When was the last time you went to a bank and was greeted with a warm and sincere ‘welcome back’? At one point in my career when I used to frequent a hotel in the Philippines, the staff have become so accustomed to me that they knew me by name and would greet me just that – welcome back. It certainly made me feel more at home away from home and made my work week more bearable.
Contrast that experience to what I have with the two notes issuing banks I have been doing business with in Hong Kong for the last three decades – progressing from blank robotic stares to smiles that you can feel are forced upon, and it just begs the question – whatever happened to customer experience?
In an interview with Finextra, Jane Hanson, head of customer experience at HSBC, said: “overall in terms of how HSBC views customer experience, it's absolutely critical to our overall goal. In the UK our goal is about becoming the best place to bank, and delivering a superior customer experience for our customers is absolutely critical to that.”
Hanson cites increasing competition and changing customer and consumer expectations as important drivers of this need to deliver ‘superior’ customer experience. “Over time their expectations are tending to get much stronger to a much higher level and also they're expecting to see different things. So the emphasis on the experience and how the customer actually experiences the whole bank becomes ever more important.”
These are not lofty ambitions nor are they unique to HSBC. Nearly every bank, retail and corporate, that I have spoken to in the past four years has been harping the bank’s goals of delivering superior customer experience. And they may be doing just that. Consider Googling “HSBC Hong Kong customer experience” and you get 4.75 million hints.
Still, my own experience trying to get my bank to move my account manager [or assign me one] closer to where either my wife or myself work [there are two branches about 1,000 meters from where I work, and about the same for my wife] has been a fruitless exercise.
At this point, the number of times a bank can apologize or make excuses about its less than stellar ability to deliver on its customer experience aspirations is dwindling. After all, there is an abundance of analytical tools, including those claiming to be of the artificial intelligence-kind, in the market today.
Michael Araneta, associate vice president, IDC Financial Insights, cited the lack of access to good, quality data that is limiting the ability to make decisions. So not tools, but access to good quality data.
This is confusing since we all know that banks hoard data about their customers. Consider that every time you open or make changes to your bank account, the bank will ask for your details, verify and document the action you want them to take on your behalf, and before long you would have spent as much as half an hour of your morning on explaining your motives.
In the MIT Technology Review article, Francisco Gonzalez, BBVA chairman and CEO, wrote that “banks hold huge stores of information about their customers, and this is a crucial competitive edge. If banks can convert that information into knowledge, they can use it to offer customers goods and services that better meet their needs.”
Caveat aside, Araneta concedes that these [technology-enabled] innovations will result in positive outcomes for customers, as well as those working in the financial services industry.
“By improve, we mean our capability to deliver good products to our customers, to engage with our customers better, but also to make decisions better are now possible in financial services. With these advancements of technology we think that there are a lot more things that are in fact humanly possible in financial services,” he commented.
The boundary between ethical and unethical banking practice
Ever notice that following a click on an advertisement online, you get bombarded on email, social media and on news sites of ads similar to what you earlier clicked on? Called behavioral retargeting or ad remarketing, it is a practice by marketers to track customer’s browsing habits. This practice is now being applied in banking.
Why is this happening and where should it stop?
Araneta cautioned that the limited experience handling this new found [big] data about the customer, may temp some banks and insurers to play around with the data, possibly be too creative with the insights available to them, to the point that customers feel the unnecessary intrusion into their personal lives. Araneta raises the potential of unethical practices that come with inexperienced use of technology and big data.
He suggests a need to have a balanced approach in the use of technology that is customer-centric at the core.
Banking of the future
On a more positive note, he believes that the banking of the future will really need to be integrated to the life of the customer right and you not do banking separate from your need to do payments or separate from your day-to-day life.
Financial services really needs to be part of the life of the customer.
“We need to start thinking about things beyond money or finances. The lifestyle of the person, the mood and intent of the person, or what he or she wants to do with his or her money. These are humanistic type of considerations. We're bringing the human more customer-focused element in financial services,” opined Araneta.
He cautioned that for this to happen though, banks will need to bring in people with right-brain disciplines who can bring “all these creative elements into our organization” – the kind associated with Fintech companies.
The intent is to change financial products and services to be more “humanistic”.
Watch the full video to get Araneta’s perspective on the different aspects of humanistic banking.
- Solving ASEAN’s financial inclusion goals with technology: 00:05-1:13
- Managing technology-led financial services: 1:13-2:45
- Fear technology-led innovations: 2:45-3:35
- Risks with obsessing on technology: 3:35-5:35
- What the bank of the future will look like 5:35-7:45