By Perry PriceJust as the world is becoming an increasingly connected place, society’s reliance on desktops to surf the Web has been replaced by smartphones and tablets. According to CIODive, up to 70 percent of web traffic now happens on mobile devices.
Add a global pandemic to the mix and consumer reliance on mobile technology has grown even more significantly over the last few months. As the utilization of mobile phones is expected to continually increase as people spend more time at home and limit in-person visits to local businesses, financial institutions are feeling the pressure to accommodate consumers’ demands for instant information 24/7, on any device.
During the pandemic, consumers now expect the ability to communicate with their bank seamlessly, especially if their branch is closed to lobby traffic or open only during limited hours. So, it makes sense that consumers should be capable of virtually engaging with a customer service representative from any device—and better yet, with advancements in unified communications technology. The customer journey should be as frictionless as possible.
Mobile banking, which allows consumers to manage their finances without a desk or computer, offers an even higher level of convenience than online banking. As consumer expectations expand to include an anywhere, anytime, any-device type of mindset, multichannel support and interactive communication features become increasingly important. Multichannel features such as HD voice/video, web chat, SMS, secure file transfer and screen sharing are critical for personalizing customer service and creating the ultimate user experience.
Such features require banking contact centers to deploy unified communications, or UC, technology to provide consumers with the seamless experience they once desired but now are desperately in need of due to the conditions the pandemic has created. UC solutions have become a game changer for financial institutions during the current global pandemic.
Let’s talk security
Although the demand for banks to deploy UC technology to meet customer expectations is now more urgent than ever, the security of those communications remains of the utmost importance. After all, a financial institution’s communications strategy is only as good as its ability to ensure that sensitive customer data is protected since it is now being transmitted through the cloud.
While allowing contact center staff to work remotely has helped to bridge the gap in customer service during these challenging times, bringing the office into the homes of employees opens up major security concerns. Ever more banking communications are now taking place via mobile device—and that includes matters that are more complex than simply transferring funds or checking an account balance, such as loan origination, creating an immense need for security around such communications.
As banking contact center agents transferred their offices into their bedrooms or onto their living room couches, the standards for financial professionals in the types of tools they could utilize to engage with consumers. In fact, as a result of this, many institutions had the realization that they lacked a secure tool to collaborate with consumers through a variety of different modalities, such as chat, text and video. This led financial institutions to use traditional web conferencing tools or even social media to continue communicating with their customers while physical branch locations remaining closed to help slow the spread of the virus. As these tools were used to communicate confidential consumer data, concerns are now looming about that data remaining in social media networks long after the pandemic has passed.
Unified communications technology is especially attractive to banking contact centers now and will continue to be in the future because of its unique ability to not only provide a seamless, frictionless experience for the customer, but all while ensuring that their sensitive data is protected every step of the way.
Modernize, but keep the power of choice
While new UC technology does, indeed, create great opportunities for a more modernized customer experience, certain challenges still exist with the rise of digital and mobile platforms. One challenge is it’s often jarring for customers when transferring between online or mobile transactions to a conversation with a human in a physical channel. Though channels across a bank’s platform are secure, they are not always securely connected. Today, there is a great opportunity to optimize and take advantage of the traffic in digital channels to securely connect to the resources residing in physical channels—doing so isn’t always a direct correlation to higher expense to leverage these types of human interactions. As society adopts a new normal and some in-person interactions begin to resume as bank branches reopen, this becomes extremely important.
Considering the value in the option to make a human connection at any point in an interaction suggests an important question: “Do bank representatives have the skill set required to make the transformation?” Whether in person or on the phone, the banking industry has often attracted staff with strong listening skills and the ability to clearly communicate and understand human behavior. The only missing link has been the ability to deliver these skills securely across a variety of channels.
There is no denying the importance of technology in today’s banking landscape. However, despite the strong need to embrace and adopt advancements in technology to meet shifting customer expectations as a result of COVID-19, banks do face the risk of delivering on their corporate strategy of building relationships with customers if they fail to maintain their humanity.
Virtual engagement with a human touch
Virtual engagement, the ability to communicate with a bank representative in real time from any mobile device, is changing the face of banking amid the pandemic. As more banking tasks shift to mobile, providing the option to communicate with a representative to accomplish banking and financial needs easily (from the comfort of home) is essential to the success of mobile banking.
Chatbots also assist with improving this option, having become synonymous with enhanced customer experience. Consumers want the quickest, most convenient methods to solve a problem or complete a task, and chatbot technology is being used to meet these preferences. A Consumer Online Banking Trends 2018 study by Humley reported that two-thirds of those surveyed believe that chatbots would be able to assist them, and 44 percent would rather communicate with a chatbot than an agent.
Financial services organizations are leveraging chatbot technology to lower costs associated with customer support and extend the hours of service as agents work remotely or have reduced hours due to the impact of COVID-19. The success of banking chatbots is often measured by how fast they can assist a customer in completing a task. Whether it’s managing money, answering common questions about online banking or starting an application for a car loan, a chatbot’s goal is to assist users with the fewest number of steps. And the best part: all of this can be done from the mobile phone that fits in the palm of your hand.
As mobile banking technology continues to grow and advance in response to the current urgent need for amid the pandemic, interactive virtual features will become more critical to its success and useful in the daily lives of consumers. Mobile technology, specifically virtual engagement, allows people to connect and collaborate like never before—completely transforming how consumers perceive mobile banking.
Perry Price is co-founder and CEO of Revation Systems, a leader in cloud-based, compliant messaging and communications. He can be reached at [email protected]