Whenever a catastrophe strikes, like a stock market collapse, a recession, a war or a pandemic… people run to their banks. In times of uncertainty, the instinct is to batten down the hatches, protect your assets and even hoard cash. During a pandemic, people want to be close to their money, while keeping their distance from brick and mortar banking. As a consequence, financial institutions are forced to accelerate their digital products and services at warp speed.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella puts the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic into perspective, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” Where digital products might have been seen as a nice-to-have pre-2020, they became absolutely essential when people were too afraid to leave the house. When in-person visits at the local branch became replaced in large part by phone calls to contact centers, it became abundantly clear that decades old technology wasn’t going to keep up with the new customer behaviors. So what are some of the critical components of a financial services digital transformation?

A move to cloud based platforms

Cloud based platforms (using the internet to relay information) are absolutely essential in order to drive acceleration and collaboration within the business. Businesses that have seen declining revenues during the pandemic will have even more of an incentive to increase the efficiency of their go-to-market strategies. As the use of cloud based platforms increases, so does the speed in which new services can be delivered. From a customer’s perspective, speed and simplicity are key to improving the customer experience. With a cloud based platform, customers also have more control over their data since they are responsible for the data input. This is also why data security becomes a shared responsibility between the business, the platform provider and the end-customer. Maintaining and upgrading cloud security will be an ongoing focus for businesses while compliance standards are likely to get stricter.

An omnichannel customer experience

Where in-person visits or phone calls used to be the main ways customers could communicate with financial institutions, we’re now seeing digital channels such as chatbots and consumer direct messaging apps being utilized at higher levels. As people increasingly relocate their lives outside of cities, these digital channels are the only ‘spaces’ that remain permanent and familiar in people’s lives.  Experiences that combine physical and digital services in some cases can double the revenue of single channel experiences. By creating an omnichannel offering businesses can offer a more customer-centric experience while also creating cost efficiencies. An example of this type of efficiency can be seen with omnichannel contact centers that incorporate multiple modes of communication. 

Improved personalization

How do you get close to people when you can’t actually get close to them? You make better use of data. Personalization of services is key to improving the customer experience, making it feel more tailored and more efficient for the end user. Artificial intelligence is enabling high levels of personalization at scale with models that understand how to develop the best digital relationships. Specifically, AI can help power solutions like chatbots, cognitive routing, and smart search to offer direct and specific support to customers. While examining the banking landscape, Accenture have defined “intelligent omnichannel” banks as ones that have seamless omni-channel experiences 24/7 and “have also effectively adopted advanced and predictive analytics. These banks group their customers into smaller micro segments and can tailor their products and services to the specific need, time and even location of the customer anywhere and anytime they need it.”

The year 2021 will be one of the most important years for re-evaluating customer touchpoints and journeys. What are the different moments and micro moments in your customers’ day? How does the displacement of your customers impact their relationship with your services? And finally, how can we use what we know about our customers to help them adjust to this new world?