Davies Hickman Partners Ltd has recently completed international consumer research into communication preferences with financial service providers. It strongly endorses a ubiquitous approach to the availability of financial services across fragmenting channels.
After 13 years of digital banking, 2000 consumers across Germany, Spain, the UK and US still chose the branch as their 2nd most popular channel (64% versus 69% for ATMs). Why is this when fewer people are visiting the branch? Is it because:
– Other channels remain incomplete (eg FAQs not answering the question or call centre staff not equipped to answer complicated questions)?
– Customers don’t like things ‘being taken away’ by banks?
– People say one thing and do another?
– Customers foresee a future need when face to face interaction will be valuable to them?
Local customers have strong personal relationships with branch staff (more likely to be true in Germany, Spain and the US where there are many more local banks)?
What does this mean for banks, wanting to manage costs? Retailers in a similar position have first tried to attract footfall, re-designing their stores, displaying new stock and spending on targeted advertising. Banks are learning from their strategy to inspire consumers to visit the branch and engage more fully in personal finance. This means re-fits, better technology (38% want self-service machines) more knowledgeable staff and better streamlined processes. Creating ‘destination branches’ makes sense so both banks and consumers gain more from face to face experiences.
The research showed consumers are looking for improved support online. Web-chat (28%), click-to-call (21%), co-browsing (13%) and video-chat (12%) are all popular in addition to the phone and e-mail when things go wrong. Over 60% want outbound messaging to proactively inform customers of important information. The recent announcement that utilities will advise their customers of the best deal is an example of a trend which government will support. Supporting Davies Hickman’s view that the time is ready for Smart Service strategies.
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