Omnichannel Anticipation


Preparing for stop-and-go software capability in every digital service channel

By Katie Kuehner-Hebert

We’re in a do-anything, anywhere, anyhow world. As a result, an increasing number of community banks are buying omnichannel-capable retail service platforms to enable bank staff and customers to start, stop and continue work in mobile or Internet channels.

Omnichannel software flexibility can allow, for example, a customer to start a mortgage application online, save any information that was entered midstream, and then have a mortgage-licensed contact-center representative access the saved application to answer any questions or even complete the task. More software companies are working on allowing banks and their customers to have the stop-and-go capability from any digital access point for all types of loan applications and processes, a function that will likely become more widespread as community banks update their core legacy systems, technology experts say.

“Many banks are recognizing that they have to give customers more convenient methods of applying for products.”
—Jost Hoppermann, Forrester Research

The omnichannel software feature is driven by the desire to continually improve the customer experience over digital service channels, says Jost Hoppermann, vice president of banking applications and architecture for Forrester Research, a technology consulting firm based in McLean, Va. “Banks found that this approach can increase the number of mortgages and other financial products that customers actually sign because it’s more convenient for the customer,” he offers.

Moreover, with an omnichannel capability, if a bank’s back office determines that a customer has not fully entered all the necessary information within a form, the bank’s staff can then ask the customer for information required to complete the application via email or links embedded in a text message, Hoppermann says. Some vendor banking platforms with loan application functionality are enabling contact-center staff to pull up saved applications for other types of loans, such as auto loans, unsecured lines of credit and home equity lines of credit, says Jim Burson, senior director at Cornerstone Advisors Inc., a consulting firm in Scottsdale, Ariz.

It won’t be too long before branch personnel are able to do the same thing for all types of loans, but community banks will likely need to upgrade their legacy branch systems first, consultants say. “Part of the challenge is that most banks have some type of loan origination platform software in the branch from any number of vendors, and those platforms are not traditionally integrated within their online banking platform,” Burson says. “So if they are using a vendor for online banking, a customer who starts a consumer loan application online typically can’t be seen at the branch, and they have to start the process all over again.”

Upgrading branch legacy systems can be a very expensive proposition, but at some point, most banks will eventually make such investments to keep up with changing technology in many areas, Hoppermann says. He expects that as those systems get upgraded, community banks will buy the next iteration that has this type of omnichannel service capability.

“Many banks are recognizing that they have to give customers more convenient methods of applying for products,” Hoppermann says. “As such, more vendors in the future will help their community bank clients with this capability, not only for applying for loans but also for account openings.”

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a financial writer in California.