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November 14, 2017

Ori Faran, founder and CEO of CallVU \  This article was originally published on BanklessTimes

Customers don’t think twice about ordering pizza online. So why are they having trouble with equally simple online banking self-service, and what can you do about it? A new survey sheds some light.

No one seriously compares ordering pizza online to online banking and financial services. But the fact is that placing an average online Dominos order is far more complex than checking your bank balance. Yet despite this, a recent survey we conducted of US banks found that the usage of online self-service for low-complexity actions in the financial services sector is staggeringly low.

How low? By way of example, 63 per cent of customer service calls to banks surveyed were made for simple requests, notably checking account balance. Ironically, 70 per cent of these calls were placed after the customer found the service center number on the company website – but I’ll come back to that.

Overall, our survey found that 57 per cent of financial services customers still prefer face-to-face interaction to digital self-service. These are some of the same people that are ordering pizzas online, buying on Amazon, and maybe even online dating. For whatever psychological reason, despite the fact that they can easily manage the complexity of online self-service – they’re not.

The Customer Service Serenity Prayer

Regardless of your religious affiliation, almost all of us know, and believe in, the premise of the famous Serenity Prayer: accept the things we cannot change, and only try to change things over which we have personal control. When it comes to online self-service in the financial services sector, we need to accept that we may never understand exactly why customers adopt or don’t adopt self-service. At the same time, there are many things we can do to actively change this situation.

Recent research from Accenture suggests that 46 per cent of banking consumers are willing to bank using what’s known as robo-advice – financial services and advice offered online with minimal human interaction – in the future. Moreover, almost half of millennial customers are not interested in interacting with a full-service physical branch on an ongoing basis. What this means is that there is willingness on the part of consumers to trust digital channels – and a strong interest in using them. The only thing lacking is a more effective technological means to help banks translate this willingness into action.

The Secret: Move Slowly

As discussed above, our cross-generational survey of US retail bank customers found that 70 per cent of service calls begin with the customer looking up the phone number online.

Let’s drill down into this. Customer A is on your site. He or she has the technological capability and the digital skillset to access your digital self-service system and the theoretical willingness to try out digital channels. Yet instead, Customer A simply makes that 1-800 call to your service center. It’s no secret that call centers are a cost burden that’s growing exponentially, which is why calls should ideally be reserved exclusively for the approximately 30 per cent of high-value services that digital doesn’t cover.

So, what’s the secret sauce that can turn people willing to order their pizzas online into digital bankers?

Our survey showed that 46 per cent of customers call and 34 per cent visit their branch after failing to solve their issue via digital channels. To gather the lost digital sheep into the online self-service fold, brute force won’t do it. Financial services organizations need to move slowly and smartly. To begin, they need to polish, then re-polish, then tweak, then re-tweak, the digital customer service experience. The next step is to adopt tools that help ease customers into digital.

Need an example? To deflect calls, many companies bury their call center numbers so deep in the site that consumers can’t find them. However, a study conducted last year by NewVoiceMedia found that companies lost a whopping $62 billion due to bad customer service. If a customer needs you, but feels like they can’t reach you, that’s the very definition of bad customer service.

Rather than hide the traditional call center, financial services organizations need to celebrate it intelligently. One way to do that is to place a prominent “Call Now” button on your contact page to show customers you want to engage with them. 80 per cent of our survey respondents indicated they would use visual IVR solutions, so before that voice call is actually placed, use your existing IVR flows to engage them digitally and gently draw them into the world of digital self-service through effective and focused engagement.

Our survey results also showed that some 66 per cent of survey respondents would replace emailing, faxing or visiting their branch if they could sign and share documents via co-browsing. Electronic signatures, interactive screens, and the ability to share files instantly eliminate the need to be physically present at a branch to sign documents. There are technological solutions out there that address this need, while still covering all legal and regulatory demands. If you don’t want them coming to your branch offices, don’t make them.

The Bottom Line

Customer experience is crucial to success. In fact, it’s a key differentiator in commodity-services markets like basic financial services. There’s simply no need for there to be a contradiction between outstanding customer satisfaction and large-scale adoption of digital self-service. With the right enabling technology, and a gentle push in the right direction, they can go together like – well – cheese and pizza.