Why the Customer Onboarding Process is More Important Than Ever For Banks

By Ian Henderson, CEO of Kyckr

Companies can never get stagnant on improving their customer experience. Yet too often, good customer service may focus solely on having more positive face-to-face interactions instead of addressing and fixing processes that can improve the overall customer experience. In order to provide better customer service, keep competitive, and stay compliant with Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations, banks should take a closer look at improving a key aspect of their business: the onboarding process.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced businesses to reassess how they can provide excellent customer experience without being present in a physical location. This led to the necessity of turning to digital solutions. For many years banks have slowly embraced innovation and integrated new technologies in order to adapt to the online business model. But it might not yet be enough.

A recent report by Kyckr entitled "The State of Corporate Banking Customer Onboarding 2020" asked corporate customers about their experience in opening a bank account, and uncovered that there's still a lot of friction when it comes to the onboarding process. This slowdown occurs across three areas that could be streamlined and improved by the implementation of digital tools.

Here are the ways customers suggested banks could improve their onboarding processes.

1. Asking for More Information Upfront

The biggest source of friction for customers wasn't just around submitting documents, but the fact that they kept getting call-backs to submit more information during the onboarding process. Banks are required to comply with Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations and to make informed risk assessments when evaluating new accounts.

For half of the customers surveyed in the report, the bank came back to ask for more information — up to five individual times. This means that the onboarding process takes longer to complete. It also means asking the customer to stop what they are doing and submit more information, or even take the time to go in person to drop it off at a location. Customers wonder why the banks couldn’t just ask them about the information and documents needed upfront?

How can banks improve this aspect of the customer onboarding process? Why do they need to keep asking the customer for additional information? It may be that they are using inefficient verification tools and databases that aren’t utilizing primary-source data that can’t be corroborated. This is one aspect of the onboarding process that banks can reassess and improve to provide a better customer experience.

2. Not Needing to Go to a Physical Location

A similar source of frustration for customers was around still being required to go to a physical location to open their account, especially in a digital world where most undertakings — from filing taxes to applying to college to virtual work — can be done online. 40% of customers shared that they were still required to open their accounts in person, taking the time out of their schedule to travel to a location. It’s not just digital banks that offer the ability to open an account online, providing a much easier onboarding experience for customers, but many physical banks offer the option, too. If the technology exists to offer online onboarding, why haven’t all banks adopted it yet?

With a pandemic forcing businesses to leave physical spaces and create new ways to move their services online, banks need to ask themselves why they're still requiring customers to come in person. Figuring out a way to eliminate the need for in-location visits could greatly improve the customer experience.

3. Speeding Up the Process from Start to Finish

Customers also want banks to address speeding up the process in order to improve the onboarding experience and increase customer satisfaction. According to the report, 88% of those surveyed were able to have their bank accounts set up within a week, between both in-location and digital banks. But in a digital world where things happen at the tap of a button, is a week fast enough? The report also notes that customers had stopped the account-opening process in the past because it was taking too long.

Banks need to take a look at their entire process to see how they can streamline and speed up their onboarding, which must include embracing digital tools and seeking out better processes. In looking closer at just digital customers, 98% of customers engaging with digital banks had their accounts open within a week. The resources are available, so banks need to take advantage of them.

Committing to Better Customer Service Processes

Improving customer service isn't only about improving face-to-face customer interactions, but about improving behind-the-scenes processes in order to reduce friction that a bank may think customers aren't sensing. Corporate customers wanting a speedier process, reduced need to go in-person to a branch, and reduced back-and-forth during account set-up should force banks to improve their processes. Part of that should include embracing digital tools and online options, looking at where they’re sourcing data from, and being willing to make the commitment to providing an improved experience to their customers.

Author’s bio: Mr Henderson was most recently the CEO of a leading UK-based private and commercial bank, and during his two-year tenure he drove the successful and profitable diversification of the banking business. He also covered the role of CEO at Shawbrook Bank, one of the first UK Challenger banks, where he delivered the bank’s first ever profit. Mr Henderson previously held the roles of Chief Operating Officer of Barclays Wealth Private Banking where he was responsible for risk management & control of Barclays’ core private banking business in the UK and parts of EMEA and Asia. He was CEO of RBS International from 2005 to 2010 and during his tenure, profitability doubled, and the division was named the best performing general banking division in the RBS Group. Mr Henderson spent a total of 17 years at Royal Bank of Scotland where he was responsible for business and marketing strategy for the Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest brands, comprising 2,400 branches and 13 million customers.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.