customers-2-8-18.pngCustomer experience in banking used to be about simply offering the best digital banking experience. But today, customer experience (CX) is a competitive battleground. Consumers aren’t just comparing their experience at your bank to other financial institutions, but to successful online retailers like Amazon and Zappos, as well.

Fortunately, building a differentiated customer experience is well within the reach of traditional banks and contrary to popular belief, getting there doesn’t require a major overhaul to existing processes, or even waiting until the entire digital or CX strategy is mapped out. It just requires bank leaders to rewrite one rule: Instead of waiting for customers to come to you for self-service, go to them with proactive service.

Improving customer experience in banking means making engagement proactive and personal.

A great customer experience can mean different things to different people, but there’s one common thread: ease. Ask your customers to name the most important thing you can do to win their loyalty, and you’ll probably hear, “make it easy for me” as the most common answer.

While simple in concept, this is at odds with how most companies serve their customers. If you take a look at your bank’s current CX model, chances are you’ll find it relies heavily on self-service and one-to-many messages. Mobile apps, customer portals, community forums and chatbots are great tools for customers seeking answers, but customers still have to do the work in reaching out to the bank and asking the right questions. Even then, customers have to sort through tons of information to find content that’s relevant to them.

As easy experiences become a baseline expectation for customer loyalty, companies must make the switch to guiding customers with proactive CX. Unlike self-service, proactive service takes the weight off of customers by eliminating the need to search for answers. Instead, it predicts the information that customers will need based on where they are in their journey. Then, it delivers this content as personalized experiences, directing customers to the information they need before they have to ask.

The content for a better banking customer experience is there—it just needs the right timing.

So where should banks start? The best way to begin is to identify the moments in the customer lifecycle that are causing the most friction. This can be accomplished by looking at call logs, the bank’s more popular web pages, common chatbot questions and FAQs. (Relay has provided a step-by-step guide on how businesses can do this well.)

Map out these interactions and reduce any unnecessary complications. Then, guide customers through each step by delivering the right content at the right time, with the right context. By focusing on problems that are common to all users, your bank can automate proactive, individualized service that empowers customers.

As an example, $152 billion asset Citizens Financial Group, headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, struggled with high drop-off rates in its student loan application process. The forms required a lot of back-and-forth to collect necessary information from each applicant, creating a negative customer experience. Citizens needed to improve its student loan application pull-through with automated and proactive mobile messages that knew where customers were in the application process. An automated process that delivers relevant information and proactive, timely reminders has resulted in a 10 percent increase in loan completions, and the process is now 40 percent faster.

The process for home equity lines of credit (HELOC) is another area where banks could improve the experience. Customers are often stumped during the application process, which can lead to costly outbound calls to the customer to help them through. Once approved, customers usually have a number of questions: What are the benefits? What can I use the line of credit for? How do I draw down? As a result, lines of credit are underutilized. Instead of relying on the customer to seek out these answers, banks can educate and engage customers at every stage in the process.

The banking experience can’t abandon self-service—but proactive service will preempt it.

In order to succeed in this new era of heightened CX expectations, banks need to invest in channels that enable relevant, personalized and proactive engagement with customers. By making it easy for customers to get exactly what they need through their preferred channels, your bank could be one that customers are eager to use.

Brie Tascione