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Does digital banking need a human touch?

Digital transformation is in full swing and yet - people still want people. Meeting the challenge of delivering an online experience that matches an in-person one might rely on the very opposite of the problem it's solving: technology.

As bank branches across the country - and indeed, across the globe - close their doors, it would be fair to assume that we’ve evolved beyond the days of banking requiring a personal element.

In the place of brick-and-mortar branches, digital banking platforms have evolved to reach customers in entirely remote environments and ensure that customers could receive the same level of service as when they were able to visit a bank branch.

The convenience and ease of digital banking cannot be underestimated, and yet, people still want people.

But that doesn’t mean it’s one without the other.

“It's actually not a case of human vs digital. It's about human and digital. Humans need digital enablement to deliver successful, personalized experiences, meanwhile, digital tools and techniques augment the human-delivered customer service.”
UK Finance

The key is to meet somewhere in the middle, with all the perks of digitization and a personal touch. To succeed, banking providers must be able to offer the same high level of service digitally to a customer as they would receive in person. So how best to navigate this tightrope?

A Balancing Act

“A strong digital strategy requires a human element.”

Customer experience experts Majorel

The appetite for a human touch amidst the plethora of data, apps, and APIs is still strong. Without this personal element, the traditionally commoditized banking and financial service industries risk losing out on the benefits of customer trust and loyalty.

A digital banking experience that drives conversion, creates loyalty, and improves brand reputation needs to embrace the best practices in technology and humanization.

It’s this position that’s driving the development of the metaverse, a reality designed to combine the best of digital-physical worlds. In the future, this could pose a real solution to the challenge of giving banking a human touch - but it’s one that’s still years away from actuality. In the meantime, the most successful players are embracing personalization.


Of consumers from all age demographics said personalization was “highly important” to their banking experience.

Another study found similarly.


Of respondents said they expect the businesses they buy from to recognize them as individuals and know their interests.

Analytics-powered digital solutions enable intelligent personalization based on context. For example location data that offers a “Good Morning!” or “Good Afternoon!” prompt depending on the time zone where the customer is located.

“Find ways to be proactive and show them that you care about their financial well-being. Celebrate with your customers (e.g., birthdays, anniversaries, financial accomplishments) – think of it as digital confetti.”

Analytic decision-making platform FICO

Data derived from the technology that powers digital banking can bring back the human element that used to be part of local banking relationships. Collecting, analyzing, and generating actionable insights with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) from that data can give rise to alerts and notifications that help consumers on their self-serviced financial journeys.

“Using personalization data is central to building humanized digital banking CX that extends across an entire experience from app to chat to phone.”

The Financial Brand

But as with most business practices, there are potential downsides to personalization. Even a single irrelevant message can torpedo consumers’ faith in how well you know them, leading to decreased conversions and tanking loyalty.

Leveraging Data to Delight - Not (Necessarily) Sell

Customers want brands to meet them where they are, know their tastes, give them targeted offers and check in to make sure they’ve been fully taken care of.


Of customers are more likely to purchase if their experience is personalized.

Use the data used to personalize with caution, though, experts warn. Personalization is about making intelligent and meaningful offers and isn't necessarily about selling products. It’s a long game - and making customers feel comfortable and valued during every interaction is the key to a competitive advantage.

When asked to define personalization, consumers associate it with positive experiences of being made to feel special.

“They respond positively when brands demonstrate their investment in the relationship, not just the transaction. Thoughtful touch points such as checking in post-purchase, sending a how-to video or asking consumers to write a review generate positive brand perceptions.”


The Quest for the Best Support

Advisory firm Genpact recently released an analysis indicating that consumers’ continuing preference for traditional channels continues in the Age of the App because this is still where they receive the best customer support and personalized advice.

“If the same quality of service were available through digital channels,” the report states, “consumers wouldn’t choose to travel to a branch or phone a customer service center.”

Far from suggesting that digital alternatives will never entirely replace traditional banking incumbents though, the firm maintains that it’s not a matter of forgoing digital but instead, supercharging its abilities.

“It’s not going to be digital only and it’s not going to be human only.”

Raja Bose, consulting and transformation services leader, Genpact.

Bose thinks digital channels can begin to mix in some of the advantages of human interaction by blending human-machine collaboration through artificial intelligence.

The human becomes augmented by the technology, but not wholly replaced, he explains, drawing a parallel with GPS service. This technology tells a human how to get from point A to point B - but the human still does the driving (for now).

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