Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Flaw in Omni-Channel Banking, Why Bi-Direction Channel Banking is Next

Just when you thought you had the evolution of banking channels figured out I am here to explain the flaw in the latest evolution of banking channels; omni-channel banking.

The progression of banking channels has evolved from credit union and bank focused to being about the member or customer experience. From a single banking channel (inside out), which involved an in-person visit to the credit union or bank to omni-channel (outside in) which is designed to allow the member or customer to access banking services and products using multiple channels, in a seamless and consistent manner.

Here is the problem. Successful implementation of omni-channel offers a member or customer access to banking products and services across and between multiple interactive channels in a customer focused seamless manner; but what happens when they encounter a problem? As much as self-service, automated processes, intelligent workflow and automated decisioning are designed to simplify and expedite a transaction, invariably problems occur that require communication or assistance from bank or credit union personnel.

You know the drill. You have a service problem and you know what happens next. You call your credit union or bank and get that annoying automated call tree. Once you finally get someone live you explain the problem and they say, “Just one minute, I will transfer you to Jane in the XYZ department”. Your call is transferred and you get a message saying, “All personnel are on the phone please hold”. After waiting on hold for 5 minutes listening to promotions you have no interest in hearing, someone answers the call and you again carefully explain the problem. After hearing your problem explanation the person says, “Sorry, but that is another department”, and promptly transfers your call. This time your call is immediately answered. For the third time you try to patiently explain the problem. The employee says, “So what are you trying to do on our website”? You respond, “I am trying to apply for a loan and a credit card”. “OK, I can help you, but I have to access two systems. Our loan system and our credit card system”. The conversation goes on-and-on and it is like the “customer is from Mars and the employee is from Venus”. There is a total disconnect.

Why? Because you and the employee are accessing different systems, seeing different information and even worse, the customer is accessing the customer facing interface while the employee is accessing the administration module.  It happens every day in retailing, banking, cable, phone, and most service industries, but it is changing, led by companies like Amazon and FedEx.

For a true low friction member or customer experience the customer/member support team must be able to access and view in real-time the path the customer has taken and have access to support data, regardless of the problem trying to be solved.  To accomplish that goal silos must be broken down, training provided, the user experience (UX) of banking systems must be consolidated, and what application architects and business analysts call the “non-happy path” must be incorporated into the system. When something goes wrong the best opportunity to solve the problem is if both parties are accessing the same system with the same data and error messages, not front-end and back-end systems.

Omni-channel banking is an important initiative, but it must move to what I call “bi-direction channel banking”. Omni-channel focuses on the member or customer experience, which is 50% of the solution. Bi-direction channel banking brings customers and the employees together on single user experience (UX) platform and completes the circle.

We know banking is complex and is driven by multiple banking applications. There is the core data processing system, payment systems, general ledgers, cash management, credit origination systems, credit servicing systems, online and mobile banking systems, account opening and the list goes on. How can a bank or credit deliver a single system view to both its customers and employees with all these different banking systems and applications?

Through a user experience platform (UX presentation layer) that uses an enterprise services bus middleware as an integration layer, connecting to the bank’s or credit union’s multiple banking systems.

Simple…… no but achievable, and replacing all those legacy banking systems is not an option for most banks or credit unions.  Instead of replacing core data processing systems and other critical banking systems, embrace them for what they do, process and manage transactions.

Using a UX presentation layer provides credit unions and banks a customizable solution displaying what and to whom information is displayed.  Within the presentation layer customized automated processes, intelligent workflow, business rules and automated decisioning can be incorporated, which allows each credit union or bank, regardless of their existing legacy systems to be able to develop their own solutions that fit their banking model.

In one of my blogs, “Do We Need Better System Integration or Fewer Systems to Integrate?” I argue Gonzo Banker’s position that rewriting all the bank’s systems into a single system is the right way to go. For all but the largest national and super regional banks, rewriting multiple systems into a single application is not viable.  

Multiple banking systems are a fact of life for credit unions and banks. The complexity, processes, external transaction networks and regulation involved in banking makes having a single banking system impractical. Instead of focusing on a single system, embrace what each of these individual banking systems do, …. process and manage transactions. The vast majority of banking systems were developed for internal back-end use by bank or credit union staff. As the transition from brick and mortar banking to digital banking has evolved, those legacy banking system have not evolved with the change. As a result, credit unions and banks are trying to deploy customer/member facing banking systems that were designed to be back-end employee facing systems.

By focusing on the presentation layer and integration middleware layer, banks and credit unions have an opportunity to maximize their investment in existing banking systems, while being able to deploy bi-direction channel banking using customizable user experience (UX) presentation/middleware platform.
  In order to deliver a seamless customer experience credit unions and banks need to deploy technology, re-organization, processes and training that are externally focused while closing the loop so employees and customers are working from the same playbook. The future of banking is bi-direction channel banking, the next step beyond omni-channel banking.   

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