The “customer experience” is getting so much hype these days it even has its own hip moniker: CX. Why is CX the hot topic right now? One reason is because tech titans like Amazon and Netflix have completely redefined it.

For Amazon, Netflix, Google, Facebook and others, CX is alpha and omega, front and center, heart and soul. It’s not about simply meeting their customers’ needs, it’s about anticipating them with an almost eerie degree of accuracy. It’s about giving the customer what they want before they even know they want it in some cases.

This deep knowledge of customer needs, the immediacy of meeting them and detailed recommendations for what they might also like has caused a seismic shift in customer expectations. Sure, Amazon and Netflix can provide that kind of CX, but what about everybody else?

How this relates to banking is played out in NGDATA’s Consumer Banking Survey, which found, unsurprisingly, that banking customers have much higher expectations today. Customer service must be consistently outstanding to keep their loyalty, especially given the rash of fintech companies and their easy unbundled banking services. That’s why analysts are saying that banking needs to focus on CX in 2018.

In today’s banking environment it’s getting harder and harder to differentiate from your competitors. Everyone has online banking, bill pay, and mobile banking so the only way to really differentiate yourself is through customer experience. Here are some CX trends in banking that we’re anticipating. (Hint: It’s a mix of high tech and high touch).

  1. Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things. What is it? It’s the connection between any and all devices and the Internet — smartphones, headphones, smart appliances, your car — anything connected. It’s a giant network of connected, well, things.

In banking, the IoT, when blended with big data, allows for cross-platform integration and easy, quick transactions. You should be on the lookout for opportunities to use the IoT to connect with your customers in more impactful ways. We’re seeing this with payments already, just look at Apple Pay and Samsung Pay as examples, but connected cars, chatbots, wearables, and beacons all present opportunities for financial institutions to build better experiences and get ahead of the tech curve.

  1. Tech, tech, tech

Think of it as making the banking experience tech-friendly. It’s going to require substantial investment in technology, updating legacy systems and automating processes that drive the customer experience. But you have to make smart decisions, not all tech is good tech.

You might have a mobile banking platform today, but what does that experience look like for your customers? Having a mobile platform with a bad customer experience is often as bad as not having a platform at all. The solution from your core provider might be the best option, but don’t just settle for it because it’s the easiest to implement or the cheapest option to check off the box. I’d be remiss to not mention that you should be looking into things like APIs and open banking as well. Think about your customers and find the right solution to make their experience positive and memorable.

  1. The branch, reimagined

Look for traditional branches to incorporate some fresher, hipper experiences. It’s not just about banking, it’s about giving the customer a place to hang out, use free Wi-Fi and have some coffee like Capital One’s branches in Boston, Chicago, LA and elsewhere. Or Bank of America’s “digital ambassador” that roams around with a tablet and helps customers with their digital banking questions much like Apple’s Genius Bar.

  1. Simplified security

Passwords and challenge questions are so 2017. They provide layers of security, but at the same time, they’re cumbersome, take a while to get through and are hackable. Analysts are predicting these will fade away in 2018, giving rise to biometric-based customer recognition. That’s fingerprint-, retina-, voice- and face-based access to customers’ accounts.

Biometric authentication is set to improve customer identity management along with mitigating the risk of a security breach. It combines an optimal customer experience with enhanced security which is a win for everyone.

  1. Chatbots

There are two schools of thought on this artificial intelligence-based customer experience. Either 2018 will be the year of the chatbot [a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users], or the year of needless hype about chatbots. Those on the pro-chatbot train believe they will deliver stellar banking CX through increased self-service. Others believe they’re unnecessary and expensive. One thing is for sure: They’re here, and more and more banks are utilizing them.

The challenges of CX in 2018

According to Second to None, which helps companies deliver stellar CX, customer experience is the way companies will aim to differentiate themselves from their competitors over the next five years.

Nobody doubts it’s important. But it’s very easy to say “Focus on CX in 2018! Go digital! Be millennial-friendly!” In practice, though, who, exactly, within your institution is going to run the process? Where will CX live and where will the CX buck stop? Who will manage the customer experience?

Good questions. In a webinar with the Digital Banking Report, The Digital Shift: Improving the Customer Experience in Banking, Jim Marous shared that only 37 percent of financial organizations have a formal CX plan. The biggest challenges have been with data analytics, technology and getting a complete customer view.

It can be a daunting prospect, given how vital CX will be going forward. Fortunately, there’s help out there.

Several consulting firms, including McKinsey, Accenture, and Forrester, are making CX central to their practices. There’s even an association, the Customer Experience Professionals Association. And yes, it has its own slick acronym, CXPA. They’re bursting with ideas, resources and information to help you make sure your Cs have the best Xs you can provide.

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