How APIs Help Banks Connect with Customers

As digital transformation continues to make its impact on every industry, consumer expectations are changing more rapidly than ever before -- especially in banking.

New technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots are developing in response to shifting consumer communication preferences. Today's digital consumers expect to have self-service as well as instant communication with a banking representative from any mobile device. As mobile banking applications expand in both functionality and accessibility, so do consumers' expectations. As a result, the ability for quick and easy interactions with a financial institution from any device at any time is more of a baseline expectation than a perk.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) have long been used to streamline digital banking operations. Ever since APIs entered the big-data scene, many in the banking industry have grappled with the best way to leverage their potential for rich, contextual insights -- from data cleansing in personal finance management for more readily understandable transactions to analyzing that scrubbed data for actionable observations.

As the banking industry continues to become more digitized, however, APIs can also be broadened to impact customer engagement through communications. In the past three years APIs have already begun to make a mark on banks' ability to communicate with their customers -- through back-end updates to customer solutions as well as re-imagined engagement.

As customer expectations around engagement continue to expand, APIs and big data offer institutions another way to enhance the consumer experience by providing more contextual services. These APIs also complement the streamlining of unified communications (UC).

Creating Fluidity for Customer Engagement

One of the primary ways APIs can benefit the communications side of mobile and digital banking is by creating a fluid customer experience. UC is already playing a major role in seamless communications, and banking organizations already leveraging UC solutions hold the power to further enhance this by implementing communications-related APIs.

Today's customers prefer to interact with financial institutions through a variety of different channels -- in-person tellers and bankers, ATMs, interactive teller machines, online banking, mobile banking and AI via text, to name just a few -- and often switch between different channels on different mobile devices at almost any hour of the day.

The shifting expectation for communication with businesses, especially in the financial industry, has put pressure on organizations to meet the growing need for more fluid and flexible modes of communication. As the impact of digital transformation continues to expand across all facets of the banking industry, new innovations are sure to arise to meet these shifting expectations. Customers expect a seamless experience. This process should eliminate the need for them to reconnect with different departments by jumping from application to application -- and instead facilitate a seamless process for navigating multiple channels in a single interaction.

And communications-related APIs benefit more than just consumers. It is also imperative that information is transferred to banking agents without forcing them to use multiple tools based on the customer's initial engagement selection. Employees benefit immensely from single universal tools that support customer activities on any system, which creates a seamless experience for the agent as well as the customer. Financial institutions can increase customer engagement by weaving the capabilities of APIs into UC technology to better meet the expectations of today's digitally inclined consumers.

Re-imagining Engagement with Technology

One of the most common examples of customer-facing, communication APIs for banking is the growing popularity and demand for hands-free banking.

Utilizing Internet of Things (IoT) technology, hands-free banking is transforming the way that customers can initiate communication and transactions with their financial institutions. For instance, banks are now partnering with Amazon's virtual assistant Alexa in the Echo device to enable access to their mobile banking "application" through verbal commands.

As they reimagine customer engagement, financial institutions also are turning to chatbot technology. Chatbot, or "bankbot," engines utilizing AI enable consumers to engage with financial institutions through SMS text messages, further meeting the communication preferences of today's tech-savvy consumers. For instance, rather than logging into a mobile banking application, a customer can simply send a text message to the financial institution's designated mobile number to initiate a transaction -- whether checking an account balance, transferring funds, or paying a bill -- without ever leaving their text messaging application.

If banks were to simply employ APIs as they examine their customer relations -- in the same way they evaluate their marketing efforts -- it could result in a more cohesive strategy for financial institutions seeking to bridge the divide between how they've always operated and what 21st century customers now expect in terms of support and engagement using the latest communications technology.

As various industries grapple with their own versions of digital transformation, banking is well on its way, and communications-related APIs will continue to evolve as one avenue of that as UC's influence on engagement grows.