Enough and more has been written about how banks lack fully fledged multichannel support. For the uninitiated, a “channel” refers to the medium of communication between customers and businesses such as retail banks. Branch, Phone (call center), ATM, Internet Banking, Mobile Banking and Social Networking are typical channels in the context of a retail bank.
“Multichannel support” means the bank permits a given transaction to be executed via more than one channel whereas a bank offering “fully fledged multichannel support” allows end-to-end execution of each and every transaction on each and every channel without forcing the customer to use a particular channel due to deficiencies in its internal systems. For example, if a prospective customer wants to open a checking account online, a bank providing fully fledged multichannel support would allow her to do so completely on its Internet Banking portal without compelling her to visit a branch. Likewise for other channels.
The degree of multichannel support offered by banks varies from product to product and from one bank to another. Let’s take the example of opening a checking account. Most banks in India only let prospective customers research products and download blank application forms online. Applications must be completed on paper and signed in wet-ink and the applicant must visit the branch in person to submit documents proving her identity and address. On the other hand, this bank in Australia lets its prospective customers research products on its new-generation website, complete forms online and insists on a branch visit only to verify the applicant’s identity. If we take mortgage applications as another example, most banks fare quite badly with multichannel support. As a friend was telling me recently, he visited the websites of more than five banks, all of whom promised online mortgage application. However, all of them stopped after the first screen displaying product details and asked him to submit his contact information so that someone from the bank could make contact with him in the next few days (Apparently, only one bank got back and, that too, after two weeks, but that’s another story).
Digital banking pundits are clamoring for banks to offer 100% multichannel support. In the case of checking acount opening, this would mean that the applicant visits the bank’s website, applies for a suitable product online, uploads scanned copies of her identity and address proof documents to the website, the bank verifies everything in realtime and issues an account number to the applicant within a few minutes. With the mortgage application, fully fledged multichannel support would result in the loan amount credited to the applicant’s account within a few minutes of applying for a suitable mortgage product. No branch visit is required in either case. Now, this is only a demonstration of fully fledged support of the online channel. To attain the mark of total multichannel support, the bank would have to deliver similar functionality over telephone, mobile and social media.
We believe that 100% multichannel support as described above is neither necessary nor practical.
In Part-2 of this blog post, we’ll explain why. Stay tuned!