Can technology create an online banking experience more personal than a branch visit?

By Priya Iyer | 11 October 2017

One of the many conveniences of banking today is that it’s largely self-service. Customers manage a growing number of transactions at an ATM, use their phones to check balances, pay bills, move money and organise their finances, all without having to go into a branch or interact with a customer service agent. Many customers are more than happy to do their own online research and manage their own transactions, but their customer service expectations for the online channel are being shaped by what they see in other sectors, particularly retail shopping. And banks should take note.

The banking sector is a long way behind retail, for example, when it comes to delivering customer service across multiple channels. In retail, businesses have invested in live engagement technology to serve customers using video chat direct from the retail websites. It’s a strategic investment to differentiate and to offer an online service that closely replicates the customer service in store. In banking, although mobile and other online transactions are increasing year on year, the personal service available in a branch is somewhat lacking in the customer’s online banking experience. 

Of course, many banking services are still not managed remotely and require a customer to visit a branch in person, usually to meet a specialist advisor or to present passports and other personal documentation. But with branches closing and specialist advisors often only available infrequently at each branch, customers are demanding higher levels of service and asking why some services can’t be offered online and at times to suit the customer and not the bank.

The simple answer is that they can. And a growing number of banks in Europe are investing in technology to extend the number of services available digitally and to improve the level of customer service offered online.  Technology is ranging from tools to route a customer to the correct place on the website, to text chatting with a real agent to seeing the advisor on screen using video chat technology. And it’s here that banks can really differentiate.

A live engagement platform, allows a bank to offer customers personal advice and discuss complex products without leaving the comfort of their home and with broader opening times than a retail branch could offer. What’s more, video chat technology  allows the agent to share screens with the customer, check multiple forms of ID using two-way live video, open new accounts and complete complex mortgage application forms without having to visit the branch. It’s a personal service at times to suit the customer and not the bank.

There are many benefits to adding a live engagement platform to online banking, and the simplest is that customers value it. Live video chat has the highest customer satisfaction rating across all channels used by customers to interact with their banks, including text, phone and social media. 92% of customers reported satisfaction with using a live chat feature to seek advice or solutions to a problem, particularly when the service allows them to reach their advisor outside of business hours. And with consumers increasingly believing that service businesses need to be available 24/7, live chat brings a bank closer to that goal.

And banks too are able to better utilise their experts, making them available to customers online and from one central location rather than having experts travel from branch to branch to meet customers in person, and often at times that are not convenient for the customer.

More people than ever use their mobile devices for banking services, with customers visiting a branch only seven times a year on average, according to industry analysts CACI. By 2022, they predict that the average will drop to four visits each year. The branch will still have a role to play, but customers now want to interact wherever and whenever and they expect their banking services to be as convenient and customer-focused. It’s time for banks to shape their online services around the expectations of the customer – and that means adopting live engagement technology and hiring real people on the website to help build relationships and sales.