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You Say Opti, She Says Omni…It’s All Just About Connecting

You Say Opti, She Says Omni…It’s All Just About Connecting

We’ve all been here –

"Hi, I'm calling about my home equity line of credit application. I'm halfway through the online application but stuck on step three. Can you help?" asked Cathy.

"Sure," said John, the customer service representative. "I just need to authenticate you first."

Cathy: “OK, but I've already provided my Social Security and loan number on the automated system.”

John: “My apologies, but that information was not passed to me. Please give me your information so I can look up your account.”

Three minutes later…authentication is complete.

John: “Hi, Cathy. Thanks for calling. How can I help?”

Cathy: “I initially tried to apply on my app – that's how I do most of my banking – but got stuck, so I went online. But on step three of the application, the information differs from the flyer I received in the mail.”

John: “I can't see your application but let me go to our site to try to understand.”

Sound familiar? As a customer, you’ve probably experienced something similar. Authentication didn’t flow from one channel to the next, the reason for the call was not passed from the web to phone, marketing material differed across channels and the customer service representative was unable to co-browse to identify the issue and resolve it quickly. 

Evolution in Financial Services

As an industry, for over two decades we've been talking about the promise of a multi-channel customer experience. We've tried different ways to frame it, evolving from cross-channel and multi-channel to omni-channel and even opti-channel. What we call it has changed, but for most banks, the experience our imaginary customer, "Cathy" faced is still the same.

Now, more than ever, we need to get this right.

With the pandemic, the industry experienced a massive shift in digital adoption and usage. The pandemic served as an accelerant to changing behavior that the industry has been facing for over a decade – a reduction in branch traffic and increased web and mobile usage. That trend will continue, and mobile-first thinking is paramount, but as an industry we cannot focus our attention on digital only.

Here at EPAM, our 2021 Global Consumer Survey uncovered that banking customers favor a hybrid approach when it comes to one-on-one support. For example, in more straightforward situations, they are likely to use a chatbot for support, while in more complex ones, they are likely to go to a branch. While many essential financial services can be handled digitally, there is no replacement for face-to-face or phone conversations regarding personal and potentially delicate conversations around money.

In other words, customers across all ranges will choose the channel that best meets their needs.

We call this a Connected Customer Experience (CCX). A CCX is about shifting from the focus on channels to a focus on the customer. How customers interact, how they work and what they expect have changed. The financial services industry is experiencing a convergence of physical and digital channels as customers increasingly expect personalization and a seamless experience when they visit a branch, reach out to the call center or log in to their banking app to do what they need to do, when they need to do it. A CCX must deliver Choice, Continuity and Consistency.

The Path Forward

Banks are not standing still; they are aware of the shifting expectations and are taking steps. According to a 2022 survey of banks and credit unions by Total Expert, "about 80% are implementing new technologies, 73% are adding new processes and procedures and 51% are working with outside vendors to improve their customer experience. Nearly half (48%) are adding new team roles to support the customer experience function." But foundational challenges still exist that make the journey to delivering a truly connected customer experience complex. Below we break down the most common challenges:

Challenge #1 Organizational Silos

Most banks manage their channels – branch, phone, digital – with different leaders across separate teams resulting in channel focus versus customer focus. These channel teams will have individual budgets, channel-specific KPIs, and unique strategic and tactical roadmaps. Each team is motivated for channel performance as opposed to delivering the seamless experience that customers demand and want.

How to overcome this:

  • Organization realignment. Consider bringing together distribution channels under the umbrella of customer experience. That said, moving staff isn’t always the answer and can result in significant upheaval of the organizational structure.
  • Shared goals. If the channels are managed separately, then "force" alignment with shared KPIs. Each channel should have clearly defined diagnostics to measure progress. Still, a shared focus on revenue, cost savings and customer satisfaction – enabled by seamless interactions across channels – will foster collaborative planning by each leader. It will support budget planning and project prioritization to unlock an improved connected customer experience versus protecting each channel’s agenda.
  • Joint strategic and tactical planning sessions. Break down the organizational silos by acting as one team. Sync planning sessions to create an operating rhythm between teams working together versus disparate teams delivering outcomes that advance the channel at the potential expense of the customer experience.

Challenge #2 Capability Gaps

While digital capabilities for web and app have generally seen an acceleration in new development, for many banks, the branch offers full service, and even the phone channel provides more functionality than the digital channels. Different capabilities by channel make seamless interactions difficult, if not impossible. To make it worse, digital capability gaps still exist. There doesn’t need to be 100% capability parity across each channel for every transaction type, but banks must provide core acquisition and servicing experiences in each channel.

How to overcome this:

  • Capability assessment for each channel by top transaction type. The 80-20 rule works. Assess each transaction by volume, customer satisfaction (if available) and overall CX functionality. Focus on high-volume transactions that are not at competitive parity and/or meet customer expectations, but don’t ignore low-volume transaction types with low customer satisfaction scores. Getting those right could have a significant positive impact on overall satisfaction.
  • Online and app capability parity is a must. Seamless interactions across device types speak to the heart of connected customer experiences.

Challenge #3 Technology and Data Gaps

Thus far, we’ve highlighted both organizational and capability gaps. However, execution and realization of your CCX goals will be difficult without the proper technology roadmap. This is not a “technical quick fix.” Business and IT must align and collaborate to ensure requirements and outcomes are vetted, the right delivery talent is available and the right tools are in place. Infrastructure readiness and scalability, cloud literacy, data modernization and ongoing support are critical for success.

How to overcome this:

  • Conduct a current-state technology assessment. Doing so should highlight deficiencies in existing on- and off-premises tools and processes. This should result in a practical remediation/implementation plan to achieve the target state vision and deliver the required business value and expand your total footprint, adoption and growth rates.
  • Conduct a data modernization assessment. This will allow you to understand your organization’s ability to handle the volume, velocity and variety of today’s data.
  • Conduct an audit on organizational support. This will help ensure the right resources are in place to maintain and support your vision long-term. 

How The Interaction Could Look

Remember Cathy? Her experience did not meet her expectations –

CHOICE – Cathy wanted to apply on the app but was forced to go to the web.

CONTINUITY – Cathy's authentication did not pass from one channel to the next; John was unable to see what Cathy was trying to do.

CONSISTENCY – The marketing material provided does not match Cathy's online experience.

How to overcome this:

In a connected customer experience, Cathy would receive a personalized email message with an offer to apply for a HELOC with a discount for existing customers with auto-debit. She's been anxious to do some much-needed repairs to her home. She begins the application on her app but must stop mid-way through to handle a few other pressing issues. Later that evening, she is on her laptop shopping for back-to-school items for her kids and receives an email reminding her to complete her application.

Cathy clicks the link and resumes her application but is stuck with a question on the app as the offer she received seems different than what is online. Cathy clicks on the phone number to speak with a representative.

John: “Hi Cathy, you're fully authenticated via the automated system. Thank you for being a loyal customer for 10 years, and happy belated birthday! I noticed you were on our website and began a home equity line of credit application. How can I help you?”

Cathy: “Hi John and thank you! I have a question about the rate discount for existing customers as it seems different than what I received in the mail.”

John: “The discount rate noted on the site is a range, while the discount rate of 75bps noted in the flyer we sent you is customized specifically for you. You should see that rate further in the application process.”

Cathy: “Got it. Super helpful. Thanks! I’ll go ahead and finish my application.”

John: “Perfect. Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help. Thank you and have a great night!”

Too good to be true? It shouldn’t be. Customers expect it. Branch and call center bankers would love to deliver it. A north star vision/roadmap for what your CCX should be and how it will be realized should result in a practical approach to implementing a best-of-breed experience – bringing business capabilities, technology and resources together into a sequenced, integrated plan. This will enable you to achieve quick wins, accelerated ROI and add long-term value, while also inspiring your organization and evangelizing the art of the possible. The first step is the hardest, but the time to act is now.


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