It was June 27, 1967.
Reg Varney, a television show host, stepped in front of a clunky contraption at Barclay’s branch in Enfield, North London, and withdrew money from a “cash machine”—the first in history.
At the time, that historic teller-less transaction was at the bleeding edge of modern banking. Today, we sigh at the thought of queueing at the ATM and get sick of being hurried by the people behind us.
Banking has come a long way since that day in June.
Exhibit A...and B...
Mobile Banking is King
The ATM pioneered human-less transactions, adding tremendous efficiency to the way money goes to clients. With ATMs, you don’t even need to step inside a bank to get money. All you do is walk a block or two, and spot a blinking stainless steel booth that dispenses cash. (How many times have you wondered, “Is there an ATM here?” and got an affirmation just by looking around?)
With today’s technology, you don’t even have to hunt for an ATM. The “bank” is safely nestled in your pocket—now an app that you download to your smartphone. You now don’t need to ask yourself, “Is there a bank or an ATM here?” because the answer will always be “Yes!”
Of course, there are safeguards like 2-factor authentication and single-use PINs for your peace of mind. You can now confidently pay all your monthly bills—from utilities to Netflix—plus groceries, and a few spur-of-the-moment online purchases, within a few clicks.
A whopping 88% of folks ages 21-40 address their financial needs through their smartphones. But tell your grandmother that you just finish your banking for the day—and that you’ve never talked to a single person and didn’t even touch a single bill, and she’ll think you scammy.
Crypto: If you can’t beat ‘em...
A cryptocurrency is digital money that can zoom from one person to another. Cryptocurrencies were once considered “bank killers” because transactions did not need to be verified by a bank or any financial institution. People were cutting off the “middle man” with his fees and policies.
With crypto, you’re able to skip age-old financial institutions and deal directly peer-to-peer. With no central governing body, financial transactions have been decentralized and democratized, away from the biggest names in the business.
Folks are using cryptocurrencies, and not just Bitcoin. They do it without ever dealing with any of the old, big names in the banking industry. So many thought, surely this would herald the end of banks.
Quite understandably, banks were more than sceptical of cryptocurrencies. How can it be more than just a phase, a little game concocted by techies with too much time on their hands? But with the surge of Bitcoin and Etherium, the banking brotherhood began to take notice of the changing times.
Today, banks are some of the biggest investors in blockchain projects. Blockchain is the technology that makes cryptocurrencies possible. Take this not just as hedging of their bets, but as a recognition that cryptocurrencies are here to stay, and they better play the game, or they’ll lose the cake.
Banking big boys are now going heavy into cryptocurrency.https://t.co/zDgXu99jg0
— Kinetic Innovative Staffing (@KI_Staffing) October 14, 2021
So, banks and banking might just be here to stay. But make no mistake, they definitely had to make some profound, irreversible changes.
The Thing That Never Changes
We’ve seen how banks invested heavily in tech. Technology will continually shape the landscape and influence not only who the big winners are, but also how daily operations are conducted.
However, in banking, there’s one constant that smart bankers and financial institutions always invest in.
It is this: Customer Service.
“Customer Service” may mean different things at different eras, but regardless of the prevailing technology, customer service will always be at the beating core of banking. Because without customers to serve, there is no business. The tech trends might have been cutting into the number and depth of human interactions, but come crises, scares, and hacks, you’re going to want to be talking to real people who can make you feel heard and secured.
In a study looking into a cross-section of industries, 84% of businesses that focused and improved their customer service experienced a lift in profits. In the same study, 92% solidified their customer loyalty.
Customer service is the humanising aspect of an industry that has embraced the bleeding edge of technology. It is the one thing that will differentiate banks over others. Getting the same kits—computers, servers, and software—will get you the same results. Tech is consistent that way. But in the messy world of human interaction, the bank that invests heavily in customer service would have taken care of the most important aspect of their industry.
Here are three things banks can do to make the customer service experience top-notch:
1) Anybody can smile, but can you help them succeed?
Having a pleasing personality, smiling and looking all attentive to a customer’s needs have become expected standards not only in the banking industry but for any business that wishes to serve people. There’s not much edge to be gained on those fronts as they are now the bare minimum.
A bank that’s serious about serving clients must genuinely want them to succeed—not just help them have a fast and pleasant transaction.
You will sense a bank’s mission from all the channels and materials that it puts out—from the website, call centre operations, to your interactions with its agents and officers. You’ll get the sense that you are not only being serviced, your complaint promptly attended to. Instead, you feel being guided, educated, and advised. You don’t feel like a serial number that has to be attended to.
For example, a bank wanting clients to succeed will put out materials on financial literacy, in plain, simple, approachable terms that will help people reach a well-informed decision. (You don’t get the feeling that they are using jargon to confuse and intimidate you.) Such a bank can quickly become a trusted advisor on all things financial.
Anybody can smile. The teller from that bank across the street is also smiling. Your edge comes from going out of your way to help people get what they really want.
2) Digital transformation requires customer service.
One of the benefits of adopting tech in the banking industry is that it increases productivity and profits. In the long run, tech is more cost-effective than the old way of doing business.
Banks have practically migrated their operations online, providing clients with plenty of opportunities for “self-service.” Apps and websites have been a bane for everybody. Human interaction and mistakes are minimized, efficiency is optimized, so everybody wins.
However, the mistake is in thinking that since digital has taken the place of person-to-person interactions, the bank will therefore need fewer folks to deal with customers. New tech brings with it new challenges and incidents of a different kind. You haven’t gotten rid of the human aspect of things, you have only migrated it to a different sphere. There is a need for expanded customer service/call centre operations.
The paradox here is that the more digital things become, the more humans are needed in the process.
3) Actively seek feedback.
All banks and all industries pay lip service to the importance of customer service. A great number of them will even claim that it is their #1 priority. (It will say so in their TV ads.)
But a bank with customer service baked into its DNA will look very different. You will sense it in the little things. That bank will not wait for complaints before acting on them. It will actively seek feedback, listen closely and quickly learn—for keeps.
I’m not talking about putting up a “Suggestion Box” or that token space in some bank form that asks, “How can we serve you better?”
Anybody can ask a question. But when an officer talks to a client, actively listens and quickly tries to formulate a win-win plan, that’s miles better than a dusty “Suggestion Box.”
This is beyond asking, “What did we do wrong?” It goes back to the first point of helping customers succeed. You are affirming your company’s existence and assuring your clients, “We’ll help you get there.”
Kinetic Innovative Staffing and all successful banks both know one thing: Customer Service is the most important ingredient for success. We know this because it is our job to find the very people who will implement and showcase these customer service values. Regardless of your industry, we can help populate your organization with remote professionals who can, beyond smiling themselves, put a smile on your customer’s faces.
Ask us how.
Kinetic Innovative Staffing has been providing hundreds of companies in the Asia Pacific, North America, the Middle East, and Europe with professionals working remotely from the Philippines since 2013. Get in touch to know more.