Be ready or be dead!

"If you Know Yourself and you know your enemies, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles..."

- Sun Tzu -

Friday, July 25, 2014

My bank is everywhere!

When you proudly say: This is my SON! is because you are so happy to let everybody know about your beloved son. Banks and other business should dream about proud customers speaking up: "My Bank" or "My Library" or whatever the case. But, when a customer, with eyes wide open and with a grateful surprise says "My Bank is everywhere!" and the following days proudly claims or feels something like "My Bank!" it means that the bank has done the right things.

The fact of being everywhere is a clear consequence of Omnichannel infrastructure and strategy. How hard or easy for any bank to be a real omnichannel service provider depends some times on the Core Banking System that supports every transaction.  Sometimes the internal infrastructure demands a lot of work, a brand new Enterprise Bussiness Bus, new servers, etc. Others just need to customize its intrincated or state of the art technological platform. Technically the solution exists.

The average customer wants to access her bank services at any time and be recognized as soon as she starts the choosen channel. As I stated in other opportunities, the user experience has run to be "Holy Grail" for Omnichannel experience. Consistency and real time integration need to be present, service quality, transactions availability, security (this demands other chapter) and performance are the key players to grade high in omnichannel.

One customer sometime asked "why do I need to invest all this money in multichannel services?" The answer can be so simple, "To be in the wave", nevertheless is not only being in the wave, it means to be full competitive, be able to keep and attract customers and develop healthy  relations that translate into profit.

Today,  with the enablement of digital channels and the advent of a 100% digital generation, the presence of multiple channels relying on a strong, multifunctional and diverse omnichannel platform can make the difference between desperate efforts of surviving or flourish. Any bank should understand that they will have diverse kind of customers, those old fashioned that can´t live without branches and the other pole who does not want to step into any branch. From them, the divergent are the last ones, because they look for convenience for ubiquous banking, they do not care to have a strong relationship with specific bank officers but with the bank. This mixture of interests force banks to have a lot of channels available to be used 7x24 all year long. Changes comes slowly, as demographics switch to the new wave of digital enabled ones.

Customers behavior changes from country to country, from region to region and from tribe to tribe. As a marketing specialist friend says: Now we have tribes of consumers, global groups that look for specific features and that are identified under the same consumer´s flag. A number of banks have been betting on branch transformation using models of video terminals, self assisted intelligent deposit  terminals and other devices but their goal to have all branches without personnel has been fruitless, since there are people who want to speak face to face with a human instead a video monitor.

Regarding this problem, I remember about the evolution of savings accounts user´s data. Back in 1994, in Columbia, South America. One popular bank decided to implement debit cards to replace passbooks. The project looked to produce a lot of savings for the bank, reduce the use of ink ribbons, passbooks´ distribution, be ahead of competition and a lot of more etc. But failed miserably. An important number of customers lived in rural areas and they rejected the idea of not seeing its movements printed in their passbooks.  Currently they have implemented massively the use of debit cards and vast number of customers rely on the information that can obtain at eny ATM or using internet or mobile channel, nonetheless they still have passbooks.

Prepare the blueprint, aprove it and then build it.

Most of us have dealt with opportunities like buying an sound system, dress or a house. The first thing we do is to be clear about what we like to have from our purchase or more, about our project if building a house is the case. The same principle comes to our hands when we deal with Omnichannel, strategy, planning, lots of planning need to be deployed before look after technology solutions. In the same way that you won´t buy a bolt whitout knowing if fits in that nut. Yes, it is possible to use special tools to our purpose of bolt fitting but this can turn the solution more expensive that the solver by itself.

A good planning stage will save time and money. As I pointed out above, the final technical solution comes from the current bank core and satellite systems. In some cases the solution will modify and wire interfaces among systems, others will replace entire solutions and the extreme case will need to build all the infrastructure from teh ground up.

The last year, one customer who liked to replace its widows forms based administrative interface was looking for a painless or at less not so painful process to have all interfaces in a web based environment. The real problem was to migrate its client-server architecture to a SOA architecture. They began their journey early the year before, and after hired a renowned company and suffered a failout, they opened wide their eyes just to find out that they need a omnichannel solution anchored in its platform. As a matter of fact they are now working with the omnichannel strategy in min, but they are no more the leaders they wanted to be.

Be prepared to win

The evolution of bank channels, sane way as retail touch points,  starts from the single channel, where customer uses the only available channel and the bank had centralized data information , then came multichannel, where custmers access their bank through any of the independent channels implemented at the bank and the bankcollected customer´s data from siloed channels by functional silos. The next step, put the bank in control over customer information but customers didn´t have the desired User Experience and banks still works in functional silos until Omnichannel emerged.

We can have channels such Branch, Contact/Call Center, ATM, On line banking, Mobile Banking, IVR Banking, SMS Banking, Kiosks and Self Service Banking (multifunction ATMs), Social Banking, Sales Point Banking, and even some people uses the term of Tablet Banking for other channel, I do prefer to call this last one: App Banking.

As you see, Branch stared everything and persists, that´s because we humans like to feel "human touch". Well, to have all headcount aware of Omnichannel opportunities, every group of workers need to be comunicated and understand what omnichannel means in terms of data and information that flows through all implemented channels and is available in different administrative or customer service stations. Banks need to have implemented a really structured communication workflow that starts from its administrative heads.

When the bank has addopted omnichannel, the principles of discussed branch transformation, where any employee can access any customer data in real time at the right time, the customer can start to experience the new service level, an amazing customer experience.

The strategy should break the culture of functional silos and siloed channels, the bank´s personnel should turn to see the customer in a 360° view and be able to interact with the customer using this information power that constitutes a rich arsenal. These weapons, for building lasting relationships and to generate the possible best profit, come from an omnichannel culture that comes hand in hand by Ubiquitous Banking or OmniBank, you name it.

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