Posted by MeridianLink | April 22, 2024

Balancing Technology & Human Interaction in Banking  

The materials available in this article are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your own advisors with questions regarding the content herein. The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the individual authors and may not reflect the opinions of MeridianLink, Inc.   

With the rise of online retail, the influence of social media, and the impact of inflation, the traditional banking experience has undergone a profound transformation. Customers expect nothing short of seamless, personalized experiences, drawing glaring parallels to other popular industries. The BAI Banking Outlook: 2024 Trends survey reveals that customers benchmark their bank’s digital services against their favorite online retailers. And it makes sense—if we can easily order groceries or retail items online and have them delivered to our doorsteps or opt for same-day curbside pickup, it’s only natural to expect the same level of convenience and service when handling something as significant as our finances. 

Consequently, community banks find themselves at a crossroads—tasked with adapting their strategies to align with these evolving expectations while grappling with challenges such as deposit runoff, uncertain loan portfolio returns, and increasing operational costs. 

Insights from a recent MeridianLink® survey indicate that 42% of our financial institution (FI) customers are prioritizing the development of seamless omnichannel experiences, while a substantial 64% anticipate a reduced role for in-person banking in their daily lives.  

This should ignite a sense of urgency, encouraging banks to explore the symbiotic relationship between digital progression, sustainable growth, and the implementation of an omnichannel banking strategy.  

It’s more than a buzzword  

While “omnichannel” may seem like a buzzword in banking circles today, the concept behind it has long been integral to meeting consumer demands for convenience and accessibility. Its significance gained momentum with the surge of e-commerce in the 2010s, and that only accelerated during the pandemic. 

Over the years, this concept has evolved significantly, spanning from traditional distinctions between in-store and online purchases to practices like in-store pickup and “try-before-you-buy”. Today, the essence of omnichannel retailing lies in creating a cohesive shopping journey across diverse touchpoints, enabling customers to seamlessly navigate between physical and virtual storefronts without encountering any disruptions in their experience. 

Since consumers expect the same level of seamless integration and convenience from their bank, this is a clear call to action. 

Embracing a hybrid approach 

Thriving in a dynamic environment like this requires more than merely having an online banking platform. To meet consumer expectations and outshine the competition, community banks must create a cohesive experience across all platforms and touchpoints, emphasizing the holistic customer relationship.  

And while technology plays a crucial role in this, it should complement rather than replace human interactions. Customers appreciate the convenience offered by automated tools, yet they also crave genuine human connection, especially when navigating complex issues. According to a banking consumer study by Accenture, more than six in 10 customers turn to branches to solve specific and complicated problems. Striking the delicate balance between technological efficiency and human assistance enables customers to enjoy the best of both worlds: the streamlined convenience of technology and the reassuring support of human guidance. 

Let’s explore an example of what this could look like:  

Meet Meredith, a customer of a local bank who is interested in applying for a personal loan to finance home renovations. Meredith visits the bank’s website and begins the online loan application process. As she completes the application, she receives personalized prompts suggesting additional products and services that may align with her financial needs. 

One of the suggestions she receives is for a home equity line of credit (HELOC), which could offer her a lower interest rate and flexible borrowing options compared to a traditional personal loan. Intrigued by the suggestion, Meredith clicks on the offer to learn more. 

The online platform provides Meredith with detailed information about HELOCs, including their benefits, eligibility requirements, and application process. She also has the option to schedule a virtual appointment with a loan officer to discuss the HELOC in more detail and explore how it could benefit her. 

During the virtual appointment, the loan officer takes the time to understand Meredith’s financial goals and objectives. Based on this conversation, the loan officer suggests additional products and services that may complement Meredith’s financial situation, such as a high-yield savings account to help her save for future projects or an investment portfolio to grow her wealth over time. 

Impressed by the personalized recommendations and attentive service she received from the bank, Meredith decided to move forward with the HELOC application. The loan officer assists her every step of the way, from gathering the necessary documentation to finalizing the loan terms. 

As a result of this seamless lending experience and intuitive cross-sell opportunities, Meredith not only secures the financing she needs for her home renovations but also discovers additional products and services that align with her financial goals. For the bank, this scenario demonstrates the benefits of balancing digital experiences and human interaction supported by data-driven insights and personalized recommendations to enhance the customer experience and drive efficient growth. By offering tailored solutions that meet customers’ needs, the bank fosters trust and loyalty that can ultimately lead to long-term success and profitability. 

Seamless integration, enhanced engagement, sustainable growth 

Consumer behaviors and preferences have and will continue to evolve, demanding that banks adapt how they provide financial support alongside them. 

To effectively address these dynamics, community banks need solutions that seamlessly engage customers across diverse platforms, catering to every demographic, and securing a distinct competitive advantage.  

But this journey doesn’t have to be navigated alone. 

Enter MeridianLink. With our data-powered, configurable solutions, your bank can seamlessly bridge physical and digital banking experiences across the entire lending lifecycle. This empowers you to provide customers with an integrated journey across all touchpoints without disruptions or data loss. 

The results can be tangible—boosted loan volume, improved deposit gathering, enhanced efficiency, and stronger customer connections. 

In navigating the complexities of modern banking, solutions like MeridianLink pave the way for this equilibrium, fostering seamless integration, deeper customer engagement, and sustainable growth in the future of community banking. 

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