Are banks facing their own ‘Kodak Moment’?

Many organizations are partnering to leverage big tech’s digital expertise. Others are playing the waiting game, to avoid collaborating with what might become their most deadly competitor. Where do you stand?

Antony Jenkins, the former chief executive of Barclays, warned that banks are facing their own “Kodak moment” as they face similar challenges that the film company faced when refusing to move with the times.

“Banking will be shaken up by the combination of artificial intelligence, the internet and distributed ledger technology, such as blockchain, which will do away with the need for central counter-parties on transactions. And while banks hire tens of thousands in their technology arms, often they are mostly maintaining legacy systems.”

Are these fears overblown – or should banks fear they might get left behind?

Technology isn’t the big issue

First, consider that according to the latest CXMB Financial Services report, despite historic levels of investment by banks, while 30% of customers believe that resolving issues has become easier over recent years, 32% believe it has become more difficult.

The results sound pretty evenly mixed – until you take into account that 57% of customers reported that they had moved some or all of their business from a bank as a result of a poor customer care experience.

The fact of the matter is that legacy business models are under threat. And yes, emerging competitors, including venture capital-funded fintechs and tech giants like Apple and Google, are threatening banks’ market share and disrupting the expected ways of doing business that have underpinned the industry for the last 300 years. But a look at the bigger picture shows that banks need to close the gap that exists between what they offer and how well those offerings actually meet customers’ needs and expectations.

It’s the technology/service gap

The CXMB survey results conclusively show that today’s customers expect to engage on their terms and in the channel of their choosing. Where this need is not met, customers are significantly more likely to rate their experience as a negative one - and as the responses above indicate, they often seek out alternatives.

While banking customers overwhelmingly prefer to speak on the phone to resolve issues, the frequency at which they pick up the phone isn’t always by choice. The responses below indicate that customers would prefer to use digital channels such as online chat, email, texting and self-help (such as online knowledgebases), but are presumably forced to resort to a phone call to have their needs effectively satisfied.


(Source: CXMB Industry Insights: Financial Services)

The disconnect between channel availability and channel efficiency is also borne out in perceptions of where banks have made strides and where they still need to catch up. While customers cite “Technology” and “Service” as banks’ No. 1 and No. 2 respective biggest improvements in recent years, they also point to “Service” as the No. 2 area where banks need to focus in the future. (“Service fees” was ranked No. 1 for this question.)

Navigating increased customer expectations

So, are banks facing a Kodak moment? While it’s true that customers are often lured by the promised speed, convenience, and efficiencies brought about by technological innovation, you can make the case that first-mover advantage is ultimately finite because legacy organizations have the resources to replicate or acquire new technologies in order to level the playing field.  What matters is meeting customers on their terms, in the channel of their choosing, and avoiding the poor experiences that lead to disloyalty and switching. For more than 20 years, VXI has been providing highly specialized services for banking and financial services clients.  We can help you navigate the change ahead.

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Going from omnichannel to channel-less CX

We’ve come a long way since Henry Ford (reportedly) declared, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

Flash forward to PayPal CEO Dan Schulman asserting that in 20 years there will be no more credit cards: “Everyone will have a smartphone, enabling consumers to have "full connectivity at a very low price."

It’s an empowering time for customers. For those of us in the customer care space, there’s an interesting challenge: How can we prepare for the future of the customer experience (CX) when we don’t even know what that looks like yet?

What we do know

With more than 40 billion IoT-enabled devices predicted to be connected to the Internet by 2022 in the U.S. alone, the once-clear lines between face-to-face, voice and digital are gearing up to blur even more as technology advances. Omnichannel customer experience isn’t an option - it’s a mandate.

With technological adoption, customers expect to interact with organizations when they want and where they want - and no matter the channel, they expect a seamless interaction.

You can consider this a challenge, or you can consider it an opportunity.

Consider a basic (often unmet) expectation for a hotel guest: to be able to interact with her room as easily as she does with her home. Now consider that 13% of U.S. households have smart thermostats. The data that an IoT-enabled thermostat collects on a guest’s temperature preferences could be used to ensure a welcoming environment when she arrives at her room.

We’re in the omnichannel age today – and it’s no longer just chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) on the horizon. How long until we get to channel-less?

At VXI, I’ve helped numerous clients navigate and leverage both the opportunities and challenges they were seeing – and weren’t seeing - to drive a superior CX for their customers.

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To bot or not to bot – the promise and pitfalls

Chatbots are a consistently hot topic in customer (CX) – and rightly so. According to Gartner, by 2020, daily interactions with chatbots will be normal, and 30% of internet browsing will be done through a bot, rather than a screen.  

Our clients are exploring ways to improve both the guest experience and operational efficiencies in a variety of ways – from notifying a traveler when an upgraded room is available to setting push notifications on package delivery milestones.

As companies move to embrace this technology they often find that there are many options to consider – all of which are constantly subject to change. Here’s a “bite-sized” primer on what our clients have experienced in this space.

Not all bots are the same 

It’s true that not all AI is created equal. Bots differ, markedly, in the amount of coding they need from humans to work well “going off script” if need be, answering customer queries without handing off to a human. To brush up on the basic three types, this article is a good place to start. 

Beware of the promise of bots 

It all sounds great at the beginning – lower costs for you, more efficient service for your customers. But like any new technology or channel, the promise is great – but the risks are also very real. Remember who you are working to create value for at the end of the day – the customer. If not done well, chatbots are “just another channel,” and we all know what happens when you add another channel without retiring others. Costs go up, not down. 

We’re at the beginning of the beginning 

This space is going to evolve enormously in the next few years. It’s good to dip your toes in, but I’d recommend being flexible and keeping your options open. At the same time, it pays to watch what is happening on the edges of the market for inspiration and direction.  

At the end of the day, chatbots should be adding value to your customers – and this doesn’t necessarily mean just in handling your standard frequently asked questions (FAQ) responses. I'm here to help you sort through the best channel mix to help you engage most effectively – and profitably - with your customers. 

Beyond the call center – the value your partners should deliver

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Why your CX can’t afford to ignore the ‘soft’ skills

It’s no secret that digital disruption across all industries is in full swing. 

And yet, regardless of improvements in technology or digitization, customers still want a human customer experience.

Harvard Business Review published an interesting article talking to this exact point around soft skills that are not yet ready to be offloaded to emerging technology.  

Here are three soft skills that HBR advocates won’t be replaced by technology anytime soon – and why they’re so important to your customer experience (CX). 

Emotional competence 

Despite the buzz around bots and self-service channels in travel and hospitality, there’s a real danger of organizations handing over their most valuable relationships to technology that’s not yet ready to handle them. When thinking about the different levels of emotional context, it’s clear technology can’t replace this essential human capability: 

“The most basic level of emotional competence is being able to recognize the emotions at play in the context of analysis and action. The next level is the ability to successfully intervene in an emotionally complex situation, when people are hurt or uncertain. At the highest level, emotional competence involves persuading individuals and groups by evoking emotion.” HBR, 2018. 

Context 

Historically, artificial intelligence (AI) has time and time again failed to understand relevant context. What begins merely as a “cute gimmick” - such as advertising delivered via social media - can quickly become a major frustration for customers. The reality is that we’re still miles away from technology providing the same level of contextual understanding that a human can – and travel and hospitality providers need to tread carefully in this area. 

Teaching 

HBR argues that while technology has made waves in education (e.g. online learning), it always has and will for the foreseeable future hinge on the way in which the human uses the technology. At VXI we couldn’t agree more, and we’re of the opinion that we need to be augmenting our agents with technology – not replacing them. That’s why we developed our own Training Simulator™ to empower and develop our agents into the best employees they can be – soft skills included. 

There’s no question that it’s important to weave technology into the fabric of your customer experience, but at the end of the day, it’s always been all about people. 

You need to work with partners who not only understand the value of soft skills – but champions them. Are your current partners up to scratch?

Five CX takeaways from the luxury brand experience

80% of Americans believe this is what makes a great CX

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