Customers have needed a lot of help from their banks over the past year. From managing the financial impact of the economic downturn, to the massive shift in online banking and other retail activities, recent trends have provided a stress test for customer service. As financial service organizations have experimented with digital assistance technologies, the heavy demand has also provided useful data on exactly where customers are comfortable with an automated approach, where they prefer the human touch, and what types of best practices should guide the human/digital balance moving forward.
Here are a few of the important lessons we have learned.
Digital Assistance: Simple tasks aren’t always so simple
Banks have been driving digital innovation for years, from digital account transfers, to automatic bill paying, to the ability to deposit a check using a smartphone. These services promise greater convenience for customers—but if banks really want to deliver a great experience, they need to focus on doing digital things better, not just doing more digital things. In a recent survey of 1,000 banking customers, goMoxie discovered that a majority—55 percent—are still struggling with service issues including as login, transfer or payments, updating personal information, account balance checks, opening a new account, or adding a new product or service.
The frustration customers are feeling is often compounded by their experience accessing help. The survey also revealed that 32 percent of respondents have experienced long wait times since the pandemic began. Being able to meet customer expectations and preferences for assistance will be key for competing effectively and earning loyalty moving forward, including digital assistance.
Automation isn’t always the answer—but when it is, do it better
Companies of all kinds can tend to conflate innovation with automation. While it’s true that people generally like self-service and prefer to be able to do many things on their own, it’s not always the case—and banks in particular need to pay attention to those exceptions. Clearing up a login issue is clearly an automation-friendly use case, but when people are dealing with more sensitive areas of personal finance, they like the clarity, guidance, and empathy of being able to speak with a real person.
For banks, the challenge is to find a way to ensure that live representatives have the time and capacity to handle these more high-touch interactions, instead of being tied up with lower-level details. As it is, many incoming calls result not from an initial preference for live assistance, but out of frustration with the inadequacy of the automated version. In our survey, endless automation loops led 61 percent of respondents to say they would rather speak to a representative. Providing a better self-service experience, complemented with proactive digital guidance, can help divert many incoming calls, lower wait times, and improve customer satisfaction across both channels.
Chatbots aren’t winning many friends
Chatbots can seem like a great way to give customers the information they need without tying up a live representative. Customers ask a question and a chatbot respond with an answer pulled from a knowledge base – what could go wrong? As it turns out—customers just don’t like it. After asking how they feel about chatbots, 60 percent of those surveyed acknowledged that they didn’t trust chatbots to communicate their issues effectively, 57 percent said they’d prefer to interact with people, and one-third said that chatbots weren’t helpful in answering their questions. Less than a quarter of respondents—22 percent—had a positive impression. Digital innovation can improve efficiency, but if it’s frustrating customers and jeopardizing their loyalty, the ultimate costs can outweigh the benefits.
Social media is for kid photos and cat memes, not banking
Businesses in all industries are exploring ways to engage with customers on social platforms. For some kinds of brands, it can be a natural fit—but banking may not be one of them. After being asked if they wanted to interact with their bank over social media, 48 percent of respondents said they prefer to stick to personal interactions with friends and family. A quarter found the idea too intrusive. It’s probably nothing personal; you might welcome a brewer or pizza-maker at your social gathering, but having a banker turn up might be a matter of wrong-time, wrong-place.
Digital Assistance is here to stay—because physical is here to stay
For all the digital innovation and momentum we’ve seen in recent decades, customers express a clear desire for in-person banking to remain available. In our survey, 62 percent of customers said they want their bank to have a physical presence; of these respondents, 57 percent wanted to have the option of speaking to a banker in person for major issues, and 10 percent said they would like to establish a relationship with a personal banker. Banks can—and must—offer that kind of high-touch experience, but to do so effectively, they need to make the most efficient possible use of digital channels. The more customers you can satisfy through self-guided tools, the better you’ll be able to serve the remaining customers who do need escalation to live assistance.