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Is it too much to ask for a bank to be joined up?

May 30, 2013

Unwittingly my bank stimulated my thinking on omnichannel earlier this year. Not because it dazzled me with a seamless, excellent customer experience, but because it did exactly the opposite.  At the same time it was advertising good rates on children’s savings, I noticed it had reduced the interest rates on our own kids’ savings accounts to almost nothing.

They did this with our instant access savings recently and I was able to go online, open a new account and move our cash over, whilst cooking dinner. So I looked to see if I could apply for the new issue children’s savings online.  Apparently not. Forced to head into the branch, we were told we couldn’t do it there and then and neither could they initiate the process for us to complete online. We’d need to make an appointment and open new accounts.  We duly made an appointment.  A week or so later I received a text message reminder. I was quite impressed – perhaps they are moving into the 21st century after all.

Saturday came and it was snowing heavily. Dragging two small and excited children through the snow to fill some forms in at the bank was never going to compete with the rare opportunity to go sledging.  So I thought I’d just text the bank to rearrange. But of course, I couldn’t.  At the end of their text was a message saying if I needed to change the appointment I would need to ring the main call centre and have my account number and sort code to hand. No chance. We went sledging.

My bank had just delivered a classic example of multi-channel service. It has multiple channels through which I can access its services but they don’t join up in an intelligent way. Actually, from a customer perspective they barely join up at all.

But I’m a financial researcher, why should I expect my bank to provide a service that joins up across its various channels?  Possibly because I’m also an ordinary consumer and I regularly experience more joined up service elsewhere. Whether it’s John Lewis selling me a printer online, giving me a choice of home or in-store delivery and then emailing and texting me about delivery, or the coffee chain that provides a smartphone loyalty App that allows you to pay directly from your smartphone.

Everyone else, it seems is getting the fact that we all lead much more connected, joined-up lives than we did five years ago, let alone ten. To put my bank’s exciting outbound-only text message into perspective – even my dentist has been sending me SMS and email reminders for the last few years.

And the other reason I expect my bank to provide a service that joins up across its various channels is precisely because I am a financial researcher. As such I was writing two years ago about how, in order to succeed, contactless NFC payment needed to offer a much more joined up experience. Last year I presented some emerging mobile banking innovations and worked with clients to predict their success. I also wrote about how providers would need to develop smartphone services that reflected the way people use and interact with their smartphones.

I’m also aware of news from adjacent divisions within GfK that smartphones are already the most popular internet connected device in the UK and that retail space is getting ‘mashed-up’ as online and direct providers including Screwfix, Asos and Apple are moving into the high street and ‘traditional’ high street retailers are offering ‘click and collect’ and PayPal payments on their .com sites. So while these matters have been part of my professional life for some years, my bank is yet to make them a reality for me as a customer.

As frustrating as my recent experience with the bank was, that’s not why I am blogging about omnichanneI. I am writing about omnichannel because I passionately believe it has great potential to revitalise relationships with consumers and reinforce the relevance of incumbent financial providers in our lives. And because it gives those new providers offering seamless experiences the opportunity to deliver disruptive innovation that could lead to the sorts of landscape changes we’re seeing in retailing. This is the challenge for financial providers – for those who are prepared to make the journey, omnichannel is an exciting new destination for financial institutions and their customers alike.

Join us for Destination Omnichannel, an afternoon with our experts who will equip you with the intelligence and inspiration you need, to plan your route to deliver that all-important seamless brand experience.

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