What Canadian banks should do after reading Forrester’s benchmark report

The research firm offers a comprehensive look at the country’s leading financial institution’s digital efforts. There’s one huge “to-do” for all of them

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Forrester Canadian online banking benchmark report

Lisa’s got a lot going on in her life. At 42 she’s married with two young daughters, just started a new job and wants to buy a new house.

Even though I just met her, I already know plenty about Lisa’s finances. She makes $90,000 a year at her new job and just got a new credit card yet still hasn’t signed up for online bill payments. She’s probably just too busy to get around to it, right?

I’d invite Lisa over for coffee to ask her if that’s the case. I can’t, though, because she only exists on paper.

I was recently introduced to Lisa on page three of the Canadian Online Banking Benchmark report. Forrester Research created her as a composite of the typical Canadian online banking user. Based on Lisa’s probable needs, goals, habits and preferences, Forrester tested and ranked the online banking sites of Canada’s five largest retail banks.

There’s definitely some good news in there for Lisa. Forrester applauds most of the banks for scoring higher marks after improving their sites since the last report. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce tops the rankings followed by Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank and TD Canada Trust.

In general, the five online banking sites did well in areas like security, cross-selling products and enabling person-to-person money transactions.

The banks’ actual scores weren’t exactly barnburners, however. All five combined earned an average overall score of 71 out of 100. (Even top ranked CIBC only got 76 points out of 100.) That means Canada’s largest banks are barely managing a collective B-minus.

What’s missing here? According to Forrester, Canadian banks are doing a fine job online of showing customers ‘you have this much money and here’s where it is.’ But Forrester says today’s customers want sites and apps to help them by suggesting ‘here’s what you should do with your money and why.’

In a world where simply logging onto Amazon.com generates movie and book suggestions based on your past purchases, any service that displays information without adding value doesn’t cut it anymore, Forrester suggests.

“With so many disruptive new entrants like Check, HelloWallet and Mint providing free or low-cost digital financial guidance and advice, digital banking teams should move beyond showing a customer’s current financial state and aim to provide actionable recommendations,” the report concludes.

Forrester expects personalization to play a key role in this. It urges Canadian banks to add more features that personalize the online experience for each user’s specific situation. It points to U.S. banking sites that generate monthly spending forecasts for each user based on past transactions; automatically recommend pre-approved products based on their financial situation; and alert them when they’re near their credit limit or in danger of an account shortfall.

Besides creating a more personalized experience for users, these features also create opportunities for banks to sell additional products to them, Forrester notes.

Forrester also recommends Canadian banks take more of an omni-channel approach by providing real time chat, offering financial consultations via live video and posting how-to and promotional videos on their sites.

There still has to be a human element and it all has to be integrated, the researchers advise: “The greatest competitive advantage that established firms have is to use digital touch points to enhance interactions between clients and the firm by integrating human advisors and digital touch points.”

As Forrester’s report mentions, “Lisa’s life can get hectic.” That’s why the Canadian bank that provides her with the most relevant customer experience has the best chance of winning and keeping her as a client.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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