July 16, 2024

Advancing Digital Excellence

Pioneering Technological Innovation

The value of humans in the digital banking world

5 min read

A few years ago, many banks prioritized major branch transformation initiatives due to changing customer demands. This trend continues today as banks want to improve the customer experience in banking even further. A recent IDC white paper sponsored by Samsung “Bridging the Digital-Human Gap: Strategies for Branches and Intermediaries – Insights from US Study on Modernization in Banking and Insurance,” reveals that “Improving customer engagement has been at or near the top of almost all IT investments.” However, these investments may not fully align with customer expectations for a positive banking experience.

Creating satisfying branch experiences begins with understanding what customers are looking for when they arrive, what makes their visits unique and how banks can leverage technology to better serve them.

Customers still value in-person banking experiences

To many customers, banking is digital first but not digital only. In fact, when it comes to performing more complex transactions, the majority of customers surveyed in the IDC study prefer in-branch over mobile or online banking. The study also found that privacy and security concerns are top of mind, especially for those who may not be comfortable addressing potential security issues or having sensitive conversations about their finances in a digital-only setting.

For example, if a customer is considering a significant banking transaction like applying for a mortgage or if they’re concerned about a potential instance of fraud, they may not be comfortable finding help online or even interfacing with customer support representatives via digital channels, no matter how responsive or convenient they may be. In those cases, having a one-to-one conversation with a bank officer in person may be more reassuring.

Customers also visit branches to make a human connection and receive in-person guidance. Face-to-face service offers customers a chance to communicate with an associate who has the appropriate expertise. According to Accenture, more than 6 in 10 customers turn to branches to solve specific and complicated problems. When customers have these in-person conversations with branch employees, they can ask questions freely and get personalized advice on how best to handle complex or nuanced issues.

When the human connection matters most

Banking professionals who work in branches have an important role even in our digital-first world. As the IDC white paper points out, “Today, the branch has become a new focal point for getting advice, getting research and engaging with the community.” As bank executives contemplate the next wave of bank branch transformation, they are especially concerned with how to meet customers’ changing expectations for a modern branch experience.

Bridging the digital-human gap in banking and insurance

Find out the expectations of banking and insurance customers and how leaders are addressing them in this IDC white paper sponsored by Samsung.
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When customers enter a bank lobby, they are looking for a human connection. Many customers prefer to engage with a bank employee instead of checking into a self-service tablet upon arrival. This is especially true for customers hailing from older generations as well as customers of larger institutions. A familiar face can go a long way, and an initial in-person connection upon arrival can create a more engaging customer experience.

Some customers also want human guidance when it comes to key banking activities, such as opening an account. According to a recent Forbes survey, 44% of respondents consider branch access a top feature when shopping for a checking account and 38% of respondents for a savings account. There is still an appreciable interest in carrying out certain tasks in person, where it is possible to get prompt and empathetic advice from a fellow human being.

Customers find gaps in their branch banking experiences

Though customers still value their bank branch visits, they notice gaps between what they expect to experience and what they actually encounter. For example, the digital tools bank employees or the branch use are sometimes outdated. Millennials and younger customers are especially attuned to this factor, which will inform their overall impressions of the bank and its brand.

As noted above, many customers still prefer to engage with a branch employee when checking in upon arrival — and older ones, in particular, hesitate at the prospect of checking in on a digital device like a tablet. This customer preference runs somewhat counter to the branch transformations banks have in mind. Banks report they are planning to turn branches toward a 70% self-service model. Rather than pausing or abandoning these plans, banks might consider exploring what’s behind customers’ reluctance to use such self-service tools and whether the branches can adjust their solutions to better meet their needs.

Banks can conduct a series of A/B tests using a tablet, such as the Galaxy Tab Active4 Pro, for various scenarios. One option could involve in-branch greeters carrying these devices — something customers say they would be open to, and which older customers might find more agreeable. Another option might involve self-service kiosks so customers can check themselves in upon arrival and identify the services they seek. These experiments can help branch executives better understand their customers and their unique preferences, helping them avoid a one-size-fits-all approach that’s not effective for everyone.

Bringing together the best of digital and physical banking

Although the human connection still matters to most customers, they are also willing to try digital experiences that can enhance their branch visits. This trend is sometimes referred to as phygital banking, and branches can leverage this practice to improve how they interact with customers. The IDC study found that customers were very open to using a mobile device or wearable technology, such as a smartwatch, to verify themselves upon arriving at a branch.

This digital innovation gives customers more reassurance that the interaction is secure, ensuring that the branch is responsive to their security concerns. The IDC white paper also noted that it allows customers to enjoy a more efficient and personalized experience, proving that the branch respects their time.

Banks have significantly innovated their digital services, but now they are considering how to take the customer experience to the next level. In many cases, customers still prefer to visit a branch in person, but they encounter a gap between what they expect to find and what they come across. By using digital solutions to transform how they interact with customers in these settings, banks can bring together the best of the physical and digital worlds and provide a modern experience that serves their customers even better.

Download the white paper, “Bridging the Digital-Human Gap: Strategies for Branches and Intermediaries – Insights from US Study on Modernization in Banking and Insurance” to see how banks are addressing customer experience.


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