Consumer banks have enormous untapped potential to transform themselves from mere utilities into lifestyle brands. They are already a part of so many daily decisions and actions. What’s missing—to the bank’s detriment—is consumer recognition of the relationship and its value. From buying groceries and streaming our favorite movies to buying a new car and purchasing airline tickets, banks play an integral role in the big and small choices we make every day. A bank that is fully available across digital and physical channels earns the opportunity to become a kind of steward of financial decisions—a guide, partner, and proactive assistant.
This opportunity is heightened by the Covid-driven uptick in digital adoption. As consumers take advantage of more digital banking services, they bring the banking experience that much closer to their day-to-day lives; and banks have more chances to forge a connection at different points of interaction and engagement.
Our POV, Putting the Consumer in Consumer Banking First, covers this concept of Availability along with the other three elements of a better consumer banking experience: Relationship Value, Appeal, and Ease. This post—the final in a four-part series—takes a closer look at how consumer banks can use Availability to shift from an unconscious consumer relationship to a conscious one.
What do we mean by “Availability,” and how can banks achieve it?
Availability encompasses the “what” and “where” of the consumer banking experience. It answers the consumer question, “Can I consistently have the same experience, and have it be ‘always on’?”
The concept of Availability is built on three foundational attributes: consistency, persistency, and omnipoten(cy). Each of these attributes plays a role in facilitating frictionless interactions that improve the consumer experience across every type of transaction, from the simplest to the most complex, and from the everyday to the very infrequent.
Consistent availability means delivering the same quality of outcomes regardless of the interaction point (e.g., mobile app, phone, branch) or how the outcome is delivered (e.g., by a person, through site content, or via automation such as chatbots). Getting consistency right takes more than implementing the right technology. It requires a committed effort to employee training and empowerment.
For example, it’s not enough to implement chat as an alternative to phone support. To ensure that customers adopt chat, you have to promote it. And to ensure that they have an excellent experience (one that inspires them to prefer chat over phone), you have to give your employees the training and resources they need to deliver that kind of experience:
- Training Framework — Training content on chat-based communications and soft skills for the chat medium delivered through study halls and refresher sessions that balance dual objectives of sales effectiveness and sales efficiency
- Quality Framework — Translation of phone-based, inbound communication frameworks for the chat medium using a more consultative approach; enabling real-time chat audits so supervisors can provide continuous feedback for improvement
- Process Framework — Replicable, pre- and post-chat protocols for handling various scenarios, escalations, etc.
In one such example, a web hosting company used these frameworks to deliver a level of consistency that drove a 28% increase in the conversion rate for chat-based communications.
There are few things more frustrating than having to repeat your issue or challenge with the brand over and over to multiple agents and managers. Persistency is the attribute that ensures there is a clear and accessible history of past interactions and outcomes for each customer. This allows for continuity from interaction to interaction, enabling employees to seamlessly pick up on an ongoing conversation without making the customer repeat themselves.
Maya was scrolling through her banking transaction feed and noticed a transaction that she didn’t recognize that had debited her checking account for $137.95. She didn’t recognize the merchant that was shown, but let’s face it – sometimes those names are so cryptic it’s hard to know what they mean. She quickly clicked on the chat button right next the transaction. Within a few seconds, someone name Carlos was responding back to her. She shared the transaction information with Carlos, and he asked her a few questions about the transaction. He asked if she wanted to dispute the transaction, but since Maya wasn’t sure what the charge was, she said that she’d like to know who the vendor was first. Carlos wrote back that it would take a few hours for them to investigate the vendor, but they would get back to her. He also mentioned that since his shift was ending soon, it may be someone else that would respond back to Maya. “Oh great...now I’ll have to explain everything all over again to someone else” thought Maya. However, Carlos then mentioned that the next person would just simply read all the texts they wrote back and forth and would be able to pick it up without any additional information from Maya.
The next morning, Maya woke up to see a notification from her bank saying that she had an unread text. It was from Jason who said that he had read through her open request and had picked up where Carlos had left and was able to identify the vendor as the new Asian restaurant that Maya went to two weeks ago with a few friends. “Ooohhhh...I totally forgot about that! But that is a weird name on the statement”. Jason mentioned that sometimes restaurants belong to a larger corporate entity and charges may come in their name instead - which is why she didn’t recognize it.
Like the story narrator who knows what each character is thinking, being omnipotent in consumer banking means being ever present and accessible from any location in both reactive and proactive ways. Reactive availability is easiest to achieve through mobile applications and advanced voice technologies. Proactive availability takes the consumer/bank relationship to the next level by switching the bank’s role from a background player to an active advisor and steward in all day-to-day decision making.
Julia is walking down Michigan Avenue on a sunny Saturday in need of a little retail therapy but concerned about achieving her financial goals after surprise auto repair expenses earlier in the month. She set a higher target ($650/month) for paying down her credit card debt, but it feels like the world is against her and if she spends any money today she’s not sticking to her ambition. After two hours of passing retail locations without making a purchase, she receives an alert from her bank reminding her of financing options for the $780 repair transaction. She pauses on the sidewalk to learn that she can set up a payment plan for this specific transaction and deal with it “outside” of her normal spending patterns. She sets up a plan and then is congratulated with a temporary 3x points offer an any purchases made in the next 24 hours. Feeling better about the auto repair expense and excited about the limited offer for more cash- back points, she asks “How much can I spend on retail this month to still achieve my credit card payment goal”? Instantaneously, her bank uses average monthly income data and average spend data on housing, grocery, gas and utilities to determine her discretionary budget per month, then subtracts what’s already been absorbed month-to-date. Julia doesn’t see this calculation unfold, she simply hears, “You have about $194 to spend on retail, dining and entertainment over the next 9 days.” Quickly thinking about her plans this coming weekend, Julia decides she can spend $50-$75 dollars today. She smiles and opens the door to her favorite boutique ready to find a great deal AND get her 3x points.
Consumer banks that embrace the pillar of Availability can transform themselves from utility to trusted advisor.
We could all use a little extra help these days. And we all like to know that someone has our back, especially when it comes to complex and stressful things like dealing with financial decisions. Consumer banks that are able to make themselves truly Available to their customers by creating an experience that is consistent, persistent, and omnipotent will have the valuable opportunity to step into the role of trusted advisor and steward of many day-to-day and milestone decisions.
We invite you to learn more about how making your bank more Available to your customers can give you a competitive edge, deepen your customer relationships, and drive more engagement. Download the full POV, Putting the Consumer in Consumer Banking First for more insights on this and the other pillars of a modern consumer banking experience. There’s no time like the present to get started on a transformation that can set your organization apart from the rest.