Fresh out of undergrad, one of my first jobs was as an Electronic Banking Field Sales Coordinator.  My role was essentially to go around to Western New York branches and coach branch employees on the benefits of ATM machines and telephone banking in facilitating their customer’s transactions.  This was of course an efficiency play, to lower the cost of an average transaction since the cost of electronic transactions were (and are) much less expensive than those that involve a human.

As you might imagine, many of the tellers who I spoke with were less than thrilled to tell their customers to stop waiting in line and instead send them to an ATM machine to make a deposit. “Those machines are taking my job away,” they would say, and so it was important to discuss the elephant in the room.  I would ask “what do you like most about your job, is it cashing a check or stamping a deposit ticket?”  They would almost always say “No, it is helping my customer.”  From there it was easy to suggest that they would be helping their customer by saving them fifteen minutes on a Friday from waiting in line.  “Machines can’t replace humans or the relationship that you have with your customers, but they might save them some time on occasion and many of your customers would certainly appreciate it.”

Years later it is apparent that banks did in fact do a great job of moving customers to automated services, and of course the tools available have expanded dramatically with the addition of online banking.  With most banks now also offering remote deposit and expanded mobile services, there are even less reasons to go to a bank.  So what is the impact on “Customer Experience,” and what does customer experience really mean?

Forbes says that customer experience is the “cumulative impact of multiple touchpoints” over the course of a customer’s interaction with an organization.  By definition, the customer experience will be different for each and every individual who is, has been, or will be a customer.  While tellers were key to the customer experience years ago, for many this is no longer the case.  Interactions today more often happen online, at ATM machines, through IM chats, and even over the phone.  Since every person interacts differently with their bank, it is imperative that regardless of touchpoint that customer is viewed with the same lens through all channels.  Relevance and consistency today are table stakes, and banks who ignore this do so at their own peril.  Do it exceptionally well, and you will build branch affinity and ambassadors amongst your customer base.

Today one of the more popular methods of becoming more customer-centric, is to map the “Customer Journey.”  Customer journey mapping ties together both the customer experience and an organization’s internal structure and way of doing business.  Where there are gaps, banks can make the determination on whether to close the gap, mitigate the gap, or ignore it.  Deciding on what action(s) to take will depend on impact, budget, and time.