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How millennials are changing the face of customer service

Millennials would rather die than go talk to anyone, or so it is assumed. Give them an app and they will thrive

David Rigby

Published: Updated:

No matter how difficult it became, my father would always insist on going to his bank branch and dealing with the bank face to face. No phone or internet banking for him. After 70 years, they greeted him by name when he walked into the bank.

Millennials would rather die than go talk to anyone, or so it is assumed. Give them an app and they will thrive. However, despite all the online services, there are things you cannot do with an app, such as pay cash in and take cash out. The cashless society has not really hit the West, and certainly not the Middle East, where a combination of cheques and cash rules - not good when your bank is 5,000 kilometers away. My local bank has possibly two branches that deal with cash. It is practically impossible to pay cash in through their confounded machines.

Multichannel was about opening up channel choices and encouraging customers to use the one most appropriate for their needs, and particularly those of the bank. The supporting systems were bolted on to legacy IT systems. That is why you have an individual pin number for each of your credit and debit cards, another set of passwords for internet banking, and yet another for phone banking.

Is the phone banking service open 24 hours? Of course not. Will they use text, Whatsapp, Skype or even emails? Of course not (unless in specific circumstances when they instigate). They want letters, as they will not accept electronic signatures for some transactions. It has long been in a bank’s interest to shift people, first from branches to call centers then to self-serve online, because it reduces costs. Queueing forever to see a staff member is nothing compared with the sheer frustration of going round and round automated phone queueing systems. If you try really hard, you can actually speak to someone.

This is not customer service. It exists because of complacency, and lack of investment and competition. Consumer expectations are growing. Millennials, especially, expect consistent service across all channels. Recent research has found that given the chance, more than half of financial consumers said they would choose to bank with the most successful online retailer. Why? Because a company synonymous with innovation, cutting-edge customer experiences and thinking outside the box has fundamentally disrupted the service industry, reinventing what it means to provide a best-in-class customer journey. Banking customers expect the same.

From the bank’s perspective, a joined-up, 360-degree view of all of its customers’ activities offers clear benefits. Banks are uniquely placed to understand their consumers. They see their spending and income patterns, and their savings profiles. By leveraging this information they receive from various channels, they can build up a detailed customer profile. Using the data, they can target the customer with the right information at the right time, which is what drives an effective personalized service, and omni-channel is the delivery mechanism.

Customer expectations

As a customer, what should you expect from your bank?
Omni-channel focuses on providing a seamless, effective, personalized customer experience.

• Proper banking on the move. You can start on one channel, such as a smartphone, and continue the transaction on another, such as a laptop or phone, to get more detailed information without having to start all over again (as according to Google, 46 percent of people do now).

• You can use more channels and several at the same time.

• Just one way of signing in for all transactions. Leave a transaction midway, then pick it up where you left off.

• You can receive properly targeted offerings, as happens on social media and retail sites.

• You can expect a contextualized web experience - at least have the same illusion of personalized service as from online retailers.

• No need to talk to anyone, let alone meet anyone face to face.

• You can expect to receive no service at all if you are not a profitable customer for the bank.

What kind of cool bank is that? Go on, join it. It is a way for banks to stay in business. They need to start the journey to building a truly customer-centric, omni-channel organization, which is daunting. If they do not do this, millennials and many others will just go to someone who does provide their vision of excellent customer service.