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Siddharth Parashar, Executive Vice President of client relations and strategic account management at Firstsource Solutions, looks at how the financial services sector is adapting to new technology to improve the customer journey – and keeping pace with fresh-faced fintechs

A recent study shows that more than half of all banking customers have now turned to fintech start-ups to cater for their banking needs.It’s the latest push in a tug of war between high-street banks and fintech start-ups as they compete for customers and drive digital innovation – and the Capgemini and LinkedIn-backed report states that customer service is a key deciding factor in consumers choosing new providers.

Indeed, the digital revolution has introduced a seismic shift in customer expectations, whatever the sector. Digital customer-centric tools such as webchat, apps and social media are now the norm – and with fresh-faced fintechs snapping at traditional banks’ heels, the race to get ahead is firmly underway in the financial services space.

Is messenger next?

Messenger is the next big thing in the digital transformation of customer experience. An instant and direct way of communicating with customers, anytime, anywhere, it gives brands an opportunity to engage with them on a personal level, and in a sophisticated way.

For digital natives, these platforms offer an efficient and familiar interface. Instead of having to switch applications and create new account details, customers can stay on a platform that they use every day. On a practical level, users will also have notifications enabled, meaning they do not have to sit around waiting for a reply.

This familiarity is particularly valuable in the financial services sector, where younger customers can often feel forced into interacting in a way they view as antiquated and unfamiliar. For retail banks, who have long struggled with their conservative reputation, this can help attract newer, younger customers – and keep pace with their fintech rivals.

For agents, meanwhile, they will benefit from having a log of previous interactions readily available, helping them to gain a better understanding of a customer’s profile and previous problems. Channel bounce is cited as one of the main frustrations of customer experience– but the nature of messenger means this problem will become obsolete.

Integrating messenger in the mix

A crucial part of good customer experience relies on providing the right mix of channels to fit in with customers’ lifestyles and preferences. Customer service has traditionally focused on voice, but our increasing reliance on technology – with its huge potential to enhance customer experience – mean businesses are constantly innovating and integrating new methods of engagement into their strategy.

That said, messenger has so far often been used in a disjointed way, and simply bolted onto other methods of customer interaction.This lack of channel integration canunsurprisingly leave customers frustrated, having to repeat conversations they’ve already had over the phone.

As a relatively new CX platform, brands are still working out the best way to integrate messenger into their customer offering, but it’s important that banks – both old and new – start thinking about how to make customer journeys as seamless and straight forward as possible.

Of course, it will take some trial and error. But there are some golden rules businesses must take into consideration when using messenger.

Firstly, it’s vital that agents on messenger are empowered enough to be able to resolve a customer’s problem quickly, professionally and efficiently, despite the relative informality of the platform. A cardinal CX sin is shuttling a customer from agent to agent and channel to channel to find someone better qualified to help. Agents on messenger should demonstrate the same empathy, skill and engagement as on other channels like voice.

Messenger is also a prime opportunity to build an intuitive and personal connection with customers. Even the use of emojis or text speak, where appropriate, will help show the personality behind your brand, and make customers feel as if their interaction is almost as familiar as a conversation with friends – perhaps the holy grail of customer service.

To chatbot or not to chatbot?

Microsoft, Uber and Twitter are just a few of the brands who have recently launched chatbots – although some with more success than others.

It’s easy to see why they’ve chosen to take the leap into AI. Although there’s potential for chatbots to go wrong – as Microsoft’s Tay showed earlier this year– they can also provide a novel way for brands to evolve how they use messenger as a channel. Chatbots can be particularly useful to solve straightforward transactions and simple questions, or to shepherd customers on a relatively linear journey, such as everyday banking queries.

But they also have their limitations. The financial industry is heavily regulated so the potential fallout if bots ‘get it wrong’ could be much greater. What’s more, personal finance is a sensitive topic for many, and can be fraught with confusion or anxiety. Bots simply aren’t intelligent enough to decipher tone, context or customer frustrations. For non-linear journeys, this is particularly dangerous – and it’s important businesses have a human agent on hand for when the “computer says no”.

Limitations aside, it’s clear that both chatbots and messenger are set to be a key channel in the customer service of the future. Banks need to be ready to integrate both where appropriate, and determine how they can play a vital role in delivering the best customer experience possible.

Global Banking & Finance Review


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