Paths towards a digital customer experience culture

How does a bank manage to offer a positive user experience across all channels? And this at a time when channels are being further digitalised? What resources are needed, and why does corporate culture take centre stage? Offering consistently positive user experiences is not an easy task, even in times of new digital channels.

This much can be said: ‘Nothing comes from nothing’. Without the corresponding willingness to invest and without the will to establish, expand or reconstruct a customer experience culture, success will be a long way off.

Whether and to what extent a financial service provider wants to make use of digitalisation possibilities depends on many factors. The degree of organisation, the process depths, the legacy of existing infrastructures, the willingness to invest and the resilience of the company are topics that a bank faces in the development and implementation of a digitalisation strategy, which are shown only in a rudimentary manner.

Marketing questions have to be answered in advance

Trivial though they may seem, the four fundamental questions of marketing technique posed by Kotler in the 1970s still arise today: To which customers (1) do I offer which products or services (2) at what price (3) via which channels (4)? From the customer perspective, these questions can be formulated as follows: What (2) do I expect in my role; with what need (1) on which channel (4); where do I need support; where would I still like to be independent; and what is the price (3) I would be willing to pay for the product/service?

Focus on customer perspective

In order to provide sound answers to the above questions, companies are required to consistently start from the customer perspective. We call this customer experience culture. Determining location from the customer perspective helps in formulating the identified needs and transforming them into appropriate concepts. A significant advantage of this approach lies in transparency, in the outside-in approach – so pure customer perspective – and in the possibility of gradually implementing things.

New channels, new competitors

Over the past 10 years, digital communications and distribution channels have been seen as a means to an end. Usability and design played a smaller role from the users’ point of view. With increased pressure from challenger banks, however, it is now the traditional universal banks that need to focus intensively on the opportunities and risks of digital transformation in order to reposition themselves in the new market environment that is once again competitive. It is exciting to see that market participants with very different starting positions are in the race or are only just beginning.

On the basis of three selected bank types, the following graphic shows that the need for transformation could not be more different. As far as the author is concerned, the need for transformation means the sum of all additionally required investments needed to bring about a change in corporate culture, infrastructure, in the definition of the product range or in processes.

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The lending business still provides the largest share of added value today. The aggregated net income of banks in Switzerland rose by 1.1 percent compared with the previous year to CHF 66.1 billion, whereby the profit from the interest business increased by 1.0 percent despite a low-interest environment, and contributes the most to the net income.

Although digital transformation is only making modest and slow progress – as seen from the perspective of breadth – this can surely be attributed to the fact that the existing business model of banks operating in Switzerland still bears very good fruit. As a result, the pressure to adapt is not yet high enough. The extent to which profits are invested in future projects cannot be seen from the annual reports.

User experience/customer experience (CX) as a strategic pillar

Despite a comfortable starting position, the established banking institutions are becoming increasingly dynamic and are also developing a general understanding of the long-term economic added value of an investment in the (digital) customer experience.

But why are most banks still far from digital excellence? CX teams are often only selectively used. They are tasked with going down the path of least resistance with the fastest success, rather than exploring the solutions with the greatest effect. Therefore, when banks start the CX transformation, quick successes are sought in specific channels or in part of the company or product range. If, for example, the website is renewed and the content is reduced to the essentials, the obvious problems in this channel will also be resolved. The long-term view and management of the touchpoints appear to be no more sustainable than the retention time of management in the individual institutions.

What leads to sustainable success? This is achieved when the employees’ CX strategy is orchestrated and implemented across the entire organisation. Customers expect the same high service level on all channels, regardless of the time. Therefore, companies sensibly invest in better data management functions so that a customer’s data profile (and thus their personalisation and preferences) can flow smoothly and without delay between offline and online channels. In addition, it must first be tracked.

However, the implementation of a holistic CX strategy presents even experts with major challenges: existing channel structures with managers who want to optimise their specific channel can easily destroy the customer journey.

The tasks to be resolved address several areas at the same time – and this on various fronts: data (legal, ethical, consumers), people (customers, employees, business unit managers, management, technology partners) and channel (legal, technological, partnership, procedural, etc.). However, these structures are mostly not within the sphere of influence of CX experts, so they either require the consent of the channel owners or are dependent on them believing in a superordinate CX vision.

Positive results thanks to CX culture ensure long-term investments in the systems

The sum of the many small, positive experiences of CX investments in an organisation can create a positive cycle. The conversion of technical systems is usually financially significant, so investment can only be justified if it contributes to a positive net income – at least in the long-term view. Therefore, in order to step away from this chicken-or-egg dilemma, it is essential to gain a great deal of experience quickly and celebrate successes early and directly. If CX-focused organisations pursue this positive cycle, the differences to competitors that neglect this discipline become increasingly apparent. However, there is still a long way to go before CX itself becomes a hygiene factor.


Head of Product Management Digital Banking
Finnova AG


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Private banking boutiques

Private banks have a selected clientele. They primarily make investments in the personal customer relationship and still offer their customers a physical, representative presence. Personal, tailor-made, individualised support and advisory take place in appropriate locations and premises.
The approach is to support fewer customers, but to know them properly and advise them accordingly. The quality of advisory is and will remain crucial here. The personal contact, the location and exterior of the property, as well as the interior design of the branch are distinguishing features in the user experience.
Transformation effort compared with the current business model: LOW


They deliberately rely on the digital channel (mobile first) and on self-service. Simple products, a streamlined range and transparent fees form the prerequisites for economies of scale. The infrastructure used is chosen in accordance with a best-of-breed approach. The development of infrastructure and processes continuously takes place in the regular course of business.
Transformation effort compared with the current business model: LOW

Universal banks

Universal banks have been offering an extensive range of banking products for decades. Their internal banking processes are established and adjustments to the range usually have a direct impact on large parts of the organisation and systems. The physical distribution network should be extended with digital channels. Both hybrid and purely digital products are used for this purpose. Favourable standard offers should be made for the mass market, but personalised products and services should be provided in the individual customer business. Existing IT systems must be extended and/or converted for this purpose.
Transformation effort compared with the current business model: HIGH

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