Banking and insurance providers are improving their relationships with consumers.

35 per cent of UK consumers now say that they have a strong relationship with their bank, up from 29 per cent in 2014. In Germany the figure is 59 per cent, while in Spain it is 40 per cent. The number of UK consumers saying their bank puts customers at the heart of their business has risen to 33% from 19 per cent in 2014. In Germany the number is 50 per cent and in Spain it is 34 per cent.

These findings are based on Davies Hickman Partner’s latest Youbiquity Finance research for BT and Avaya and are based on a survey of 3,000 consumers in Germany, Spain and the UK.

Is it the coffee that’s improving the customer experience? There has been a 46% increase in the UK (from 15% in 2014 to 22% in 2016) in those saying they have had coffee in their bank branch. In Germany, 41% have had a cup of coffee while in Spain the figure is lower at 16%.

Consumers appreciate the efforts of banks and insurance providers to provide advice, to spend time with them explaining products and services. But much of the improvement in relationship is down to the success of digital technologies – apps, online services, web-chat, social media and more.

The research finds that 46 per cent of UK consumers now use a PC or MAC once a week or more to check balances (27% use a smartphone banking App). This familiarity is giving people the confidence to try more complex banking interactions digitally, with 29 per cent of respondents saying that they have applied for mortgages online, versus 17 per cent in 2014. Those applying online for current accounts has risen to 31 per centre from 25 per cent in the UK.

Despite being the most adept age group in their use of digital technology, the research finds that only 47 per cent of 16-24 year-olds say that they are confident in making their own financial decisions, versus 66 per cent of people aged 55 years or more.

Video chat may help. Fifty-five per cent of people agree that having conversations with advisors by video conference would help them better understand the information being given (63 per cent of 16-24 year olds). Sixty two per cent of people also said that video chat could help improve trust (70 per cent of 16-24 year olds).

Despite the clear benefits that technology offers their customers, financial services firms need to be aware of growing challenges presented by the digital consumer. Two in three people surveyed expect web chat conversations to start right away. Three in four people want their phone calls answered within 30 seconds. For email, people want a response within three hours. And 57 per cent of people say that they expect a full response to a tweet or Facebook post within three hours too.

People turn to channels offering person to person support when online processes fail. 85% of consumers in Germany, Spain and the UK want phone support when they are on a financial services providers’ website. And faster service is key: 44% of Germans, 53% of Spanish and 40% of UK consumers say that the process of opening an account take s too long.

Financial services providers continue to have to balance burgeoning channel demands from consumers with the need to control costs. What role will chatbots play in filling the ‘advice gap’ which remains an issue for consumers? These tools will need to overcome the security barriers which have limited what is currently delivered by social media or web-chat to consumers. These technologies, although demanded by consumers, remain in their infancy in terms of take-up because of the difficulty in completing ID&V.