COMMUNICATIONS FAIL: WHY FINANCIAL SERVICES NEED TO STEP UP THEIR CONTACT STRATEGIES

By: Chris Robinson, CEO at Yonder Digital Group

Chris Robinson, CEO at Yonder Digital Group
Chris Robinson, CEO at Yonder Digital Group

As people increasingly switch their allegiances away from the high street to online channels, financial services organisations, like all consumer-facing sectors, must work harder than ever to keep on top of customer communications. Ease of contact and the swift and efficient resolution of questions and issues are undoubtedly high on the list of priorities for customers as fewer venture into bricks and mortar locations to make a query.

This exodus to online platforms means there is increasing pressure on businesses to expand their online presence; a survey conducted by the Financial Planning Association and LinkedIn found that over half of respondents aged between 18 and 44 perform an online search for an adviser before making contact with them.[1]

This is because consumers are opting for ease and practicality. Overall, 63% of UK adults used online banking regularly in 2017[2], withWhich?[3] reporting the closure of more than 1,500 major bank branches over the last three years.The popularity of comparison sites and the convenience they afford consumers in finding and taking out new insurance policies is also contributing to this move online.

With so many consumers doing their research online, Yonder Digital Group set out to find out whether businesses in the financial sector, among others, are making it easy for customers to contact them across a range of channels, and whether queries are resolved quickly and efficiently. The research canvassed over 2,000 consumers and found most sectors severely deficient in the area of contactability.

Room for improvement

Though more than half of the consumers questioned said banks made it easy for customers to contact them across a range of channels and resolved queries quickly and efficiently, this still leaves a sizeable proportion of the population rating their ease of contact as basic or poor.

In fact, while 24% went so far as to rate banks’ ease of contact as excellent, and 34% as good, a substantial 43% scored them as basic or poor. So despite coming in as second most efficient business sector in the survey, retail banking is still offering nowhere near the level of customer service in this area that many consumers would like.

With the insurance sector, 16% of those surveyed considered it excellent for contactability and 32% as good. As with banks, that still clearly leaves a lot of consumers dissatisfied with the speed at which they can get hold of their insurers when they need to, and at how quickly and effectively they are able to help. Considering that insurers are one of the first ports of call after accidents and in moments of crisis, this lapse is particularly worrying.

Compared with other consumer-facing sectors however, banks and insurance companies do quite well: Yonder’s survey showed that banks were solely beaten by online-only retailers, which scored highest with 25% rating their contactability as excellent. Hotels followed banking in third place with a 23% excellent rating and with the lowest ‘poor’ score of 10%.At the lower end, just 10% of consumers score airlines and delivery firms as excellent while delivery firms were voted poor by the highest percentage of respondents (24%).

Fixing the fault

However, being easy to get in touch with, and resolving questions and issues quickly and efficiently is of huge importance in any sector, particularly those with more complex products and services such as financial services. The risk of losing customers as a result of inadequate service is only too real: 82% say they have stopped doing business with a company precisely because of poor service[4].

The first step for any business is of course to be accessible: to ensure that ways to get in touch are clearly displayed, with a range of options.The complexity of financial services products demands live agent support – not only via phone but also through live webchat, which enables agents to more easily direct customers to up-to-date information relevant to their enquiry or help them with application forms for example, speeding up the query resolution process.Having this in place and being more responsive and efficient in answering queries is central to improving customer service and therefore satisfaction.

Certainly with ever growing competition among financial services organisations for customer share, businesses cannot afford to downplay the role of contactability in keeping people loyal. Regardless of the sector, UK consumers expect a fast response. According to the Institute of Customer Service, 42% expect a response within 24 hours if they contact an organisation through their website, and instant online chat is now ranked by 73% of consumers as being the best way to deal with an organisation[5].

As consumers take more of their purchasing activity online and competition continues to grow, businesses need to ensure they are easy to contact, and that they answer queries and solve issues quickly and effectively, or risk losing their customers to those that do.

[1]Communication Evolution: Financial Professionals and the Future of Thought Leadership and Social Media

[2]Statistica

[3]Which?

[4]Zendesk The Impact of Customer Service on Customer Lifetime Value

[5]Institute of Customer Service