It’s a challenge for many banks today: how to offer consumers digital support as well as a human touch? In our third analysis of Accenture’s Market Pulse Survey 2018, we look at how banks need to find a balance between offering people online control while giving them trust with human interactions.

The question of how to blend digital and personal lies at the heart of the Accenture’s Market Pulse Survey 2018. We found that Belgian customers have many demands when it comes to their bank, they like digital banking, with 62% saying it is convenient. They also want banking channels to be personal (50%) and tailored (20%). But while digital technologies drive customer satisfaction, there is an increased risk that the relationship will transform into a long distance one, without any human contact.

"The choice is not between human or a robot, it is about how you best combine them to deliver a tailored outcome for your clients"

Handover headache

Banks pondering how to manage these seemingly opposing demands need to see that some ways, these are two sides of the same coin. Although the trend across banking and so much else in our lives is to digitise it all, customers still crave a face and/or a human voice, especially in moments of truth when there is a lot of money or complexity to manage. This is not contradictory but rather complementary. The choice is not between human or a robot, it is about how you best combine them to deliver an optimized outcome for your clients.

That is something I recently felt when I had to arrange my own mortgage with my husband. We did our homework and used an online simulator to find a good quote for our new home. Then a human agent came into play, albeit remote, to help refine the settings. And after that, we met face-to-face to sign the documents, - a step that I expect will become digital soon. The preference for human interaction is not necessarily about ensuring the lowest rate. It was about confirming our choices and our trust, which touches on much deeper emotions.

But banks should beware: it can be complicated. Customers do not want to retell their story every time, so banks have to make sure everything done online is captured and shared. If a customer goes to the branch and the person does not know the file, it destroys the overall experience. Despite often rigid legacy systems, digitising a process towards customers is not that hard. Ensuring the end-to-end journey is a smooth and personalised one is more complex. If the back-end process does not follow the automation in the front, it creates bottlenecks and disappointed customers.

Besides combining human and digital, how else can banks better serve customers in this digital age?

From structured form to dialogue

Artificial intelligence (AI) offers great possibilities to make digital conversations seem more human and enable personalised services. Our survey revealed that 84% of people are willing to interact with entirely computer-generated devices for ‘non-emotional’ services like banking information, requesting a quote, updating personal details, and daily banking transactions.

AI can do a lot to increase customer satisfaction in a cost-effective manner. Chatbots on the website let people access information 24/7. However, valuable though they may be, chatbots are not enough. With advanced AI, the system can learn and adapt, helping banks to unlock available data to provide customers with personalised offers that empowers them to make their own decisions.

“The key point is that banks have to come up with tailored proposals for customers within the data privacy boundaries”

Ask for data, prove you deserve them

Unexpectedly, our survey found that customers are open to sharing personal data if they can feel that they get something in return. So they can share if they see that their data are being used to better protect against fraud (65%), for a personalised banking service (42%) or personalised deals from non-financial service providers (35%). As long as you give something relevant in return, customers are ready to share.

For example, if someone is going through major changes, the bank can use its understanding of the customer’s financial situation to proactively offer some options. The key point is that banks have to come up with tailored proposals for customers within the data privacy boundaries.

This opens up opportunities for banks to be relevant beyond traditional banking boundaries. For example, if someone is moving houses, the bank can help by suggesting moving  services. But it has to make clear the partnerships it has with outside businesses upfront and avoid being perceived as too intrusive.

We have seen that customers are ready to use both digital and personal services, according to the circumstances. They value convenience and reassurance, showing that the inexorable rise of online services does not spell the end of the bank agent, being it in a different setting than before. Customers have a good idea of what they want. And if banks want to make the most of the changing environment, they need to understand how customers think, allow all channels to shine, and decide how far they are ready to go to stay relevant.