How Digital CX Technology Gives Local Financial Institutions an Edge

Large banks have been outslugging credit unions and community banks when it comes to digital solutions. But given new technology options, small, local institutions can now provide omnichannel experiences on par with those of major retail banks. Four attributes are essential.
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The need for digital solutions in community financial institutions has intensified in the past few years. Engagement is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach, with both younger and older members and customers displaying a mixed set of preferences.

Credit unions and community banks have historically been built upon strong community connections — but large banks are consistently outperforming them when it comes to customer engagement. Unsurprisingly, digital seems to be the missing piece of the puzzle. For example, a Mobiquity consumer survey indicated that the digital appetite among younger generations was not being met by credit unions, therefore prompting many of their members to opt for a large national bank as their financial institution of choice.

New Reality:

In today’s climate of on-the-go, 24/7 services, financial accessibility is high on the list of consumer expectations.

Fortunately for community financial institutions, digital customer experience (CX) technologies are only getting more available. With plenty of evidence that consumers want to be served by digital channels and tools, there’s no reason credit unions and community banks can’t implement seamless omnichannel experiences on par with those of major banks. In fact, part of the challenge is simply knowing what to look for.

Of course, the community-driven nature of these local financial institutions means that specific requirements and strategies will differ. There are, however, four fundamentals of digital CX that all credit unions and community banks should keep in mind.

Artificial Intelligence Powered with Human Intelligence

Any communication platform should prioritize an efficient user experience. Before implementing a new digital tool, community banks and credit unions must ask themselves how the solution makes their customers’ and members’ lives easier. When a financial institution implements a chatbot, for instance, how does this help the user get a practical response to their query? Digital tools must always be geared towards boosting member and customer outcomes — and never just be a cost-cutting exercise.

Often Overlooked:

It’s worth remembering that customer experience involves agent satisfaction too. Investing in their capabilities is a necessary consideration for any financial institution seeking sustainable CX improvement.

User experience is also directly related to agent experience. If service representatives have the tools and resources they need to serve users easily, this will be reflected in higher customer satisfaction levels. By implementing multiple channels for communications and a central repository for relevant customer or member data, agents will be able to provide tailored and accessible support.

These kinds of capabilities are offered by omnichannel solutions. Aside from opening up multiple channels for service (and easing pressure on call centers), an omnichannel platform integrates all channels and data stores so that no drop-offs or repeat interactions are necessary.

Lead with a Mobile-First Experience

In today’s CX climate of on-the-go, 24/7 services, accessibility is high on the list of consumer expectations. The rise and popularity of mobile banking have a lot to do with this, with one survey estimating that 89% of all banking customers use mobile banking — rising to 97% for Millennials, according to Insider Intelligence.

The prevalence of mobile banking makes a strong case for digital communication. But, this is only part of the story. Despite a widespread migration to digital channels in many aspects of consumer life, in-branch services are still a significant segment of consumer preferences. Mobiquity’s report found that 60% of those aged 60 and over still consider it important to have a branch location close to them. So do at least 43% of consumers in all other age groups

Credit unions and community banks should therefore look for integrated platforms that enable members and customers to move seamlessly between channels. If the user seeks help in a branch, any subsequent digital interactions should naturally follow from the in-person assistance.

Of course, an omnichannel experience doesn’t come about without the right technology. It’s advisable to use solutions that integrate easily with existing digital architecture, be it an e-banking portal or a mobile app. These should be configurable and customizable, adapting to the financial institution’s particular needs and brand image.

Build on the Strength of Community Connection

Unlike their large retail banks, community banks and credit unions are locally-based organizations. Consumers are attracted to them for that reason. As a key differentiating factor, user experience should reflect this community ethos by putting people at the core of banking services.

In practice, that means seizing opportunities for face-to-face conversation even when delivered via digital channels. To get the most out of a communication platform, community financial institutions should look for solutions that augment human knowledge and understanding within their organization.

Digital First Isn't Digital Only:

A digital offering should never be about alleviating the need for human interaction to speed things up — it’s about finding ways to fuse the benefits of both.

Another layer of humanized engagement comes from finding ways to personalize services. The key to this is providing consumers with solutions exactly when they need them, which is where an omnichannel platform is extremely useful. Examples might be using a digital channel to connect at the right moment, or drawing on conversation history to contextualize an offer for an individual member.

For older consumers in particular, financial institutions can empathize with concerns about the pandemic health risk of going in-branch. By offering user-friendly video meetings as an alternative, community financial institutions can endeavor to keep delivering that personal connection in a risk-free environment.

Moments with a personal touch can help community banks and credit unions go above and beyond member satisfaction. According to Motista, emotional connections can triple the lifetime value of a customer relationship. And importantly, personalized services generate positive outcomes, and thus promote better financial well-being.

Customer- and member-centricity should always be the objective for community financial institutions, and digital communication platforms can help them achieve it. Strategists should seek out omnichannel platforms that let agents meet customers where they are, and leave room for the human touch in any interaction.

Opt for Omnichannel to Put Consumers First

User experience, accessibility, compliance and human-centric services offer a foundational formula for great customer and member experiences. While it may be possible to advance one or two of these areas with targeted solutions, an omnichannel platform ticks all the boxes.

Seamless and personalized services require integrated solutions. An omnichannel approach is just that — and it is a way to give back to members and customers who want people at the center of their financial lives.

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