The importance of human interaction in banking
According to banking and insurance trade association Efma, just a few years into the new millennium, the majority of people’s financial interactions still centred on traditional bank branches. Less than 15 years later, over 90% of customer interactions have now shifted to digital channels such as online, mobile banking, digital wallets and call centres.
Although digital banking is on the ascendancy, our research underlined the continued relevance of the human touch in driving sales. For example, human in-branch channels were by far the most popular communication channel for researching, applying or buying a new financial product (11 percentage points higher than bank’s own websites).
Preferred channels when researching, applying or buying a new financial product
But well-staffed banking branches alone aren’t the answer – executives we spoke are thinking less in terms of channels and more about the overall customer context. There is a very strong need for people to seek out advice to gain confidence to make decisions – but how that should be delivered depends on the individual circumstance i.e. when to sit down with someone in-branch or interact with a chatbot.
The challenge is that while banks hold significant amounts of customer data, they aren’t using it in a way that will help them centre in on customers this way. To succeed they now need to understand the real insights behind the data to fully understand individuals’ emotions and motivations.
Balancing the practical and emotional needs of customers
People take out new products or services from bank brands for all sorts of different reasons. Those that tend to come to mind are often quite practical, such as price or product performance.
Emotions are also important. We found people don’t always want to be spoken to like a “customer” but engaged with as the breathing, living, well-rounded human beings they are.
It’s the combination of these rational and emotional reasons that enable brands to embed themselves into the unconscious mind, to become the preference.
Factors influencing the choice of main account provider
Banks are challenged to deliver on the human experience
Finding the right way to balance emotional and practical drivers can be a challenge, as is figuring out how they interact. When asked about their existing banking relationships, only 42% agreed they felt cared for as a person, not simply as a customer. People were also more likely to disagree than agree that they were rewarded for their loyalty.
Banking customers point of view on the experience with current account provider
When done well, a different kind of relationship can be created – a mutually beneficial exchange based on two-way interaction. This comes from the delivery of the brand promise and some additional form of reciprocity.
New ways of communicating with customers are needed
Imagine, then, if we all started empathising with “customers” as human beings, and endowing brands with more human characteristics. There’s a simple way to do this: update “customer experience” to “human experience”, switching out “CX” for “HX”.
But what are the main business benefits of being more human?
Analysing the 42% of consumers (“connected consumers”) in our study that told us their bank cares for them a person, not simply as a customer, we discover that HX shifts the needle. Connected consumers are far more likely to realise a bank’s advertised “promise”. By comparison, for the average consumer there’s only a 50/50 chance that products and services align with the original marketing spiel. This is because connected customers are more likely to feel like their bank is working harder to service their needs – from striving to give the best possible experience (and consistently doing so across channels) to supporting them in their life beyond the products provided.
What is the HX premium for banks?
By delivering HX, a brand is demonstrating greater empathy, attentiveness and responsiveness, moving on from obsessing about itself to obsessing about people.
When the brand is able to deliver experiences consistently this way, offerings can be elevated to a higher plane. In doing so, a brand can create a deep set of “positive experience credits” which can transcend logic and price.
The end of our journey: From customer to human experience
Some CMOs are in the enviable position where their board has now recognised the benefits of HX. Far from having to ‘sell’ the vision, pressure is now coming the other way to ‘hurry up and get going’ in launching a new human agenda. To do so, a better understanding of what’s driving emotions and motivations of individuals is crucial to understand which strategies to prioritise, and which should go on the back burner.
Richard Thaler, a recent Nobel Prize winner in Economic Science believes, “In order to do good economics, you have to keep in mind that people are human”. Incorporating such thinking into the way banks deliver products and services is more important than ever and will allow banks to elevate their brands, finally helping individuals and society at large.
About the research
Accenture Research interviewed 5 C-level marketing decision makers and surveyed 1,000 consumers holding a main account with an incumbent bank brand, split evenly across five European countries: the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain. All consumers interviews were carried out online between 8th-18th January 2019.