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Email Newsletter - View Article Thursday, April 17th, 2014
Wells Fargo Underscores the Importance of Aligning Channel Strategies

Analyst's Journal - January 19th, 2012

By Donna Arce

As digital banking touch points expand, the customer is benefitting from 24/7 access through alternative lower cost service channels. Its a win-win situation as long as the experience for both the bank and the customer is reliable and consistent. Execution is everything. As technological advances are made, the challenges are simplifying usability, eliminating downtime and ensuring consistency. This needs to happen not only in the cross-channel banking experience but also between bank transactions and the customer's record keeping systems. Failure could disrupt a customer's ability to manage his or her business effectively.

Currently, 60% of small businesses (companies $100K to <$10MM) and 83% of middle market companies ($10MM to <$500MM) use online banking for their business. When taking into account all of an online banking users' total bank touches, we see on the chart below that 40% of small businesses and 45% of middle market companies occur in the Web site for transactions channel. While mobile and iPad adoption is low, momentum is building as availability of banking services through these channels increases.

However, do not mistake the value of brick and mortar branches. Today, 84% of small businesses and 79% of middle market companies still use the branches. Digital channels are additive channels and not replacement channels. We do not argue the expense associated with maintaining a branch and there isn't a magic formula for determining the right number and location of branches in a bank network. But one thing is clear, the branch helps build the bank's brand and symbolizes a bank's commitment to the market. Furthermore, what gets lost in translation in the digital channel is the face-to-face interaction with the customer.

Brett Pitts, SVP, Internet Portfolio Management, Internet Services Group, Wells Fargo Bank
notes, "The kinds of cross-channel behaviors we're talking about here are nothing new. Customers have been walking into branches, picking up the phone, getting money from ATMs, and paying bills online for years. What's top-of-mind for everyone now is the quickly rising set of expectations for how effectively we recognize who customers are and what they've done as they cross channels. It really increases the complexity and need for aligned channel strategies, and the benefits of doing it well, both to the customer and to the customer's relationship with the company, are enormous."

So how do institutions blend the channels for maximum effectiveness? It may take time to figure that out; however, in the interim, a review of your service channels is necessary to identify and troubleshoot issues that impact the user experience.

Look at each of your service channels and ask these five questions:
1. Is the service channel user-friendly?
This is a simple question but includes a variety of factors:
-Intuitive navigation/terminology, optimal number of clicks for accessing information through digital channels.
-Ability to find branch and call center telephone numbers and get through the automated phone system to reach the person you are actually trying to contact in a reasonable amount of time.
-How the customer is greeted in each channel and if the customer is thanked for their business at the end of their channel experience.

2. Do all channels deliver consistent messages?

The balance and transaction data obtained through the ATM, the teller, the call center, online and mobile channels should always be the same. When it is not, the consequence could be problematic for both the client and for the bank.

3. Are the format and content of outgoing messages appropriate for the channel delivering the message?

Outgoing messages should be appropriately scripted for the channel from which they are being delivered.

4. Are digital channel offerings part of the sales conversation?

You can build a better mousetrap but no one will knock on your door if they don't know about it.

5. Are Channel Managers communicating?

Periodic meetings can help identify opportunities for cross channel support to improve the customer experience and bank efficiencies.

Julie Millbrand, VP, Manager of Multi-Channel Initiative, Internet Services Group at Wells Fargo contributes, "Addressing our customer's needs is what drives all of our cross channel strategy. We listen to what our customers tell us about their ‘pain points' in the banking experience and then we solve for that. Our ultimate goal is to help our customers succeed financially, regardless of how they access their accounts and interact with their money. Having the right technology to make it all seamless is a big component of that."

Technology is reshaping the way we bank. Financial service delivery is no longer one size fits all. Instant access is becoming the norm and anything less than instant and consistent could soon be perceived as inadequate service.

For more information on the growth of digital channels and Barlow Research's Business Internet Banking Program, contact Donna Arce at (763) 253-1815 or Youa Yang at (763) 253-1825.

Contact a Barlow Research Analyst about this article
Barlow Research Associates, Inc.
917 Lilac Drive North
Minneapolis, MN 55422
Tel: 763-253-1800 Fax: 763-253-1879
 

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