How AI, blockchain, and digital assistants are shaping the future of digital banking. How small banks and lenders can bridge the digital divide with their larger competitors. How banks and fintech startups are expanding investment into user experience. There were a lot of incredibly interesting discussions that happened this week at LendIt Fintech in San Francisco.
Many of these discussions (naturally) centered around technology, but the critical importance of customer experience was a recurring theme as well. More and more, customer experience is becoming the competitive differentiator that sets banks apart from each other. CX leaders in financial services have a higher share of deposits, and cross-sell products and services to their customer base at 2x that rate of their peers.
Technology Investment and CX Optimization
Not surprisingly there’s a broad overlap between technology investments, and CX improvement initiatives in the financial sector. Customers, especially younger consumers, increasingly expect to interact with their banks at the time and place of their choosing. Technology-enabled self-service and mobile banking services are designed to meet these needs. In the same vein, back office automation projects are focused on delivering services to customers more quickly, and freeing up employees to focus on customer needs.
Last year financial services sector in North America spent 104 billion dollars on technology, with most of it focused on improving customer service, yet there are still challenges. In a recent survey of banking customers by Protiviti, only 36% reported that their banks exceed expectations when it comes to customer experience. Why? Well part of it is simply that consumers have high expectations, but it’s also due to inconsistent experiences across channels.
Customer Experience is driven by the cumulative interactions a customer has with a brand or business—across online and offline channels. A bank with great digital interactions that neglects phone support quality or the in-branch experience won’t see the same CX improvements as one that invests consistently across channels.
Physical Mail, the Forgotten Customer Channel?
One of the areas that’s often overlooked when it comes to customer channels is the impact of traditional, physical mail. And true to form this wasn’t a topic that was heavily covered at the event. It may seem like an anachronism in today’s digital landscape, but physical mail is very much a part of customer engagements in financial services.
In 2017, financial services companies sent 29 billion pieces of mail in the US, accounting for 60% of all transactional mail, and 26% of all advertising mail. Although consumers are rapidly adopting digital transactions (56% prefer to pay bills online), they still retain preferences for physical mail communication (57% prefer printed bank statements and 61% prefer printed credit card bills).
Given the continued importance of mail-based communications, many companies are looking for new ways to move beyond the traditional (slow, manual, opaque) process of sending mail, and begin using it as an effective, timely customer engagement channel.
The Digital Transformation of Physical Mail
The key to improving the customer experience around traditional mail, is to treat it more like digital communications. Savvy financial institutions have automated a broad series of digital communications around the customer lifecycle bridging transactions, proactive help, and timely offers to maximize customer lifetime value.
Lob’s platform allows financial companies to use physical mail in the same way. Lob automates the creation and delivery of mail by integrating directly with CRM, loan servicing, or other customer platforms. Individual pieces of mail can be triggered based on customer behavior and milestones, and the content of each piece can be personalized to that specific customer’s context and preferences.
Lob also provides detailed visibility into the production and delivery of mail. Traditionally, insight into production processes, USPS delivery, or proof of delivery was extremely limited and manual. Lob surfaces precise tracking allowing financial companies to inform their customers of payment delivery, meet compliance requirements, and measure the impact of marketing campaigns.
We’ve recently augmented these capabilities with the addition of electronic return receipts for certified mail. For important customer or regulatory mailings the feature allows companies to prove that each piece of mail was sent and that it was received. With this option enabled, customers will receive a digital image of the recipient's signature allowing companies to confirm and easily store proof of receipt.
Putting it All Together—Literally
There’s no question that digital investments are top of mind for many financial institutions, and emerging technologies such as AI and smart digital assistants were key areas of discussion at the event this week. Digital investments also have a clear impact on customer experience, and banks are seeing a significant shift in customer preferences towards digital and mobile transactions.
At the same time, customer experience is influenced by all channels from an in-branch experience, to phone-based customer support, to timely and relevant communications received through the mail. A more significant takeaway from the event is that digital transformation in financial services needs to apply to all channels. Technology can create channels, but it can also help to improve and integrate online and offline customer engagements.
Financial companies that can put these things together stand to become the new leaders in customer experience. To learn more about how Lob is using software to transform the production and delivery of physical mail, contact us for a custom demo.