More banks ought to expand the capabilities of their digital channels to engage with their customers, in addition to offering transactional options, says Bob Meara, analyst for Celent.
Too often, he says, banks rely on the face-to-face interaction achieved in their brick-and-mortar branches. However, that presupposes customers will volunteer to come into the physical facility. In actuality, of course, customers increasingly rely on the digital channels.
Rather than attempting to change customers’ favored behavior, banks could provide functions in their online or even mobile channels to promote such interaction.
“Put in an online chat capability on the website—chat is real time,” Meara said in an interview with Banking Exchange. Or offer the capability to schedule a conversation either in a branch or online. That’s not terribly difficult,”
Yet few banks do this, according to a 2014 Celent survey. Just 36% of banks over $50 billion in assets had the capability to schedule appointments or had it in production, as did 4% of banks with between $1 billion and $50 billion assets, and barely 3% of banks with less than $1 billion in assets.
Meara relates the efforts banks are making to redesign and upgrade their branches away from simple transaction sites into places where customers come for advice and sales. He suggests a similar upgrading of digital channels: “Particularly if you are a smaller financial institution, if you’re going to go through the effort of setting up that infrastructure, putting people in a place, decorating and lighting it properly, and training people to interact with your customers, don’t just limit it to a branch. Extend it as broadly as possible.”
Commenting further about digital appointment booking, or enabling the ability for customers to book an appointment with a banker at a time and place of their convenience, Meara expands in a recent Celent blog: “Doing so represents convenience for the customer, a logical indicated action as part of online product research, and an opportunity to improve branch channel capacity planning…The most compelling reason to offer digital appointment booking in my opinion is because doing so maximizes the effectiveness of branch engagement…Done well, frontline staff know who is coming and for what purpose. Consequently they’re better prepared for the conversation.”
As for website chat capabilities, Meara cites the same survey—just 20% offered text-based chat online, 12% offered click-to-call, and 2% offered video chat.
“Rather than seeking to influence customer channel preferences, banks should be all about maximizing the effectiveness of each and every engagement opportunity, regardless of channel,” Meara says.