Branchless banking: achieving the right balance (viewpoint)

Richard Doe, chief executive of ING Direct, explains customers’ attitudes towards multichannel banking.

Richard Doe

As we are a direct banking business, all our research and feedback suggests that customers regard phone, web and mobile channels as complementary. They don’t regard one as a replacement of another. I think the same applies to branches, so while there are many customers who are happy to do most of their banking through one particular channel, many of them still like to have other options.

Even though an increasing number of our banking customers like to self-serve and like to do it online, they still value personal interaction. We find that customers who phone us are more satisfied than customers who use the online channel. Even though the website rates very well in terms of ease of use and does everything the customer wants, without that personal interaction you don’t get the same levels of affinity to the brand.

For our business, by definition, if you have come to us you are comfortable that there are no branches. There are definitely banking customers who say they won’t choose ING Direct because there are no branches, although they are an increasingly small group as time moves on. If we are able to deliver high levels of service then customers are happy with that and they don’t need to do anything else. They don’t miss having a branch.

Organisations need to be careful that they are not adding digital functionality for the sake of it. Understanding what your customer is using that channel for and then making it easy and efficient for them is important. We look for ‘moments of truth’ – those key transactions that must work first time, that must always be 100 per cent accurate and that the customer wants to be really easy – moving money, for example, or opening an account. That’s where we invest our time and effort.

Customers in the UK also need to feel confident about security. Banks spent many years telling people that their PIN must be secret and they can’t let anybody else use it. Now banks are saying, actually, you can pay for things and you don’t need to put a PIN in, you can just swipe your card or mobile device. Reassuring customers around these security issues is critical as these new developments come to market.

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