Consumers can be a fickle bunch, to say the least. That is especially true when it comes to matters as personal as banking.
According to recently published research, American consumers are spending more time than ever accessing digital banking services on mobile devices. Nearly three-quarters of American smartphone owners use financial apps to review their checking and savings account balances or perform other simple transactions each week, and 16 percent use these apps daily.
While consumers are logging in more frequently, they aren’t necessarily relishing the opportunity. In fact, 68 percent report frustration with the digital banking experience, despite the importance of online banking capabilities.
Those seemingly divergent statistics are exactly why banks shouldn’t create a one-size-fits-all solution, according to Katherine McGee, head of digital product management for Wells Fargo virtual channels. In a recent interview, she told PYMNTS that banks need to realize no two customers are alike, and that each has his own set of needs and preferences.
With that idea in mind, McGee and her team at Wells Fargo are working to combine innovative technology like artificial intelligence (AI) with legacy brick-and-mortar branches, allowing the financial institution (FI) to work with customers wherever and however they choose to do their bank-related business.
While most Americans seem content using smartphones for simple items like checking their balances or transaction histories, consumers appear to want in-person interactions at bank branches for less routine banking needs.
Despite the popularity of digital banking apps, 60 percent of banking customers still prefer to visit a brick-and-mortar bank branch when opening an account. That’s because these customers largely view bank branches as “more legitimate” than online-only offerings, according to a survey conducted by consulting firm Novantas.
That’s an advantage for older and larger banks like Wells Fargo, which already has an established network of brick-and-mortar locations. According to McGee, the FI is working to utilize its network of physical locations to focus on serving its customers’ divergent needs. In some cases, those needs are better served in-person.
“An example of that is wire transfers, which we rolled out online and on other digital channels over the past year,” she said. “Those might be available online now, but you can still go into a branch and do a wire transfer if that’s what you feel most comfortable with.”
But it isn’t just about completing transactions at the branch. Wells Fargo is working to ensure its brick-and-mortar bankers and customer service representatives are also accessible to mobile banking users, giving those customers the opportunity to speak to an employee without going to the branch itself.
“We know that for certain transactions or certain questions, customers want to actually speak to a banker, not an automated system,” McGee said. “We think we can offer value to those customers by enabling that, even for digital or mobile customers. We want to make it very easy for customers online or on their mobile phones to connect with bankers directly if that’s how they want to do business with us.”
…Meets New School
While customers want access to bank branches for more complicated transactions, they are also looking for access to more features online. Seeing the shift in consumer behavior, Wells Fargo is working to make its digital offerings more “legitimate” in the eyes of customers by investing in new technology and solutions.
That includes a recent investment in AI and machine learning, most notably the company’s newly unveiled predictive banking feature, McGee explained. The feature is designed to both give customers a more comprehensive view of their accounts and help them stay financially healthy by reminding them to pay bills, transfer money to savings or budget their expenses.
It also provides customers with a consistent and effective way to communicate with the bank, complete transactions and get customers the information they need, she added, and to do so via whatever channel they prefer.
“We understand the importance of not only providing customers with insight into their spending habits, but [also] providing it to them where they already are, which is increasingly on a mobile phone, and in a format that allows them to take immediate action,” McGee said.
Digital Banking Days to Come
Wells Fargo isn’t done innovating in the digital banking space. It debuted apps for virtual devices like the Apple Watch and other wearables to allow on-the-go customers access to their account information, McGee noted. The FI is also piloting AI-powered chatbots on its Facebook page, allowing it to answer consumers’ questions or perform simple transactions from any device that can connect to Facebook or other social media pages.
“We want to be where our customers are,” she said. “If they want to come into a branch, we want to be there for them. But we also want to make sure that if they come to digital, and want to do a certain transaction online or on their phones, that we offer that feature for those customers as well.”
Looking ahead, the company is planning more AI-powered integrations for interactions via personal assistants like Amazon Echo, Google Home or yet undiscovered banking channels. The goal – for both Wells Fargo’s already unveiled integrations and those to come – is to keep up with changing customer preferences and meet consumers wherever they are.
After all, they aren’t likely to get less fickle anytime soon.
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