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Three Keys to Solution Ownership

This is the second article in our Delivering Value series about self-service optimization, which enables account holders to do business with your bank or credit union when and where they want. The first article covered growth opportunities with online branches (see Spring 2011 issue of Delivering Value). This article looks at how financial institutions should organize responsibilities for self-service operations.

"…the solution owners become true brand ambassadors for your financial institution."

These days, account holders have the ability to interact with financial institutions and conduct their transactions from just about anywhere — at home, on the beach or halfway around the world. As banks and credit unions evolve to offer more services via a greater variety of self-service touchpoints, whether mobile phone or laptop or ATM, the individuals in charge of self-service operations — the solution owners — become true brand ambassadors for your financial institution. In this role, according to Bob Williams, director of marketing technologies for Harland Clarke, these solution owners are responsible for three key areas.

Key No. 1: Strategic Alignment

No matter where or how services are offered, it is critical to ensure that all self-service solutions support your financial institution's annual business plan and mission statement.

"As more daily transactions are conducted outside the physical walls of the branch, servicing account holders increasingly becomes about being available wherever they might be," says Williams. "Solution owners for self-service options must make sure these locations align with the goals of the bank or credit union."

Doing so ensures that all such services support your organization's strategic vision and receive necessary funding and resources to be effectively offered. It also helps motivate employees to rally behind an initiative they know is designed to accomplish your institution's goals. And it keeps work output throughout the bank's or credit union's online presence in sync with the whole strategy.

Key No. 2: Account Holder Experience

The solution owner is not responsible just for the operation of self-service products, but for the entire account holder experience that goes along with those products. Boundaries between channels are becoming increasingly blurry, so financial institutions must make sure that the account holder experience at each touchpoint is consistent. More and more, institutions are focusing the responsibility of solution owners on account holder interaction rather than on the channel itself.

"Account holders do not think about channels when they need to complete a transaction," says Williams. "They do not care where or how they log on. They think only about what they need to accomplish and the most efficient way to do it." So, during the account-opening process, for example, financial institutions must present the same message and deliver a similar process — whether account holders use a mobile phone at a weekend Little League game or log on to a computer at the office.

It can be a challenge to ensure uniformity among all touchpoints, especially when the fast pace of technology means new touchpoints are being added all the time — and when these new touchpoints quickly gain in popularity. For example, Twitter is a relatively new vehicle for financial institutions, but a significant one. Twitter uses a third-party provider and offers financial institutions an online means for customer service, where current and prospective account holders can request information or get help if they have a complaint. (For more tips on using Twitter, see our story titled "Optimizing the New Media Experience.")

Likewise, you greatly extend the reach of your financial institution by allowing account holders to open and fund accounts online, or by enabling them to refill prepaid cards via mobile phone. But, again, all these online applications must address the whole account holder experience.

Williams adds that the customer experience for each touchpoint need not be exactly the same. "Rather, each point of self-service must have in place an equally reliable and efficient way to support the account holder," he explains.

Key No. 3: Results

The key metrics for self-service channels vary depending on the program being measured. But, generally, they can be classified in one of four areas:

No matter what the touchpoint, Williams explains that what is most important overall is helping account holders achieve their financial goals. However, awareness of what the competition is doing can provide solution owners with competitive differences that can create a unique value proposition for their self-service channels.

Solution owners of self-service operations must provide direction around alignment, experience and results. "It is a big task for sure," admits Williams. "But, ultimately, the solution owner is responsible for creating an experience that delights account holders and is still profitable for financial stakeholders and for the viability of the financial institution."