Banking on Great Customer Service

Posted by Matthew Vallance

How do you communicate with your bank? I can just about remember a time when I would go in person to a branch and talk to the bank employees, but today I usually use my mobile banking app. The UK banking market is quite advanced with companies like First Direct being a quarter of a century old and never once having a branch network.

But times are changing. Even traditional highly regulated industries such as banking need to explore new innovations in customer communication. The banks need to go to where their customers are and this is increasingly mobile.

Research published earlier this year by Intelligent Environments shows that over 7 million 18-30 year-olds prefer to use a Whatsapp style messenger tool to communicate with their bank. Sixty nine per cent of these customers never call their bank – ever, according to the survey of 2000 UK consumers.

This is, if anything an indication of the fast changing consumer landscape. In the past, a product would feature a phone number or email address. The consumer could only reach out to the company by calling that specific number. There was no other way. Now, consumers will often discuss a company or product online with an expectation that they will receive an answer even if they have not directed a question to any official channel. The consumer is now defining the channel.

We have seen this in many other sectors, especially telecoms and retail, but now an increasing number of consumers are demanding the same kind of service from banks. They know that a supermarket will get back to them in minutes on Twitter and their phone company will reply on Whatsapp, so why do banks often behave as if social networks were never invented?

One reason might be that banking is a regulated industry. There are strict rules that govern the relationship between a bank and the customer . Banks also deal with money and very private financial information, so security and controls around the information shared is of paramount importance.

But there is some middle ground.  Adequate controls, security mechanisms and processes can be established, which define what can be shared online, and through more conventional channels. Investing in training a workforce equipped to handle and share sensitive information on such channels, will also go a long way in meeting the needs of the consumer.

The banks will need to go where their consumers are communicating. Nobody can ignore statistics that involve millions of people and behavioural changes which indicate reluctance of younger consumers to use the telephone. I feel banks are already stepping up to the challenge and this is where we can hope to see some exciting customer service innovation in the next couple of years.

If you have any thoughts on customer service in banking then please leave a comment here on the blog or tweet me on @vallancematt.