Connecting emotionally with banking customers and maintaining loyalty is not how it used to be. Before digital technology, face-to-face interactions addressed customer needs, and friendly smiles and empathetic concern helped customers feel like their bank really cared about them. With digital channels, however, many customers have sacrificed human interaction for faceless convenience.
So how can financial institutions interact with customers digitally while still maintaining a personal connection? One way is to be incredibly in-tune with their specific needs and show them personal, relevant information. Customers will value the service that they are receiving and feel loyal to the brand. Communication can also be made more human-like. Artificial intelligence and voice-activated technology can make interactions feel more natural and intuitive, and in turn increase customer connection to services. Another strategy is to keep the human element. Using real people who can communicate through digital channels is possible through video conferencing and live chat. These three strategies can help financial institutions better connect with customers in a digital world.
1. Digital financial advisory services offering invaluable, personalized information
In a previous post, “The Growing Demand for Customer-Centric Experiences,” I discussed the emerging need for personal financial tools. Many customers today are looking to track and improve upon different aspects of their lives, from fitness to sleep to saving money. Technology can provide users with personal information in order to make informed lifestyle choices. In the finance industry, independent apps, such as Mint, or financial institution apps, such as PNC’s Virtual Wallet, help users visualize their spending patterns and offer suggestions to work towards specific goals. Wela is another platform that is “changing the way that financial advice is delivered.” It offers holistic financial information and a detailed, personal “financial game plan.” These digital, personalized financial advisory services are revolutionary tools that are becoming increasingly sophisticated and useful. Personalization is also necessary to keep up with customer needs. In a 2016 survey, 75 percent of global senior financial executives reported that they are expecting to offer full personalization within the next five years.
2. Evolution to “personal finance bots” and human-like communication
Developments in artificial intelligence and mainstream use of voice-activated digital “bots,” such as Apple’s Siri, Android’s Google Now and Amazon’s Alexa, are now crossing over into finance to create “personal finance bots” or “robo-advisors.” These AI assistants are able to offer customized and intuitive digital financial advice interactions. Although sometimes a face-to-face discussion with a real person is necessary, this technology predicts your needs and offers convenience with 24/7 access. It also presents curated, up-to-date information for each individual and can speak and listen to you.
Personal finance bots using AI technology are mostly in early development stages but many are available in specific countries or sometimes as beta versions. Cleo, for example, is available by invite only and is described as “an intelligent assistant for your money.”. It will respond to your texts when you ask specific questions about your spending and budget. Similarly, Penny, a United States based app, is a “personal finance coach” and aims to make banking less intimidating and stressful. Once developed further, this technology could drastically reshape banking interactions. In fact, almost three-quarters of surveyed senior financial executives believe that in the future, customers will interact with a human-like avatar until they reach the point of needing to speak to a real person.
3. Virtual Assistants: Real humans in digital channels
Another strategy to maintain real human advisory services but place them in a digital channel. Recorded videos of experts providing financial advice can help give digital channels a human voice. Live communication is also important. Barclays, for example, offers a Video Banking service to virtually communicate with customers. This technology offers convenience, and 70 percent of surveyed global financial executives believe that it will largely replace branch appointments in the future. Atom Bank, a purely digital financial institution with no physical branches, uses a support team that is available 24/7 to communicate with its customers. Customers can contact Atom Bank support through the phone, email, Twitter or live chat in the Atom app. Using technology to facilitate real interactions in digital channels enables financial institutions to keep strong relationships with their customers.
Through personalized digital advisory services, AI-powered bots, or virtual assistants, financial institutions can connect to customer needs and better communicate in digital channels. This goal of connection is vital to maintain loyalty and avoid commoditization of financial products where customers may shop around for the best deals and treat their banking relationship as only transactional.