Banks are seeking closer relationships with customers through greater use of customer data and new technologies, according to banking and telecom officials at the CeBIT Financial Tech conference in Sydney.
Westpac uses data and technology with the goal of making customers "feel like we actually know them", said Karen Ganschow, Westpac head of customer relationship marketing and digital. Customers expect the bank to use their data to develop a relationship in which bankers are proactive and provide personalised attention, she said.
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To make this happen, Westpac's systems provide bankers relevant information about customers when they interact with the bank. By tapping into data, banks can also provide bill reminders, advice at tax time and even celebrate with customers when they start or finish home loans, she said.
Meanwhile, social media as a new channel is providing banks more customer feedback than ever before, Ganschow said. "It puts you on notice to respond, and I think that's a challenge for us all. Now that you get that message, what do you do with it?"
Technology and data brings banks "much closer" to their customers, said DBS Bank chief innovation officer, Steve Monaghan. The Singapore bank aims to deliver information to customers "when they need it at the time they need it, without being invasive about it".
A good way to ensure customer privacy is to avoid practices that advantage the business alone, he said. "That's when it becomes invasive."
Citing a study from Ernst & Young last year, Telstra group general manager of industry development, Rocky Scopelliti, said "Australians are more willing than other nationalities ... to give a financial institution more information about themselves". However, "they expect an efficient and effective experience in return for that".
Banks have "mountains" of data on customers, but big data is only as good as the data you can extract from it, said Quantium principal, Wade Tubman. "It's about going beyond using data for core business and core analytics and actually developing entirely new products, revenue streams and potentially new businesses."
National Australia Bank's UBank is using big data to provide a variety of apps providing financial advice to customers.
"It's not the size of your data that counts; it's what you do with it," said UBank general manager, Alex Twigg.
Scopelliti said the role of technology has fundamentally changed from a way to "cheapen" to a way to "deepen" the customer relationship.
He predicted the contact centre experience will become more personal and interactive over time - for example, by using video to facilitate a more natural conversation. Faster broadband networks and better devices have enhanced the quality of Internet video, he said. "The quality I think will only improve over time."
Monaghan said he expects to see more artificial intelligence support services like IBM Watson used by the financial industry in the future. ANZ Bank announced it would employ Watson earlier this month.
"Increasingly that type of technology is going to be pervasive within all types of service industries," Monaghan said.
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