According to the BAI Outlook report, the greatest business challenges for bankers in 2022 is improving the digital experience and new customer acquisition. Only 9% of bankers describe their digital customer experience as excellent.
Community banks face a dilemma: invest in digital innovation or focus on the personalized service that serves as their niche. The key to their success is to select two or three things from a customer experience perspective they can sustainably deliver and focus on that, says Vincent Hui, Managing Director at Cornerstone Advisors.
And deciding what to focus on becomes the community bank’s primary digital challenge. To start this vetting process, bankers should engage with their digital partner to collaborate on a digital strategy to produce exceptional digital products.
The fundamentals of a successful digital partner strategy are listening, research, continuous refinement and robust digital product delivery.
Listen, research, validate – and listen again
Effective listening must help establish the foundation for effective digital partnerships between technology providers and the community banks they serve.
When a partner genuinely listens to their clients and end consumers, conversations rich in opportunity for both parties occur. Bankers and their customers willingly share feedback, but are software developers listening carefully for opportunities to capitalize on what they learn? Digital providers who listen well respond with action. Their best response isn’t in words, but in delivering on what they hear.
Effective listening and communication
In addition to robust technology development, sustainable partnerships thrive on open, two-way discussions that enhance the bank/technology provider relationship.
Your technology partner should hold regular forums that generate open dialog around key industry issues – and help ensure continued relevance and ongoing competitiveness for bank technology solutions.
These forums range from formal user groups and strategic product planning meetings to informal interactions that fuel the free flow of information. Clear digital product updates should be conveyed with regularity to bank partners, keeping bankers current on the status of new developments.
In addition, the digital provider should invest in their own propriety research to help bankers assess the digital wants and expectations of retail customers. Bankers should provide their digital partners with strategic feedback, helping them prioritize technology investment strategies in the areas of solution capabilities, infrastructure and professional services.
Adjust, refine and evolve digital strategies
The key to creating value from digital strategies derived from effective listening is relentless innovation encompassing the flexibility to adapt to market shifts and changes. Front-line bankers will often pick up on market shifts as they interact with their retail customers.According to a Deloitte study from 2020, front-line staff at several large retail banks eager to engage with the bank’s customers in on-going conversations should apply the following capabilities and techniques to help gain market insight to keep the bank’s digital products fresh and meaningful:
- Know me: Give me the credibility and autonomy I need to build authentic, lasting customer relationships.
- Inform me: Make it easy to see the full set of rich data, content and tools I need to guide customer conversations.
- Enable me: Support me with a streamlined set of tools and easy access to the bank’s full capabilities.
- Guide me: Give me clear support and flexible guardrails to have insightful, natural conversations with customers,
Digital offerings should aim to exceed bank and bank customer expectations
An executive at a bank partner succinctly summed up their digital solutions expectations from their technology partner: “Help us digitally enable the human relationship.”
To that end, digital products and services bankers seek today should:
- Provide the user experience and capability customers need regardless of how they want to access digital banking through either mobile application or responsive online channels.
- Offer modular solutions that can serve consumers, small businesses and high-net-worth customers from a single platform.
- Leverage open banking and APIs to easily create unique product features and future flexibility.
- Integrate financial wellness capabilities to deepen customers’ relationships by providing features such as account aggregation, budgeting and categorization; digital receipts for insights and savings on purchasing data; financial calculators; spending insights.
By focusing on select digital products implemented with a collaborative partner strategy, a community bank should achieve:
- Greater operational efficiency for bank staff with a single digital platform to serve multiple customer types
- More exceptional customer experiences that align with the bank’s service orientation
- Fee income opportunities with easily created and integrated additional capabilities
- Greater insight gained on customers via financial wellness data aggregation