What omni-channel will look like in the future

Tom Stinton explores what omni-channel banking looks like and what it means for your customers.

What omni-channel will look like in the future. Image by BsWei, iStockphoto.

We all understand what multi-channel banking means and how it gives customers a choice on how they engage with their bank: in branch, online, on their mobile, on the phone, through Twitter, and more. More recently, the term omni-channel banking (from the latin meaning ‘all’ or ‘every’) has been gaining traction too, so what’s the difference, and how do multi-channel and omni-channel banking compare?

In multi-channel banking, customers can choose their preferred means of dealing with the bank, but each channel functions independently from the others. In omni-channel banking, customers can still choose which channels they use to engage with their bank, but the channels are joined up so that the customer experience is seamless across them all.

What omni-channel looks like

Let’s use the example of an omni-channel mortgage application to demonstrate. It’s 2017, and Sara is applying for a mortgage. She starts the application process while commuting to work:

Research

Sara uses her large-screen mobile phone to read about her bank’s mortgage products and offers, and to try out a few different options with its mortgage calculator, until her research is cut short by the end of her journey. At lunchtime, she uses her work laptop to resume her research, and her bank’s website automatically takes her to the last thing she looked at on her phone during her commute.

Authentication

After navigating to the ‘mortgage application’ page on her bank’s website, she logs in to her bank account. To authenticate herself, she opens up the biometric app on her NFC-enabled smartphone, holds her forefinger against its biometric fingerprint reader and taps the device against her laptop. Logging in and authentication is simple, seamless and persistent across channels.

Information gathering

To apply, Sara needs to complete an online form, but almost all of the information is filled in automatically rather than typed. Because she is already ‘known’, her name, address, contact details, bank account, date of birth and other personal details are pre-filled. Similarly, Sara can automatically fill in the terms of the mortgage she wants by selecting one of the scenarios she tested with the bank’s mortgage calculator earlier. For the fields that require information about the property she plans to buy, Sara uses an NFC tap to send information from the estate agent app on her phone to the form.

Customer support

There’s one field on the form that Sara needs help with. She touches the web chat icon next to that field and a virtual customer support assistant appears instantly. The assistant already knows who she is, what she’s trying to do and where she has got stuck. In a multi-channel system, she would have had to call the customer support center, answer a range of security questions to re-authenticate herself and explain what she was trying to do.

Sharing information

Confirming her income is easy. Sara simply logs into her account on her tablet in exactly the same way she did on her laptop, then navigates to her mortgage application. If she consents to it, her mortgage provider can automatically access her bank accounts (even if they’re provided by a competitor) and her tax records through their public APIs (Application Program Interfaces). If she has paper documents, she can use the camera on her tablet to snap images of them instead of scanning them.

Making an appointment

The final stage of the application involves a visit to the branch to verify her identity in person. Booking an appointment is easy: she can do it through her tablet, laptop or the app on her mobile – it doesn’t matter which. All she needs to do is pick a convenient date and time.

The branch visit

As Sara walks through the door, the beacon recognizes her instantly, prompting the digital screen halfway down the branch to switch to advertising something that’s relevant to her personally: home insurance and income protection insurance. At the same time, she receives a message on her mobile confirming her appointment and which room she needs to go to. When she gets there, her adviser will already have the details of her application onscreen.

In the meeting

Sara sits alongside the bank customer service adviser at a ‘smart table’. She logs into her account – again using biometrics on her NFC smartphone to verify her identity. The assistant discusses the mortgage application with her, talking over the repayments in some detail. With a swipe of her hand, the assistant transfers a copy of what they have discussed straight to Sara’s smartphone, so she has a copy to take away with her.

A great opportunity for traditional banks

I hope this example has given you some insight into what omni-channel banking might look like and how it will simplify the customer journey by ensuring all channels work together in harmony.

Omni-channel banking is already starting to take shape, though the full omni-channel experience isn’t with us yet. As relevant technologies mature, it’s what your customers will come to expect. Whether you are a bank, motor finance provider or even a collector, the quality of your omni-channel experience will be a key commercial differentiator.

In particular, omni-channel will give bricks-and-mortar firms a clear advantage over new market entrants. Without a physical world, digital-only companies can only deliver a limited omni-channel experience.

Are you planning to take advantage of omni-channel to offer your customers the high quality interactions they increasingly expect? Have you thought about what it will look like for you and for your customers?

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