The business magazine Forbes ran an interesting story recently that explored how the future of retail banking will need to be more focused around the customer experience – the banks need to put customers first.
Customers have been asking for this for a long time, but there are so many areas of interaction between a customer and a bank that could be focused on so where would any business strategist begin? The Forbes example suggests that banks need to combine the superb customer service in Ritz Carlton hotels with the retail flair of Apple stores and the design appeal of Starbucks.
Bear in mind that this is focused on a US audience, but readers in the UK also know and can appreciate these brands so the message is not lost. Ritz Carlton does have quite legendary status for looking after their customers, Apple stores have revolutionized retail, and Starbucks have managed to create little homes-from-home all over the world so it is a good analogy.
But is it right for the UK? Retail banks here are more likely to be thinking about how they reduce their branch network at present rather than making them look more like a coffee shop.
Metro Bank is investing heavily in their branch network at present and will grow to be a significant force over the next couple of years, but until customers start having higher expectations of their bank, will the others change?
I believe that they will have to. Customer service in banking is not going to be just focused on who runs the best contact centre in future; it will be about the overall experience of banking with that company.
If a bank always answers you quickly and helpfully on the phone, always responds to your social media questions, and lets you bring your kids into a branch while you ask about a loan then isn’t it the kind of place you will develop a sense of loyalty towards?
All banks have been under pressure from customers since the economic slowdown in 2008, but I believe that a renewed focus on customer service will lead to a reduction in customer churn and many new customers.
Photo by EG Focus licensed under Creative Commons