The Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (SHED) from 2017 revealed that about half of U.S. adults with bank accounts had used a smartphone to access those accounts during the previous year. In 2019, eMarketer predicts that nearly 120 million smartphone users in the U.S. will use their bank’s mobile app at least once per month for transactions. And Citi’s 2018 Mobile Banking Study found that mobile banking apps ranked third in most-used (at 31 percent measured by top two ranked responses), behind only social media apps (at 55 percent) and weather apps (at 33 percent).
These findings leave no doubt: Even traditional industries or sectors like banking are heavily digitizing and people are accessing these services through mobile or web.And this preference for mobile apps applies to all age groups, from Baby Boomers to Millennials, two-thirds of whom identified mobile apps as their preferred channel for communicating with companies, according to a study by Salesforce.Most banks already know this. What many don’t know is that integrating customer service into the app provides an opportunity to increase customer satisfaction, build brand loyalty, and create a competitive advantage. Just as the smartphone has changed banking, it has also changed customer service.
Customer Service in the Era of the Smartphone
Customer service has always been important. Gartner estimates that poor customer service is costing businesses over $75 billion in lost revenue every year in the U.S. alone. According to GrooveHQ, an angry customer will, on average, tell 16 people about a bad experience, and research shows it can take 10 or more positive experiences to make up for just a single negative one. By contrast, GrooveHQ found that happy customers will tell, on average, nine others about a positive experience, and that 86 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for products when knowing they will receive better service.
Enter the smartphone, which is fundamentally and forever changing the way people communicate. These devices are as powerful as they are commonplace, and being constantly connected makes it easy to learn about or experience new and better ways of doing things. With rapid improvements in convenience, productivity and knowledge, customer expectations are higher than ever before. Microsoft’s 2017 State of Global Customer Service report, for example, revealed that more than half (52 percent) of respondents in the U.S. already had a more favorable view of brands that offer a mobile-responsive customer service experience.
Separate research by The Digital Disconnect found that 75 percent of consumers would prefer to use mobile customer care inside an app because it reduces handle time and hassle. Unfortunately, the same study found that a full 95 percent of mobile apps force users to exit the app to get customer service via the smartphone’s separate voice, chat, texting or email features.
Making customer service a more seamless experience requires making enhancements at both ends of the engagement. Before understanding the role of the mobile banking app, it is necessary to understand how contact centers are being digitally transformed.
The Digital Contact Center
At the core of today’s digital transformations is data-driven decision-making, and the businesses achieving the best results are those transforming every aspect of their operations. The potential for improvement for brands using customer service is unprecedented. Forrester’s Digital Rewrites the Rules of Business Vision Report states, “Digital innovation is the untapped hero of customer service. A service call is an indicator of an unmet expectation. So why does it get so little airplay?”
Whether your bank uses the term “contact center” or “call center” the need is the same: to transform the service experience into one that dramatically improves both customer satisfaction and agent effectiveness. And just as the smartphone has changed the way people communicate, the cloud has changed how organizations implement transformational technologies.
Cloud-based Contact Center as-a-Service (CCaaS) offerings provide the context and the intelligent automation needed to both enhance and streamline the customer service experience. Context for each call comes from securely accessing the wealth of data currently available about customers, products, common issues, agent expertise, contact center activity, and more. This data-driven approach is what makes it possible to route each call more intelligently to the agent who is best able to resolve the customer’s issue on the first call.
Lack of meaningful context is the root cause of one of the most common complaints customers have about customer service: being transferred to different agents and needing to repeat the same information until finally getting connected to someone who can solve their problem. This all-too-common experience helps explain why two-thirds (66 percent) of consumers now expect personalization from a customer service conversation with the agent knowing their name, contact and product information, and service history as soon as they engage, according to Microsoft’s 2017 State of Global Customer Service report.
While the cloud has many advantages, like fast onboarding and global availability, it does not assure something that is vitally important for contact centers: voice call quality. Voice call quality varies substantially among CCaaS offerings, making it necessary to select a service that will deliver satisfactory performance for both Voice-over-IP (VoIP) used in smartphones and the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) infrastructure for landlines. It’s more important than ever to have a platform that is not only agnostic about where the customer connection point is initiating the conversation, but is also able to dynamically adapt to data and bandwidth variations to provide a high quality of service.
Being able to resolve issues quickly on the first call substantially increases customer satisfaction. But high First Touch Resolution scores have another advantage: it lowers costs through improved agent productivity. In addition to increasing customer satisfaction and lowering costs, having a dashboard that provides supervisors with a real-time view of current call volume and agent activity enables making better decisions and adjustments to avoid problems. Finally, being able to better track the performance of agents empowers supervisors to identify specific areas where their team needs improvement, ultimately leading to more productive agents and less turnover.
Integrating Customer Service into the Mobile Banking App
Mobile banking apps make it easy for customers to handle most of their banking needs securely from anywhere at any time without needing to visit a branch. Citi’s 2018 Mobile Banking Study found that 91 percent of mobile banking users prefer using their app over going to a branch, and that 68 percent of Millennials who mobile-bank expect their smartphones to replace their physical wallets.
A major reason for the shift is convenience and instant availability, which result in instant gratification. But most mobile banking apps do nothing to make it more convenient to access customer service. Instead, customers are forced to exit the app to connect with an agent via the smartphone’s voice, texting or other features. This “disconnect” is not merely inconvenient; it makes it impossible to provide context about the customer’s current account-snapshot at the beginning of the call. And contacting customer service is not just an occasional need. According to a survey by Morning Consult, 45 percent of respondents using a mobile app have contacted customer service—the same percentage that have deposited checks.
This finding was confirmed in a study by Humley, which revealed that 43 percent of customers prefer to address any banking issues they may have by calling a service representative—the same as using a chatbot, and more than going to a branch or finding the answer on a website (35 percent each), or reaching out on social media (6 percent).
An assessment of mobile banking apps by research firm Forrester and mobile application developer Kony identified five of the biggest deficiencies, all of which implicitly or explicitly provide a reason for integrating customer service:
- Making it unnecessarily difficult to complete basic tasks.
- Not helping customers find and apply for products.
- Not helping consumers avoid or recover from errors.
- Lack of integrated digital money management to drive consumer engagement and help consumers make better financial decisions.
- Limited customer service features.
These findings make a compelling case for integrating customer service into the mobile banking app. Being able to contact customer service from within the app enables agents to have secure access to useful context, such as purchase history, transfers, deposits, location and more, when they first engage with every customer. This information also helps route calls more intelligently to those agents who are best equipped to resolve the issues. The app could optionally make it easy (with permission) to access any of the smartphone’s features or files, or to verify the user’s identity with a fingerprint or facial scan.
The potential to make the customer service experience more efficient and effective by using the full power and potential of the smartphone is limited only by the imagination. Here are a few more examples: gathering pertinent details via prompts during wait time; in-call and bidirectional texting; photo and screenshot sharing and annotation; scanners for barcodes, QR codes and documents; and payment processing. A particularly powerful capability is a live chat interface rendered on the bank’s website that enables the customer and agent to interact directly while simultaneously communicating via voice, text or some other means.
Needing to contact customer service can already be a stressful experience—a feeling that is heightened when dealing with personal finances. A poor support experience is only going to amplify the problem. By contrast, having support built into the app creates a sense of comfort and simplifies use, and in doing so, helps build the bank’s brand and customer loyalty.
Contact Center-as-a-Service offerings that take full advantage of the smartphone’s many features now make it easier than ever to streamline and enhance the customer service experience. Operating in the cloud also makes it possible for CCaaS offerings to deliver carrier-class high availability, performance, scalability, versatility and security. And with the enormous economies of scale available in the cloud, digitally transforming the contact center is now more affordable than ever before.
So take the first step by forming a committee of the key stakeholders to investigate adding customer service to your mobile banking app. The committee should include representatives from mobile app software development and customer service, at a minimum, and optionally from marketing and finance. Begin by candidly assessing the existing customer service experience and then explore opportunities to enhance both contact center operations and the app in ways that make customer service more effective, efficient and satisfying. The way exists. All it takes is the will.
As Founder and CEO of UJET, Inc., Anand Janefalkar has 15 years of experience in the technology industry and has served as a technical advisor for various startups in the Bay Area. Before founding UJET, he served as Senior Engineering Manager at Jawbone, and also previously contributed to multiple high profile projects at Motorola.