Customers dictate customer experience — not the other way around

Banking customers want the most direct path to their money, and they want it now.

But what happens when a customer can’t get the immediate answers they need on the communications channels they prefer? The truth is, in today’s world, customers want to engage with banks on their own terms, not the other way around.

John Kelly, vice president of financial services, LivePerson

Research shows that customers have strong opinions about how and when they communicate with brands — opinions that change not only from person to person, but even for the same person during the course of their day. For example, in one recent survey of thousands of consumers, 63% said they prefer to message brands rather than call them when they’re on their lunch break — this number shot up to 80% when commuting on public transportation — while 69% said they prefer to call when commuting by car.

For banks, it’s equally important to note that customers have unique preferences about how to interact depending on the task they’re trying to accomplish. For some tasks, customers still favor picking up the phone and talking to an agent. For example, when addressing credit card fraud, 69% prefer to call. But when it comes to checking their balance (77%), making a payment (66%) and renewing a service (56%), the majority prefer to message.

The flexible experience

The bottom line is that customers want options. One bank that’s giving customers access to these kinds of flexible experiences is PNC.

“We want our customers to contact us however they feel most comfortable, whether that’s digitally, through our mobile app or by calling us directly,” said Todd Barnhart, executive vice president at PNC. “We’ve seen firsthand that some of our customers still prefer the human-to-human interaction over the phone. However, we’ve also experienced an increased trend in messaging volume, sometimes even for things people can resolve with self-service but don’t want to.

“Either way, it’s our goal to provide customers with personalized interactions to ensure we’re meeting them where they are in their financial journeys,” Barnhart added.

In 2019, PNC began offering its customers the option to message with agents directly from their phones. One year ago, the bank went a step further, taking what it learned from mobile messaging to upgrade conversations on its website as well.

In short, the PNC team went “asynch” — meaning that conversations on mobile and web were no longer tied to live chat sessions, but instead unfolded over time when and where it was convenient for the customer. This transition from old-school live chat to asynchronous web messaging matches how we text with family and friends every day, and it has had a profound effect on how customers engage with PNC.

Today, PNC holds about 150,000 messaging conversations per month. One factor behind the usage is the recognition that PNC’s customers are in the driver’s seat. “If they’re messaging us, the worst thing we can do is message them back to tell them to call instead,” Barnhart said. “If they begin a conversation on messaging, that’s their preferred experience.”

Keeping it simple

Another key to PNC’s engagement strategy is giving customers an open door to ask for whatever they need through their preferred channels. “What’s unique about our program is that we don’t overly complicate the process. A customer can ask any banking-related question or ask for assistance right through our messaging channel,” Barnhart said.

Indeed, 90% of customers who message the bank get what they need without ever having to make a phone call.

Finally, PNC’s adoption of convenient security measures provides customers with a sense of trust that whatever channel they choose to contact the bank, their data will receive a high level of security. The bank incorporated secure forms to make it safer for customers to send personal details in digital conversations.

“Being able to provide our customers with a high level of security and simple ways to share their private data was crucial to completing our transformation to messaging,” Barnhart said.

When it comes down to it, putting customers first is not a matter of the latest tech or the latest trends. It’s far simpler than that. It’s about taking advantage of tech and drawing insights from trends to treat customers like human beings. It’s about respecting their time and their preferences, which in turn builds their loyalty and trust.

When you give your customers the wheel and a direct path to what they need, you can bet they’ll end up stopping by more often.

John Kelly is area vice president, financial services at LivePerson, a global leader in customer engagement solutions. Kelly is a digital transformation expert who helps financial services companies develop 1:1 relationships with their customers through a powerful combination of messaging, automation, and AI.

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