Tech and humanity – creating better customer experiences

  • 26 November 2021
  • Blog | Fintech and Innovation in Banking | Blog

The impact of technology on banking and financial services has been profound. From the introduction of credit cards and the launch of ATMs, to the latest Open Banking innovations, technology has been used to make customers’ lives easier and to make providing services less costly and more efficient. 

Giving customers choice 

After all, as Anders Bouvin, Institute Trustee and Former President and Group CEO of Handelsbanken, points out, “In order to outperform your competitors over time, you have to have more satisfied customers than your competitors.” It is, he asserts, about giving customers choice over how they interact with you. Sometimes, efficiency is paramount. They are happy to self-serve at a time and place that works for them. Other times, they prefer to be served – to visit a physical branch or speak to a real person. 

“The vast majority of customers want, even demand, simple online solutions for straightforward requests/needs (like paying a bill),” he explains. “But, other times, more rarely but nevertheless – for example when things go wrong or they have a larger financial decision to make – the same customers appreciate talking to someone in the bank. 

As we’ve seen in recent months, perceived risk associated with in-person interaction has increased customers’ reliance on digital means of communicating, for example. But there are other non-crisis factors too – like the complexity or value of the transaction, the availability of services, and even the varying levels of busyness of the customer.  

Tech and the human touch 

Embracing technology isn’t a one-way street and it doesn’t have to mean losing our humanity. There is, of course, a place for both and choice and appropriateness are the key terms we should be focused on. “Just because technology has made huge advances, and digitisation is a way of life, it doesn’t mean that humans have been rewired,” says Bouvin. “You can’t throw away millions of years of evolution that have seen us emerge as social beings that thrive on social contact.”  

And, he states, the winners will be those who seamlessly combine the best of technology with an understanding of the intrinsic value of human contacts. “you can already see the frequency of human contact reducing,” he adds, “but the underlying quality of that contact remains important.” 

Using technology to enhance customer service has always been the rationale given for investing in innovation. And it’s clear that the two often work hand in hand, as the latest results from Ipsos Mori’s survey on Personal Banking Quality show. The top four providers, ranked by overall service quality, are clearly digitally led. For SMEs too, the top three providers ranked by overall service quality are those smaller providers leading with a more personalised, relationship offering backed by technology. 

Adding value 

As both Matt Smith, CEO, Birmingham Bank, and Tony Greenham, Executive Director, South West Mutual, explain, technology – and particularly the democratisation of technology – is supporting the growth of regional banks and their ability to “serve parts of the community and economy that are currently not well-served”, as Greenham puts it. 

Smith agrees: “There are a host of data options available that are helping smaller and niche players take a foothold in the market and provide a responsive and efficient service to customers – so that’s promoting choice. But it’s important to overlay that with good relationship managers, because everyone has access to the same data.” 

It’s an important point – and one that Bouvin too reinforces. In a commodity market, he says, “using technology to free up time to add value to customers, rather than purely to lower your cost base, may be the key to differentiating yourself from the competition.” 

Read more from Matt Smith and Tony Greenham in the ‘Time for a regional revolution?’ article on pages 32-34 of the summer 2021 issue of Chartered Banker magazine. And from Anders Bouvin in ‘You can’t digitise empathy’ on pages 48-49.