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Effective Digital Technology is Essential for Long-Term Account Holder Service Strategy

By Jan Southern, Senior Consultant

In today’s competitive and ever-changing environment, financial institutions must consider all the possible ways to further engage consumers and attract new business. As a result, the lure of increased technology and mobile capabilities have many banks and credit unions weighing whether it is more advantageous to refocus their efforts and resources on a more high-tech strategy or maintain the traditional high-touch approach to account holder service. But as demographics continue to span the generational gamut – from the Greatest Generation to Baby Boomers to Gen X, or even Millennials – finding a way to incorporate aspects of both strategies is perhaps the best way to maintain an overall competitive advantage.

Consumer transaction preferences should determine your strategy
By observing the account activity of your account holders, you will get a good idea of the types of products and services that are in demand in your market. Are younger consumers interested in more automated capabilities or an interactive ATM that would allow them to come into a branch, accomplish their business and quickly get on their way? Or, do they want more mobile options that allow them to access their account and complete financial transactions without having to come into a branch at all?

On the other hand, do older consumers see the branch as a place where they can come to discuss a specific issue with a service representative or solve a problem? While using technology to access their money and complete financial transactions is appealing for some in this more mature demographic, many prefer to have a live person available in case they have any questions.

In today’s rapidly changing environment, providing your account holders with digital capabilities is essential if you want to remain relevant as a financial services provider. Just make sure you don’t lose the personal service touch that many account holders still prefer, whether occasionally or on a regular basis.

Are you in a position to enter or expand your digital product offerings?
For banks and credit unions that don’t necessarily have a dedicated technology expert on hand to roll out and manage new initiatives, the process can be time-consuming and a distraction that negatively impacts existing service delivery channels. Before you set out to tackle the myriad challenges and details tied to increasing your technology footprint, ask yourself these questions:

• What are you trying to accomplish and what products, services and tools are necessary to reach that goal?
• How much will implementing new technology-based products cost?
• Does your existing core processor have the capability to support such new products?
• How will changing delivery channels affect how employees do their jobs? Expertise in product profitability can facilitate the discovery process

An expert in product profitability can help you determine the costs involved to implement digital and mobile products, as well as how increasing your technology capabilities will affect your overall operation. This includes an assessment of the products and services your account holders currently use in order to determine changes you should consider – whether your goal is to remain competitive in your market or to position your financial institution on the leading edge in providing the latest product innovations.

Plus, a complete analysis of your backroom support capabilities, existing internal technology expertise and the training needs for employees who are tasked with supporting account holder services can help determine what you will need to effectively reach your goal.

With this information in hand, you can put together a request for proposals (RFP) that outlines your specific needs and expectations. Vendor responses regarding total costs involved, plus any savings potential, will help you to make an informed choice – based on how long it will take to recoup these costs and how implementation will affect your operation.

Keep in mind, incorporating radically different modes of service will require staff to approach account holder interaction from a different perspective. A comprehensive staffing study will help to determine what internal expertise exists to support more technology-driven products. A review of your current structure can also ensure that you have the right people in the right places, doing the right jobs in order to provide consistent, high quality service to your account holder – whether through digital channels or face-to-face interaction.

A difficult but necessary decision
While some institutions are still slow to embrace high-tech services, it comes down to this: With the increasing number of institutional failures and closings, you have to do what is necessary to provide your account holders with the services they need. By taking a comprehensive look at your operation and marketplace, you can determine the most appropriate service delivery options for your financial institution to ensure long-term viability. 

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