How Your Customers Want to Communicate With Your Bank

Communication Channels

Since your bank's primary value proposition is service and you are likely striving for a superior customer experience, then it would make sense that the first stop you should make is to improve your ability to communicate with the customer. In this day and age, customers have more channels than ever to communicate with your bank. The issue is preference varies widely. In this article, we explore retail bank customer preferences and talk about some ramifications for the future.


Setting Expectations


Call Hertz Rental Car with a problem with your current rental, and after waiting several minutes for a live person, you must be directed to the local office where you rented the car, which can take them 20 or more minutes to get to you. Tweet at them, however, and you are likely to get a response immediately.


Many banks are like that as well.


The exciting aspect of this problem is that many banks designed their call centers around the mid-1980s while their social media process is likely just years old. As a result, response time is often better through social channels than it is via phone.


Further to this point, because major brands are more social media-forward than ever, response time for problem resolution or inquiries is often faster on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram than any other channel. As a result, bank customer expectations are raised.


The Data On Preferred Communication Channel – Social Media’s Importance


Below is the recent data on how retail customers say they would like to communicate with their bank. The results are eye-opening when you consider that 32% of consumers in the 18 to 25 year demographic would prefer, and often try social media first when they have a question or a problem.


How Customers Like To Communicate With Their Bank


This means that if you are focused on improving the customer experience or you are trying to attract a younger customer set, then making sure you have an adequate social media response process is critical.


Not to put too fine a point on this, but not only is it critical to handle the customer service issue through social channels for the sake of the customer, but it is also important for the brand at large since the public is likely watching this interaction in real-time. Thus, if your customer complains about a statement error and your bank is slow to respond, in approximately 36% of the cases, the next social media post is usually about the bank's lack of customer service. This amplification can quickly damage the brand and will only continue to grow in importance as this younger cohort continues to age, and the use of social media expands for customer service.  


If the customer experience aspect doesn’t move you, consider that to handle a problem in the branch and even in the call center is about $4.00 per interaction of fully loaded cost (keep in mind that while the cost of the call center is cheaper compared to the branch network, this costs get allocated over fewer assets/revenue compared to the branch network, so the cost of resolution is often the same for many community banks). This compares to about $0.25 per resolution through social media, email, and text channels and $0.17 per chat/chatbot resolution.


As branch traffic drops and mobile, text, social media, and chat usage increases for problem resolutions, look for this disparity to increase.


The New Importance of Mobile and Text Communication Channels


The other major takeaway is the importance of in-app communication within a bank's mobile app for the 25 to 34-year-old demographic cohort.  This is an area that most banks have entirely ignored (or, in fairness, have been unable to change because of their mobile provider). The expectation is that the customer hits a "Help" icon, which starts a secure chat or text session with a live banker. The hope from bank customers is that their question gets answered, or their problem is solved in that same session.


Since mobile banking usage continues to rise at a faster clip than any other channel, more and more customers will turn to in-app messaging to solve their problem. Thus, if you are architecting your strategic plan for the next three years, having robust communication capabilities to include status indicators, timestamp, archiving, scheduling, screen/document sharing, and automation should be under consideration and budgeting.


Phone and Email


By far, the most popular communication channels for community banks, because of their older demographic skew compared to national or regional banks, remains phone and email. While many banks have these channels dialed in, many more still have limited capabilities. Complicated issues are still referred to the branch.


For example, many bank call centers are not integrated into the bank's customer relationship management (CRM) system. Many do not have the ability to move the conversation online, and screen share in a secure manner in case training is required, or documents need to be passed. This lack of omni-channel integration will continue to hunt banks in the near future as even customers older than 55 years of age appreciate an email follow up after a call center interaction.


The Training Paradox


There is also the irony of experience and training when it comes to customer service alignment. Most banks think nothing of putting their most experienced bankers in the branch while pushing their least experienced bankers to the call center or social media channels. 


The interesting paradox is that social media, email, or call center banker gets 10x+ more interactions with customers than the experience branch banker. While branch channels remain relevant many banks would benefit from increasing their social media and call center experience and authority in order to allow these channels to handle a wider variety of issues.


Executing on This Data


The short takeaway from this data revolves around more of a formal process, training, benchmarks, and authority for your non-branch customer service channels. It means building technology such as CRM integration, a ticketing system, email/text follow-up, ID verification, authentication, and similar to support this effort.


Your social media banker in the near future will need to be able to authenticate the customer (is the person on the other end of the social media or text channel a customer), verify their identification (is this customer who you think it is), move the customer to a secure channel and then have the tools to help solve an ever-increasing list of problems.


Banks that can do this well will be in a position to attract new customers, while banks that cannot find themselves having their customer base age them out of business while their problem resolution cost structure drives them out of business.