Alex Cambell, VP of Enterprise Sales, IMImobile

Alex Cambell
Alex Cambell

With the UK population checking their smartphones over a billion times a day, businesses are fast recognising that the battle for customer attention is today won on mobile. And retail banks are certainly no exception.

It goes without saying that mobile devices are now essential to individuals’ interactions with each other and with businesses. You only have to walk down the street to witness a “smartphone zombie” for proof that we as a generation are addicted to our phones. But rather than this being a negative aspect of our society, it represents a real opportunity for banks to capture their customers’ attention via the small screen.

In this digital age, understanding how to engage and interact with customers via mobile devices is fast becoming a prerequisite for businesses, especially now that customer experience is considered a top priority. Banks, in particular, are adapting their digital strategies to reflect the mobile-centric approach their customers now expect. They have realised that mobile messaging is an immediate way of getting the customer’s attention and have increasingly invested in mobile technologies to help optimise the customer experience. But while sending SMS messages to customers may sound like a simple method, there are a number of ways retail banks can make sure they’re maximising its potential.

Trust and transparency is vital when it comes to retail banking. Customers want to feel in control of their finances and expect to have visibility on the status of their accounts, payments, and transfers. And for banks, is there a quicker way to reach these customers than through the mobile phone? More banks are using interactive mobile messaging as a way of connecting and engaging with customers almost immediately, from warning customers who are close to being overdrawn or subject to potentially fraudulent transactions to alerting them of changes to their account status.

This is also beneficial when it comes to instilling trust in a new customer. For example, during the on-boarding process, the bank can keep the customer constantly informed about the status of their account or mortgage application through mobile messaging. The customer is left feeling satisfied because they know they are being taken care of and that progress is being made, helping to build a stronger customer relationship through delivering transparency and trust in the service.

While some customers prefer communicating with a service agent over the phone when making decisions with their personal banking, this can sometimes be more hassle than it’s worth. In today’s culture of immediacy, there is nothing more frustrating than waiting on hold for long periods of time or being transferred from person to person without a resolution. It damages customer satisfaction and puts customers off wanting to engage with the company in future.

The contact centre experience doesn’t have to be painful though. Customers can still have that human contact with the service agent, but can get their responses in a more immediate and efficient way through real-time SMS interactions. Customers can quickly get in contact with customer service teams by texting a dedicated customer service number and communicating with the agent via two-way SMS. That way, resolutions are presented more efficiently in a conversational manner and the customer can avoid waiting on hold for an agent to pick up the phone.

For the consumers that still want that personal touch, banks can also use mobile messaging to “warm up”’ customers before making an outbound call, allowing them to introduce themselves, set the scene, and organise the best time for a call or appointment. This text-based interaction is likely to make customers more inclined to answer the call that follows and, above all, helps strengthen the relationship and improves customer satisfaction.

The benefit of mobile messaging does not stop at an improved customer experience though. It can also be used to detect and prevent fraud, which is a growing threat for retail banks. By blending mobile messaging into customer journeys across the business, customers can be instantly alerted to suspicious activity on their accounts, allowing banks to quickly identify and respond to potentially fraudulent behaviour. Customers are then put at ease, reassured that the bank is dealing with the incident and that further attacks have been avoided.

Banks can also use mobile messaging and location capabilities to detect ATM fraud.  For example, when a customer withdraws money from an ATM, a location lookup of the customer’s mobile phone is automatically triggered. If the bank finds that the ATM and device location don’t match, they can suspend the transaction and immediately notify both the customer and would be fraudster. This demonstrates how banks can effectively combine mobile capabilities with existing business processes to optimise the customer journey, proactively intercept the risk of fraud and improve operational efficiency.

Overall, mobile messaging is playing an increasingly important role in retail banking security. For important processes such as authenticating suspicious transactions or delivering one time passwords, banks rely on a customer’s instant attention and since SMS has a 90-second average response time,  mobile messaging is the most visible and immediate way of engaging with them.

But as banks turn to mobile-centric strategies, they must also develop new ways to monitor and track engagement levels. Smart links are the hyperlinks of the SMS, MMS and push notification world and allow banks to not only shorten complex URLs, but map individual clicks back to individual customers and devices. By having visibility on which customers interact with specific messages, offers, alerts and notifications, banks can better understand how to maximise the effectiveness of their mobile messaging strategy and ensure that they’re delivering a full mobile experience, tailored to the individual and their device.

In this “omni-channel” world, there are a whole range of platforms which businesses are using to communicate with customers. But for retail banks, mobile messaging remains the most secure and reliable method of communicating with customers. Given that customers are so attached to their mobile devices nowadays, banks should really be capitalising on the opportunities that today’s smartphone society presents, and mobile messaging is a great place to start.