While I predicted unstable weather with a high probability of storms in my forecast for 2020, I could have not foreseen just how turbulent this year would turn out to be. In our Banking Technology Vision 2020, we look beyond the rough weather of the COVID-19 outbreak to evaluate how banks should position themselves for the post-pandemic climate.

One of the natural starting points for this discussion is to ask how people and businesses are behaving differently during the pandemic and how permanent these changes to their behaviours and expectations are likely to be. Two of the key Tech Vision 2020 trends I introduced in my previous blog post zoom in on exactly this.

The I in experience

In ‘The I in experience’, we explore the evolution of digital banking experiences. Consumers have put old concerns about security and privacy aside out of necessity. But as economies slowly normalise, these apprehensions will come bubbling to the surface again. Black-box personalisation, now common, leaves customers feeling out of the loop and out of control.

COVID-19 has accelerated the need for banks to create connected experiences that span different touchpoints in the customer journey.

Banking businesses will thus need more agile engagement strategies to address the shifting needs of the post-pandemic consumer. They need a model for personalisation that emphasises customer agency. Of the banking executives we surveyed for the Technology Vision this year, 86 percent said user input or influence on the personalisation of the user experience is important.

In the short term: People are changing; banks should keep up by updating their personalisation strategies.

Digital experiences are becoming many people’s primary method of interaction with both increased penetration of the customer base and increased usage of digital channels by existing customers during the pandemic. But most of these channels were designed to supplement, not replace, in-person experiences. Now, demand is soaring for truly shared digital experiences and digital communities. By enabling people to shape their own digital experiences, banking leaders will be able to sustain a post-pandemic advantage and execute a permanent change in their distribution mix, with in-person transactions potentially down 10–20 percent even with branches fully reopened.

In the long term: The purpose of a digital experience will be transformed.

The banks that take the right actions today with cooperative omnichannel experiences are setting themselves up for future success. Leaders will consider how to use technologies such as AI-enabled chatbots on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to make interacting with the bank as easy and friendly as messaging a friend.

In the future, emerging technologies like 5G and augmented reality (AR) will enable banks to tailor people’s digital banking journeys via applications such as AI-powered virtual tellers, facial recognition and near-field technologies. With this omnipresence comes even greater responsibility to get it right. For the institutions that do, there will be huge opportunities.

Post-COVID omnichannel CX

Even before the pandemic, banks were under pressure to create compelling customer experiences (CXs) with curated cross-channel engagement, seamless interaction and personalised advice. But COVID-19 has accelerated the need for banks to create connected experiences that span different touchpoints in the customer journey.

This is not about striving for perfect omnichannel experiences in the near term. Rather, it’s about connecting the moments that matter and delivering the right experience for the customer’s particular need and context. Our experience is that digital experiences can create a virtuous circle of engagement. Customers who access a chatbot and get a good answer will come back and use it again. Those who are disappointed may give it one more shot but many quickly decide it isn’t going to be helpful.

In the short term: Connected experiences support physically distant transactions as people stay home to avoid COVID-19.

Worldwide lockdowns and quarantines in the first half of 2020 sent everyone online, fast-forwarding digital adoption ahead of predicted levels by three to five years. The challenges of the pandemic have brought banks a reprieve, granting them leeway and creative liberty to use devices, apps and other digital channels to their full extent. Banks have managed the immediate COVID crisis by supporting customers across contact centers and digital channels while re-engineering their open branches for social distancing.

In the long term: The human touch will still matter in a contact-light future.

The financial pressures that COVID-19 has brought to bear for customers, businesses and banks will reshape the customer engagement of the future. Starved of normal interaction during the pandemic, we think many customers will seek out warm relationships, human conversations and reliable advice—even if many of those conversations happen remotely. This requires banks to focus not only on ease of transactions but also on profitable, personalised interactions at the relevant touchpoints.

To take advantage of customers’ increased taste for digital experiences, banks will bring a new mindset into every aspect of the enterprise—from sales, to customer support, development, design and more. Enterprise engineering innovations like more flexible processes and APIs enable them to evolve products, services and channels over time.

My next post will look at trends in AI and innovation in banking. Until then, you can read our full Banking Technology Vision 2020 report for a more detailed look at these topics.

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