As an immigrant CEO in the United States, I have learned firsthand about the importance of adaptation, especially when it comes to communication. In India, it is considered impolite to make eye contact or greet strangers when passing them on the street. However, when I moved to California, I noticed that many Americans regularly smile at people they pass by, which initially confused me. Contrary to my initial belief, a smile does not necessarily indicate interest in the other person. As a result, I had to adjust my communication style to fit in with American social norms.
This need for adaptation extends to the digital world, where the demand for digital exchanges is rapidly increasing. As leaders in the financial services industry, we must adapt to meet our customers’ evolving digital communication demands. Traditional methods of communication such as in-person visits and phone calls to community financial institutions (CFIs) are becoming outdated, and banks and credit unions must adopt new methods such as text messaging, video banking, and chat.
The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the shift toward digital conversations. Many progressive banks and credit unions have successfully transitioned to a “phygital” platform, which combines physical and digital channels to deliver a seamless customer experience. This harmonization of the in-branch, physical, and digital worlds is necessary to meet the demands of consumers who expect an “Amazon” type of experience.
If you’re a CFI leader, adopting a “phygital” communications strategy can positively impact your institution. It’s not too late to start, and the benefits are significant, including increased efficiency and cost savings, enhanced security and compliance, and improved member experience.
The advantages of going phygital
Combining physical and digital conversations to create a “phygital” strategy has several benefits, particularly for the member experience. Numerous CFIs have already embraced digital technologies such as secure chat, text messaging, co-browsing, chatbots, screen sharing, and data analytics to deliver personalized financial advice, recommendations, or alerts to their members. Gen X and Millennial members are digitally savvy, and a digital strategy is essential to engage them effectively.
A co-browsing conversation or a text exchange with a loan officer or financial advisor can provide personalized financial advice and help members make informed decisions. Each member’s preference and situation determine the urgency required, whether in-person or digitally.
Increased efficiency and cost savings are other benefits of a “phygital” strategy. Automating routine tasks and processes can reduce the time and resources required to serve members and customers. Electronic signatures and notary services are just a couple examples of the areas where automation can improve efficiency.
Lastly, combining physical and digital conversations can enhance security and compliance. Digital channels provide a secure environment for sensitive financial information and transactions, which reduces the risk of fraud and identity theft. Moreover, digital conversations can help CFIs comply with regulatory requirements, such as retaining customer interactions and transaction records.
Three easy ways to start your phygital strategy
CFIs can begin transitioning to a “phygital” strategy by following a few simple steps that won’t require too much extra effort.
The first step is to evaluate their current digital capabilities and identify gaps that need improvement. This will help create a simple roadmap for adopting new digital technologies, such as mobile, online banking, and digital conversation tools like text messaging, secure chat, video, and co-browsing. These new channels can be integrated with existing physical channels to provide a seamless experience for members.
The second step is to train employees regularly to ensure they have the necessary skills to operate in a “phygital” environment. This includes training on new digital platforms, processes, policies, customer service, and sales training for in-person interactions.
The third step is to focus on data and analytics, which can provide valuable insights into customer behavior, preferences, and needs. Member data and analytics can be used to improve customer experiences across all channels, and the benefits are often overlooked.
During the transition, CFIs may encounter unforeseen challenges such as resistance from employees and customers, data privacy and security concerns, and the need for significant investment in technology and infrastructure. To overcome these challenges, CFIs can create a culture of innovation and collaboration while prioritizing privacy and security above all. Seeking partnerships with fintech companies can also help leverage their expertise and technology.
The digital age is here, embrace it
As a CEO of a growing fintech company, I encourage colleagues in the financial world, especially those in community banks and credit unions, to fully embrace the digital age and start the journey towards a systemic, digital + physical communications strategy. The benefits are apparent, and the steps to begin are simple. Take action now, and you’ll soon be smiling too.