International Finance

Online bank services are not everything

In-branch services make all the difference

IFM Correspondent

Banks have been slow catching up to the modern digital standards with the help of partnerships with software giants, but have they fully utilised the benefits? That is a question yet to be fully explored, more so with respect to banks.

There is ample room for utilisation and optimisation of online banking and other automated services. Changes that can resolve bank issues online or through a phone call that negates the necessity to visit the main branch are highly valued by customers. This can also boost the presence of customers in an in-branch office (as opposed to a main branch) by a significant margin. A recent survey conducted by MindMetre, and commissioned by Matica Technologies, illustrates exactly that.

The results also show how much at odds the expectations and reality of bank services have been. The bank transactions, though widely conducted through different levels of automation, have a shortcoming in the form of their limited access across banks. Customers are expecting new levels of automation, co-ordination between online and in-branch queries with improved customer support.

Another crucial feature missing in many in-branch offices are the sources to collect, renew or replace credit and debit cards. Though a card can be ordered through an online portal, in some cases they are to be procured from a bank. But they are not available in the in-branch offices.

For these reasons, in addition to the discomfiture caused by the lack of facilities in an in-branch office, customers are looking beyond the scope of their banks and it shouldn’t be a surprise that many have considered switching banks.

Data collected in the form of customer feedback can be a make or break deal for many banks, more so for those in the ‘pure-play’ online banking sector. The opinion of more than half the customers rest in favour of in-branch services with instant card receiving services –i.e., as many as 67% and admit that if found otherwise, they are highly likely to shift.

Now that bank have made it easier to shift from one to another by offering creative incentives, people have less cause to worry about the consequences of shifting banks.

What is Joined-up Customer service?

Joined-up customer service offers customers seamless interaction without interruption. This means evading the possibility of having to cut the call and call another service from the information provided. It also means the service agent has better access to information that will enable him/her to resolve the issue at once, thereby avoiding another phone call, an email or a face-to-face interaction.

A bank with both in-branch services replaceable with pure-play online services stands to gain the most in the banking business if they are quick enough to grasp what the public expects from them. A majority of the customers list Customer Service as their top priority.While customer support is successfully enabled 24/7 in most banks, what customers need is joined-up customer service, which stand a class apart for it avoids repetition on the part of the consumer. While one has to register complaints and back it up again while meeting face-to-face, the additional time that customers need to invest can be scraped given the banks learn to utilise their online concerns in real time.

These tactics can be refined to address other concerns that bother customers the most –for collecting, renewing or replacing cards, or giving out personalised product information online. However small these steps might seem, subtle changes such as these can reinforce a positive image of banks.

While most banks find it convenient to address concerns about revamping online banking portals, the platform by itself has little to offer in terms of giving more comprehensive information. People looking to understand about bank products be it investment or shares, the customer is obligated to set up a face-to-face meeting with bank officials if he/she is to learn about the product. An online portal that addresses customers’ queries about the general structure of the product can save the customer a visit. As much as 62% of those who undertook the survey within the UK alone agreed that availability of interactive information is one of their priorities that inform their business decisions.

The widest consensus (81%) came from respondents in the UK when asked if a problem occurs with their account – whether they would prefer the in-branch official to be in full understanding of their problem while visiting the bank instead of updating them once again about the complaint filed online.
For banks to address such a problem, they are to give bank advisors access to customer’s full profile, which can allow them to access the respective details. What makes it an imminent necessity is the fact that most customers find services like these crucial to save time off their busy lives.

The common characteristic of the generation of working professionals all across Europe is that all are cash-rich but time-poor. Also given how banks are making it easier to shift banks this can mean a make or break deal for any bank. More so, effective implementation of this measure can mean a win-win situation for parties at both end of the transaction.

A stagnancy of priorities is inimical to banks as by current estimations the shift of priority from ‘Bank transformation’ to ‘Digital transformation’ can up the bank’s revenue by 30% while also reducing the cost by 20 – 25%. A result of this is the vast competitive edge one bank can achieve against several others.

While banks in the UK, who are notorious for their highly centralised banking system, free up space for the proliferation of in-branch facilities, France, Germany, Italy and Spain can power their already strong local network of banks with the integration of online banking services.

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