With the recent proliferation of artificial intelligence tools, already rapid change in customer experience is about to accelerate even more dramatically. Any banks that have not yet adopted a posture of experimentation and learning with generative AI tools like ChatGPT absolutely must do so now.
The financial services industry as a whole has been relatively slow to adapt to changing customer expectations as technology has improved. In the community banking space where leadership teams have traditionally been sluggish in justifying large capital investments in technology and the talent that can drive it forward, many are still trying to catch up with Amazon and Netflix. They will find the post-ChatGPT reality we are now living in even more unforgiving.
We don’t know exactly how AI will be deployed by big tech that we interact with every day as consumers. But we do know that there are massive investments being made by pretty much every major company — in tech and other industries — with the goal of using AI to shape everything we do. Some of this will be successful, for better and/or worse.
Banks will have to learn how to manage risk, protect data, and operate within regulatory guidelines without getting left completely in the dust from a customer experience perspective.
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The Future of Personalization is AI-Powered
We are spoiled by the convenience of automation and slick design already, so the expectation of pervasive hyper-personalization is likely going to be next. I personally have lost all patience with searching for a new book, show, or product recommendation, so it stands to reason that artificial intelligence deployed at scale has the potential to make me feel like the entire world is built around my exact specifications and preferences. Banking will not be spared from the way this will shape us as consumers in general.
We won’t be searching newspapers for top CD rates or shopping around for consumer loans and refi opportunities, for those of us that still are even now. I will expect my bank to know, without any solicitation on my part, when I’m ready to act on an offer then proactively put it in front of me at the right moment. Then, I’ll expect to be able to take action on it seamlessly and digitally at all hours of the day and night.
This requires an entirely different skill set for many of us in the banking space, and it will require us to hire differently, train differently, invest differently, and rethink our core competencies through the lens of partnership and collaboration with fintechs instead of the lens of competition that is still present through much of the industry.
Prognosticators and thought leaders in the banking space have been sounding the alarm for years now about the critical importance of change management, risk-mitigated innovation, and digital transformation, and the coming years will bring about the foreshadowed moment of reckoning for financial institutions that cannot adapt.
Those of us in the customer experience and marketing space need to become better listeners than talkers in the future, as customer journeys become more personalized and the strike zone of timing offers gets tighter. We need to understand how consumer behavior and expectations are changing, as they are changing, then we need to have the systems and processes in place to adjust quickly if we are going to win business in the future.
So, what should we actually do? Here are a few ideas to get you moving.
Embrace the Suck
As professionals, most of us have gotten far too comfortable feeling competent, and we have lost the will to suck. Get comfortable with looking foolish again because it is an unavoidable step in building new skills and learning new things. If you are only operating within the confines of your comfort zone, you are leaving the bounty to someone braver.
Now is not the time to be proud. Pride will be punished by disruption, so if your team can overcome it while your competitors succumb to it (and they will), you will gain market share.
“Pride will be punished by disruption, so if your team can overcome it while your competitors succumb to it (and they will), you will gain market share.”
We as leaders should strive to put ourselves willingly in a position to embrace purposeful ineptitude. Make it ok for your teams to follow your example of trying new things and learning from failure. Then, the teams that adopt a spirit of fearless humility will fail fast and cheap, improve dramatically through learned experience, and will reap the rewards of joining the ranks of early adopters.
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Follow the Two-Second Rule
If you find yourself in front of me at an intersection, you have exactly two seconds of inaction when that light turns green before I honk. I never mean it hatefully. The message is simply: “Get moving.” I do not want to wait until you feel like paying attention.
I like to think of changing customer expectations this way. They are not moving the target to be difficult; they are simply going somewhere, and we are in the way.
In a perfect world, we would be leading and consulting our customers through the new technological landscape, but that isn’t even their expectation. All they really want is for us to be listening for the honk and ready to act immediately on the feedback.
The second honk is not as polite, as we all know. Don’t make your customers honk twice. Better yet, watch the light.
Don’t Google Like My Mom
My mom thinks the usefulness of Google is overblown. She can never seem to find the answer she’s looking for. Contrast that with The Detective Friend that comes standard issue in every friend group that, as soon as you drop the first name of the girl you’re dating, reappears in 7 minutes with her entire family medical history, scores from her high school math tests, and a series of potentially concerning song selections from her MySpace page, circa 2004.
The path to leveraging any new technology — not just ChatGPT — is to become proficient in prompt engineering. This has always been the primary differentiator: people who know which inputs get the desired output and people who struggle endlessly to get it.
Times of disruption are times of opportunity for those willing to battle the status quo and the comfort of complacency. Growth marketers embedded within community banks should recognize this moment as a chance to catch up with — and even surpass — their bigger competitors. This kind of disruption favors us. It will create new winners, new megabanks.
In the ears of the ambitious and hungry, ChatGPT sounded like an unexpected but long-awaited starting gun. Suddenly, we’re all beginners again. Suddenly, we’re all at the starting line, and the race is on.
About the author:
Lindsey Ogan is the chief marketing officer at Stride Bank in Enid, Okla.