deliver on their omnichannel promise.

Delivering Omnichannel Customer Experience

A practical guide to successful omnichannel implementation – with Everest Group

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Balance tech with a human touch

A human agent’s unique ability to assess each customer’s situation and demonstrate empathy is an indispensable omnichannel element. Indeed, a recent survey conducted by OpinionLab found that 83 percent of consumers agreed that “speaking to a customer service representative on the phone or in-store will always be important.” The challenge in today’s technology-driven era is determining how much of your customer support should be delivered through digital channels.

Thomas A. Stewart, co-author of business book Woo, Wow, and Win, believes companies must focus on service design over cost-cutting. “Too many companies think that customer care should only be managed for cost,” he says. “You want to get a customer to the right place, and that should be a strategic design choice, not just a choice driven by budget.”

Stewart also notes that, for businesses like banks, it isn’t the product that differentiates them from their competitors, but the service their customers receive. One example of this comes courtesy of global financial services company Citigroup. At a Forrester-sponsored customer experience conference last year, Citi’s Chief Customer and Digital Experience Officer Alice Milligan said that 70 percent of Citi’s service-related transactions now occur digitally. By putting technology that allows consumers to check their account balance and make payments at their fingertips, Citi was able to dramatically reduce its volume of customer phone calls.

At the same time, Milligan told Retail Customer Experience that it’s vital to have a “cross-channel journey view.” While Citi works to supply its customers with comprehensive digital services, it also teaches its agents customer service skills and “how to handle incoming calls from customers who are active online.”

By mapping the Citi customer journey, Milligan learned that many people call in the day after making a payment online to confirm that the transaction went through. Anticipating and understanding behavioral patterns like this one better prepares companies to make the most of their customer service agents’ abilities, and to maximize that human touch.

Creating an effective omnichannel customer experience requires that organizations overcome some significant challenges across various aspects of people, process and technology. Knowing the customer journey inside and out, giving consumers options and incorporating a human touch will help get you stay on the right track.

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