If a financial institution’s account opening process is overly complex, repetitive or prone to manual error, consumers and businesses will simply look elsewhere. As it stands, many competitors to community financial institutions such as neobanks and money-center banks are able to focus more of their effort and a larger budget on developing seamless digital banking experiences throughout the customer journey.
These investments are made in an attempt to meet widespread customer demands for convenience — demands inspired by current experiences inside and outside of banking that aim to make customer actions as simple as possible. If a bank or credit union can’t provide a convenient experience, the competition will.
Digital account opening can be a headache for both consumers and financial institutions. Yet the bar for customer experience has been set higher than ever.
Overall, good account opening requires you to create streamlined processes that work for both consumers and businesses, while also boosting your own internal efficiency. Omnichannel account opening — allowing applicants to open accounts through multiple channels — meets both of these requirements.
Digital Account-Opening Challenges
To understand why omnichannel is a key capability for account opening, it helps to understand the challenges that consumers and businesses face when opening accounts today.
- Legacy systems. Using old and outdated technology can result in repetitive, complex processes that force applicants to redo steps or supply large amounts of disparate information. Just under half (49%) of financial institution respondents to a Onespan survey say their processes rely on legacy systems with manual processes.
- Identity verification and document collection. Proper identification is necessary to open new accounts, but validating a customer’s identity through digital channels can be especially tricky and time consuming if you’re relying on legacy methods. Some banks and credit unions are already taking steps to move away from these old-school methods and are seeing less customer abandonment as a result.
- Lack of guidance throughout the process. Oftentimes, customers don’t get the information they need to complete the account opening process. According to our “Small Business Account Opening Imperative,” more than half (56%) of institutions cited clients not having all the information they needed as a significant pain point of business account opening.
- Long processes. Many customers give up on opening an account simply because it takes too long. The Digital Banking Report found that when online and mobile account opening take more than ten minutes and five minutes respectively, as many as 40% of applicants are at risk of abandoning the process.
With these factors in mind, it makes sense that business owners and consumers share a strong demand for better account opening experiences. According to the 2021 Banking Impact Report, more than half of businesses (57%) and consumers (58%) consider online account opening a “must-have” for any bank or credit union they use.
This ever-increasing demand for convenience means your account opening processes must offer dynamic and flexible customer journeys between in-branch, desktop, mobile device, and tablet experiences, which an omnichannel approach allows.
Consumers are already accustomed to omnichannel-like experiences from retail shopping and now expect the same from their bank. An Accenture study revealed that 50% of customers would prefer the ability to switch between online and phone channels during a transaction, while 60% would like to see their banks blend physical and digital services together. With omnichannel, you can meet these demands.
The Difference Between Omnichannel and Multichannel
Many banks and credit unions already support multiple channels for account opening, enabling consumers to open accounts through the channel they prefer (online or in-branch). But these multichannel account opening capabilities don’t allow customers to switch between channels once they’ve started the account opening process — at least not without having to start the process over from the beginning.
Banks and credit unions can overcome the difficulties of opening complex accounts by adopting an omnichannel approach that lets applicants move freely between desktop, mobile or in-branch.
Omnichannel account opening, on the other hand, allows applicants to move freely between all channels during the account opening process. This seemingly small difference has a huge impact on customer experience as it allows consumers and business owners to change their preferred channel mid-process without losing their progress, repeating steps or interrupting their sign-up experience.
The two scenarios below illustrate the importance of this distinction:
- Remy and Jesse are two newlyweds who want to open a joint bank account at the community bank in the neighborhood they just moved to. They begin the account opening process on their computer at home, but run into some confusion when the online system won’t accept their new address. To fix the problem, they decide to take a trip to their local branch and speak to an employee. When they reach the bank, a branch employee helps them resolve the issue and they’re able to finish signing up right there.
- Claire is a business owner who wants to open a business savings account for her new pottery shop and studio. After closing the shop one day, she travels to a nearby branch and begins opening a business account in person, only to find that she needs to upload documents that are back at her studio. The next day, Claire continues the application from the desktop computer in her shop, allowing her to watch over the studio while she does it. She gets sidetracked by customers and has to step away, before eventually finishing the application later that evening from her mobile phone after arriving home.
Opening an account can be a moving target made more difficult by logistical challenges, process hiccups and lack of flexibility. By allowing applicants to move across channels during the account opening process, omnichannel fosters a faster, smoother, and more enjoyable experience for consumers and business owners alike while preventing potential customers from walking away mid-signup.
Omnichannel also makes it easier for financial institutions to expand their reach beyond their immediate community. While customers can always take advantage of the hybrid approach of in-branch and digital options, they can also elect to have a purely digital experience — meaning customers don’t actually need to live near a branch to be able to use a particular institution. Offering omnichannel allows you to widen your marketing efforts and target potential customers who may live further away from your physical branches.
Future-Proofing Your Institution with Omnichannel
Today, consumers and businesses alike crave seamless banking experiences that align with modern definitions of convenience. Although we may not call them by the same name, omnichannel capabilities are everywhere — healthcare management and retail shopping experiences now enable individuals to move freely between different channels and platforms.
Omnichannel approaches are quickly transitioning from a “nice-to-have,” to an essential part of customer experiences, and the banking industry is no different. Research from Capgemini reveals that 76% of customers in 2021 already expect an omnichannel banking experience. Consumers will always prefer options that are convenient and efficient. With omnichannel you can deliver on this expectation no matter where your customers are.