Every person that has ever attended a high street bank can recount a story where a seemingly simple task took far longer than expected, whether it was due to a mountain of paperwork, a queue snaking out the door or a lack of support from branch workers. This often results in customers turning their backs on this experience and turning to mobile or online banking to complete a task that should have taken ten minutes. It is here that the yawning chasm between customer expectation and reality becomes apparent.
What is clear from dispiriting trips to the bank is that the middle ground between online and in-branch experiences remains uninhabited. Mobile and online banking are growing in popularity thanks to the level of convenience they represent and the increasingly advanced technologies facilitating its adoption. Some people still visit branches though. For those people, the reason for visiting a local branch is to deal with a person – someone who can offer tailored, professional support when this isn’t immediately apparent online.
Banks must find a way to provide a mixture of these attributes if they are to ensure that customer satisfaction doesn’t continue to plummet. Apparently, generation Y has lower positive customer experience levels than any other age group, according to researchers at Cap Gemini, as banks struggle to meet the new expectations brought about by the convenience and immediacy of online banking.
As a result, online banking figures in the UK are high, with a recent survey by Moxie finding that over three-quarters (76 percent) of British web users have banked online via a website in the past 12 months, and the vast majority (86 percent) expect to be doing some form of banking online in the next 12 months. Yet, according to the World Retail Banking Report 2015, there is still work for banks to do when transitioning customers to digital channels, with customers still perceiving the branch as offering better service than the internet for both complex and simple processes.
There is no surprise that customers want the best of both worlds – people want options. The surprise is that banks are yet to fully tailor their services to ensure that the simplicity, efficiency and support now demanded by customers is catered for. Indeed, over half (64 percent) of these respondents would do more online banking if companies offered assistance on their websites, providing support that would usually be offered in a brick and mortar branch.
On-hand service is the aspect of the traditional high-street branch that still appeals to many customers and is resulting in the fact that only one quarter (26 percent) of British adults expect to be doing all of their banking online in the next 12 months. To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumours of in-branch banking’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
How, though, can online banking replicate this level of support? Moxie’s study found that 77 percent of online Brits would find it helpful if a brand proactively offered assistance online when the bank realizes that the customer is running into trouble – this can be flagged through repeated error messages on a payment or transactions page, and will allow an online assistant to identify when users run into trouble and provide the appropriate support. Providing mobile and online banking is not enough – understanding your customers and providing support throughout the banking process is vital.
By turning to solutions, such as live chat, where agents can proactively contact a customer during their internet banking journey, banks can replicate this level of support online, across multiple channels, providing banks with a balance of online’s fast, efficient services and the personalized support offered in-branch. These services include the tailored customer support provided in-branch, with online advisers also able to proactively provide contextually-appropriate advice to customers on which services may be of interest – outlining new offerings that could genuinely help the customer, based on their background with the bank.
Mobile and in-branch banking will co- exist for many years to come. There is a popular misconception that because a new way of doing something has been invented that becomes very popular, very quickly, then the old way of doing it will go away. Desktops still exist despite the arrival of laptops and tablets, and cash still continues to change hands despite the growth of contactless payments. With both online and in-branch banking likely to stick around for a while longer, banks should look to combine their strengths, rather than silo them. In doing so, they can provide customers with an experience far more efficient and valuable than the current one.