ENTREPRISES & STRATÉGIES — Technologies

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“Bridging the emotional gap”


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Digital transformation has improved efficiency, but the impersonal nature of online transactions has created indifferent customers with low brand affinity. In order to win back loyalty, digital businesses need to learn how to form emotional, human connections or risk losing customers forever.

Online banking has revolutionised the way that customers conduct their financial transactions. Apps and web services offer them the freedom to bank 24/7 from wherever they may be. It’s quick and convenient and the increases in efficiency have been fiscally rewarding for banks, too. It’s a win-win situation. So, is the process of digital transformation complete in the banking sector?

“The banking industry as a whole has changed significantly over the past decade, but if you look at individual institutions, digital transformation is often only partly complete,” says Adrien Kirschfink, Managing Director and New Banking Lead at Accenture Luxembourg. “Priority has been given to the customer-facing, front-end channels, but there are still lots of opportunities to integrate back office and service functions to enable a seamless and efficient customer interaction.”

Banks need to keep their promise to provide digital efficiency. Systems must simplify interactions for customers.
Adrien Kirschfink

Adrien Kirschfink,  Managing Director,  Accenture Luxembourg

This “front to back” concept is key if businesses are to maximise the benefits of their digital investment. Fjord/Accenture found that ‘digital leaders’ – banks that have invested significantly in digital transformation – have substantially higher future growth valuations than ‘digital laggards’ – those that have not. But while it’s important to ensure that appropriate, joined-up technology is harnessed throughout a company, it’s not the biggest challenge as far as Adrien Kirschfink is concerned.

Working for Accenture, a global management and technology consulting firm, he spends a lot of time helping corporate clients successfully leverage digital solutions. This involves more than recommending new digital processes and information architecture. It’s about evaluating growth opportunities in the digital landscape and ensuring that a business’ customers are fully engaged with its brands. Adrien’s advice is straightforward: “First, banks need to keep their promise to provide digital efficiency. Systems must simplify interactions for customers and make routine operations quick and easy. Second, banks need to understand what matters to their customers to be hyper-relevant. Third, banks must understand when and where their customers need more individual attention and human interaction. Offering genuinely helpful advice is key to building emotional connections and brand loyalty.”

Offering genuinely helpful advice is key to building emotional connections and brand loyalty.
Adrien Kirschfink

Adrien Kirschfink,  Managing Director,  Accenture Luxembourg

For Adrien Kirschfink, improving the emotional resonance of interactions while maintaining digital efficiency is the greatest dilemma now facing business leaders.

“It's really about understanding at what moments in time consumers expect what type of interaction. If businesses can get that right, they can differentiate their brand in consumers’ minds, because they hit the right tone at the right moment, as opposed to businesses that are more generic in their approach and only play the efficiency game.”

Accenture’s research suggests that the strongest links consumers make with brands are not based on intellectual evaluations but result from emotional responses based on how they feel they are being treated. Its so-called ‘Love Index’ is a set of deliberately projected attitudes to which customers are sensitive and which influence both their likelihood to remain loyal to a particular business and recommend its services to others. Possible attitudes include authentic, fun, relevant, engaging, social and helpful. Each attitude is broken into key characteristics. For example, authentic interaction needs to be viewed as dependable and trustworthy. It should convey independent thinking, rather than simply push the company’s agenda.

“We conduct specific client-focused research on demand, which provides insight into which characteristics will increase the emotional connection a customer feels, depending on when and where the interaction is taking place. For example, bank customers often want advice, but emotionally, they want it delivered in an authentic, helpful way that’s free from jargon and overly aggressive sales pitches.”

It’s also a question of understanding the customers’ own mood at the time.

You need to establish a strong link between your brand and the consumer and the strongest link you can create is on an emotional level.
Adrien Kirschfink

Adrien Kirschfink,  Managing Director,  Accenture Luxembourg

“Applied artificial intelligence can read and interpret emotional signals. Facial expressions can be decoded, voice analytics can decipher mood and basic personality traits, and text-mining programmes can detect frustration in an email.”

Some of these technologies are already being deployed in call centers where chatbot programmes recognise when human interaction is required and can even route communication to the most suitable operator. For Adrien, the real value of these technology developments comes when they are applied in a business context at moments that really matter to a customer.

“In a noisy and fast-paced digital world it’s important to differentiate yourself; you need to establish a strong link between your brand and the consumer and the strongest link you can create is on an emotional level. A consumer won’t stay with a bank because it has a nice user interface. What consumers really value is the right type of contact – human or digital – at the right time.”