Customer service is the lifeblood of financial services, just as much as credit cards, debit cards and checking accounts.
But as banking becomes ever-more mobile, and account openings and activities are done through digital channels, the very definition of support – and how it should be provided – is changing.
To that end, SilverCloud CEO and Founder Scott Cornell said that financial institutions (FIs) would do well to take cues from shifts in consumer expectations of the levels of service they receive from tech-savvy companies – and should carry those lessons over to their corporate banking relationships.
As he noted, digital-first brands such as Uber and Amazon have helped shape, and are still shaping, consumers’ expectations for interacting with FIs.
“Today’s consumers no longer compare a brand to its competitors; they compare it to the brands they use and love,” Cornell told PYMNTS.
FIs have been busy investing in technology, with an eye on mobile-centric, consumer-focused features and activities that include P2P, online account openings and loan origination.
Some FIs have been neglecting the investments necessary to improve the support and service functions that are key to keeping customers in place. The end results can be seen in low adoption rates (because consumers cannot find or use the functions they desire) and high rates of abandonment.
“The majority of banks continue to view support and service as something that requires human intervention,” said Cornell – but SilverCloud’s own estimates show that more than half of all support inquiries come during nights and weekends, which is when bank branches and call centers are closed, causing frustration for bank consumers.
In one illustration of the friction that can exist with less-than-optimal roadmaps, Cornell said that “we spoke with a credit union that was rolling out e-statements and incentivizing its members to sign up for them. However, they had nothing within their mobile or online banking that explained the offer or, more importantly, how to sign up. Adoption was low, and they blamed the technology for a poor rollout and communication plan.”
To help alleviate such incidents of friction, said Cornell, forward-thinking financial firms have been including support across their digital channels, through the use of tools like chatbots.
“We have seen 15 to 25 percent of support inquiries simply disappear with some basic support content being added to online and mobile banking,” he said.
The Corporate Connection
Cornell remarked that “one of the biggest misconceptions around small businesses and corporate customers is that once people are at work, they no longer act like consumers.”
But at the most basic level, all small businesses and corporations are run by people who are leveraging technology and apps (Netflix, Amazon and Uber, among others) in their personal lives. As Cornell pointed out, these individuals expect their FIs to provide the easy-to-use digital tools they need.
“As more and more FinTechs come onto the market, their expectations are growing, as vendors like Stripe, Shopify and Xero are reducing a lot of the friction that financial institutions have created for their business customers,” he noted.
The FinTechs that have been taking market share from their more traditional brethren, Cornell added, have become adept at simplifying the lives of SMBs and corporations.
The SMB Focus
The approach to onboard the small business customer must, in an echo of the individual consumer experience, include information and education about three core services: debit cards, direct deposit and bill pay.
But this is not to say that the process is entirely self-service, said Cornell.
“At the end of the day, financial institutions are responsible for money and financial matters, which can be highly emotional situations. The need for human intervention will always be there as complicated and urgent issues arise, which happen more frequently for SMBs than they typically do for consumers,” he added.
Financial institutions need to understand the fine line between self-service and human intervention (which varies from person to person), and the importance of letting their consumers decide which channels to use instead of forcing them into one channel or another.
“Banking leaders are overlooking the need to deliver better support and service in their digital channels and to recognize how consumer behaviors and expectations are changing. That means investing in more than just transactional technology,” Cornell told PYMNTS.