How is the in-store retail customer experience evolving?
American retailers appear to be facing a crisis. Brands like JC Penney, American Apparel, and Sears are all closing stores and customers there...
Retail Customer Experience magazine recently featured an interesting interview with Alice Milligan, Chief Customer and Digital Experience Officer at banking giant Citi.
Given the current rapid change in the financial service sector, it’s fascinating to see where big banks are focusing effort.
With Citi there are clearly three main areas:
Milligan notes that the customer journey cannot be predicted. Even if you offer every service online or on a mobile, there is a tendency for customers to hop around various channels because they use what is convenient at the time. If a customer is at home in front of their laptop then they might use a different channel to when they are on a bus on the way to work.
One striking example is that customers will use electronic online tools to make a payment, but will call the bank a day later to check that what they did online the previous day actually worked. Perhaps this behaviour still remains from when payments were more manual and required a visit to the branch, but if this is how customers behave then the customer journey needs to acknowledge it.
Milligan noted that once the customer journey is simplified and customer interaction is facilitated across various channels on a 24/7 basis then the next big hurdle is to make service more personal. Using data in the right way at the right time can give customers a better experience and can be advantageous for the bank as products can be placed in front of the customer just when they are interested in making a purchase.
Looking ahead to priorities in the remainder of 2016 and 2017 Milligan said that mobile is the focus:
“This year, we are launching a number of enhancements to our mobile app, with the goal of expanding the functionality and utility of the app by delivering new and innovative features. Citi offers a number of exclusive benefits to our card members, which is our way of thanking them for their loyalty to us, and we want to ensure these are available cross-channel.”
It’s important to note that a banking group the size of Citi is entirely focused on making the mobile experience better for customers. This clearly shows that they are aware of the threat from young start-ups offering banking services that only exist as apps – and are extremely easy to use.
Milligan notes that existing loyalty schemes don’t really work across all channels, but this is being rectified so Citi customers will be rewarded for loyalty however they interact with the company.
The 2-part interview is an interesting insight into customer experience strategy in a large financial service company and I think that it underlines how fast this industry is changing. Banks are shifting very quickly to be focused on the mobile interaction with customers and this focus will take place over the next two years, not ten. It doesn’t look good for the future of bank branches, but if the customer journey measurement shows that most people prefer a mobile experience now then the banks are giving people more of what they want.