The pandemic has shown us the dangers of putting efficiency above all else. Systems and processes, at organizations around the world, that were tuned close to perfection were upended when an unexpected catastrophe struck. Human ingenuity and empathy came to the fore in crafting a multitude of responses to the calamity. 

Now as we emerge from the pandemic, banks and other businesses are realizing that many of the solutions they’ve installed to serve customers have prioritized efficiency over empathy. And they’re beginning to see the consequences. 

Customers are increasingly feeling detached from their banks. Such feelings threaten to undermine the relationships that banks have built with their customers over many years. Even before the pandemic, less than a third of banking customers had complete confidence that their bank would look after their long-term financial wellbeing. A couple of years earlier, in 2018, 43 percent of banking customers expressed such confidence. This decline is alarming. 

What’s the solution? 

Several banks have begun to realize that advances in artificial intelligence (AI) can help them close the gap that’s separating them from their customers. By integrating smart technologies with their front-office systems, they can provide the empathy and understanding that their customers want without sacrificing efficiency. We identified this combination of intelligent and efficient customer services as one of the Accenture Banking Top 10 Trends for 2022 

Our research shows that customers are likely to respond positively to more empathetic digital services. The pandemic increased substantially the number of consumers who used digital channels to engage with their bank. Around half of all banking customers used a mobile device or website to interact with their bank at least once a week. Close to 70 percent of those customers told us they would welcome a digital experience that includes advice from a person about banking products that suit their needs. 

How empathy is good for business 

The use of intelligent technologies to deliver empathetic customer services presents banks with some big opportunities. Key benefits include: 

  • Stronger customer relations: Better information about customers’ changing needs and circumstances enables banks to personalize their products and services and foster long-term relationships built on trust. 
  • Reduced customer attrition: Banks in Europe have managed to maintain an attrition rate of five percent a year, much lower than their counterparts in the US and Asia, despite the effects of efficiency-focused service channels. The introduction of empathetic customer services can further reduce customer attrition and build on a long-established tradition of loyalty. 
  • New sales opportunities: Greater understanding of customers and their needs creates multiple opportunities for product sales over the course of long-term relationships. 
  • Revitalized branches: Only three percent of banks do not expect to redesign their branches in the next two years to meet changing customer requirements. Empathetic banking solutions, incorporating AI, will provide branch staff with greater insight into the needs of their customers and help them to build enduring ties with customers. 
  • Contact center improvements: The use of AI to provide contact center workers with information about customers’ emotions and personalities, as well as details about their banking queries, can significantly improve call resolution rates and customer satisfaction. 
  • Competitive advantage: Empathetic banking services build trust and foster loyalty. They protect, from competitors, the long-established customer base that traditional banks have built over many years. 

In my next blog post, I’ll look at how banks are working to overcome the talent shortage that is constraining the industry.  

To discuss how banks can use intelligent technologies to build closer relations with customers, contact me here. To learn more, read the full report, Banking Top 10 Trends for 2022: 

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