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Why 'digital only' is not enough

Banks are still waking up to the notion that ‘Digital’ may be the answer to all their problems, however, those of you who regularly read my blog will know, Digital is only one ingredient in the pie - it is NOT the pie. Creating a connected customer experience is what will leverage the power of ALL your channels and deliver success. So 'Digital' in itself is not the answer.

Much has been written about the power of customer experience, and how getting this right can be leveraged by business to create compelling, meaningful and lasting relationships with customers. Indeed, we have seen many examples of this with, dare I say it, brands like Apple, Emirates, Orange and other super-brands around the globe.

I am always cautious when a banker tells me he ‘wants digital’ without first explaining why, and how this fits into a balanced business model. The reality is we all want convenience, especially in what many see as the transactional world of banking, and digital certainly offers that. Yet digital means so many different things in different markets.

Take Kenya where digital money (mPesa), and digital loans (mShwari) are universally accepted and used by everyone from the super rich to the poor. In UAE, banks are offering sophisticated, cutting edge digital solutions to customers through apps and web sites. In Pakistan, where 80% of the population are unbanked, digital is being used to offer education and simple banking products to the masses through their ‘not so smart’ phones at one end of the spectrum, whilst at the other end of the spectrum, digital products and services are being used to deliver the kind of services we are seeing in more developed markets.

All that said, there is one consistent theme - offering a transaction only service over digital may work for some banks in the short-term but very soon, without the value add of a meaningful and personal relationship with customers, these services open up to price competition and previously loyal customers begin shop on price only... no loyalty, no stability, high risk and commoditised banking products.

So, when bankers say to me, ‘I want digital Nick’, I always come back at them with two questions. ‘What’s your strategy and do you have the infrastructure in place to deliver a meaningful and personal experience?’ and ‘What do your customers expect from you and how far can you stretch this expectation?’. Only when I have a satisfactory answer to these questions, can I begin to structure a customer experience around the banks core offer so it mitigates risk.

In conclusion, I will offer some insight from bank customers I have spoken to across the region. This is what they tell me they are looking for in a bank and I suggest you frame your decisions about how to develop your customer experience offer around these points... and remember, ‘digital only is not enough’:

  • We crave meaningful and personal relationships with our bank

  • We are delighted by a positive surprise

  • We like speaking to real people

  • We are only interested in digital services that actually work - no blank screens or error messages please

  • We expect to be able to trust our bank no matter what channel we decide to use to access services

  • We expect our bank to offer us the best deal for us - they should know what is best for us and behave responsibly in their recommendation

  • A physical presence gives us reassurance - but is doesn’t need to be a huge flagship branch... small can be beautiful

  • Digital enhances brand experience but should not be the whole experience

  • We want you to be more than just a bank. Help us to navigate through challenges, be pro-active and supportive, after all, you know us intimately

  • We will leave you if you mess up and don’t say sorry... and we’ll tell all our friends too

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