CEO Bill Safran Reveals How Banks Can Serve Digital Misfits

After day one of Money 2020, Bill Safran speaks to us about digital misfits and how banks can put support in place to meet their needs.

Bill, following VivaTech in Paris, Money 2020 is the second technology exhibition Vizolution has attended in as many weeks. Are you noticing any common themes across them?

From Blockchain/Crypto to Open Banking, both VivaTech and Money 2020 are huge events attended by many world leading banks and technology organisations, so the diverse range of topics up for discussion of course reflect both the scale of the events and the attendees themselves. That being said, what I find interesting is the overlapping consensus on how we still remain far away from a totally ‘humanless’ customer service world.

It is not uncommon to hear stories about how we are heading towards an imminent dystopian future, where humans will be eliminated by robots, artificial intelligence and the like. While these certainly grab headlines, what we have heard from industry experts across both events is much more cautious than this and that the technology isn’t yet there to make a completely humanless delivery model a realistic avenue for banks today, or even in the near future.

Rather, the emphasis is on an augmented reality, a world in which simple menial tasks can be automated but where complex, high value or emotional enquiries are still handled by human agents, supported with technology to streamline interactions. In this way, banks can capitalise on cost saving benefits, without compromising on the service that customers expect.

When asked about the future potential of AI in his keynote speech at VivaTech, SAP CEO Bill McDermott that said “we’re in a consumer driven growth revolution, and the focus has to be on people, the absolute consumer”.

At Money 2020, we’re also hearing just how important consumers are in setting the direction of transformation. I think what we will see as time goes on and the technology develops, it will be consumers that ultimately decide the extent to which automation plays a role in customer service.

Most banks today do offer self-serve digital platforms for most types of journeys. Why hasn’t this led to the end of the branch or the call centre?

Certainly, when you look across financial services, you see that most kinds of journeys will have a digital option. However, what is also clear is that the more complex the journey, the higher the number of customers who drop out of the process, either because they escalate upwards to an assisted channel or they walk away from the transaction altogether. At Vizolution, these customers are what we call the ‘digital misfits’.

Simple journeys, like checking a balance or paying a bill, are generally easy tasks that customers can perform independently and are therefore suited to automation. However, when journeys are high in value, involve multiple touchpoints like document exchanges or require identity verification etc., the scope for potential problems is much higher. For digital misfits, journeys can go wrong for a number of reasons, including failed credit checks, confusion about what information needs to be supplied or because they have not had enough reassurance that the product will meet their needs.

Despite many predicting their demise, branches and call centres have remained an important part of the banking model. Rather than disappearing, their role has now shifted towards serving customers who encounter difficulties within self-serve or who simply value the reassurance of speaking with a human agent.

What should banks be doing with these ‘digital misfits’?

While self-serve platforms do enable banks to serve customers at a reduced cost, this benefit is offset if more customers are dropping out of the process. Today, too many banks don’t have a specific support structure in place to ensure that these ‘digital misfits’ are given the assistance they need in order to progress their journey.

For digital misfits encountering a difficulty, silos mean that they often have to start their journey again in another channel. Customers are understandably frustrated when this happens, and this also results in inefficient processes for banks as agents have to spend time gathering information a customer has already supplied you with.

At Vizolution, we see a third way. Banks should be using omnichannel solutions to combine the benefits of both digital and traditional service by providing targeted assistance at the point of need.

In practice, this might mean offering ‘click for help’ functionality on apps or websites, where customers can request help from an agent who can provide specific assistance for that problem, and then enable the customer to continue on their self-serve journey.

Alternatively, it might mean bringing technological solutions, like electronic signatures or digital document exchange, into traditional environments like the call centre to streamline journeys.

While this might involve a little extra investment on the part of the bank, the potential returns are high since fewer customers will drop out of journeys and are more likely to serve as advocates for your business due to the ease of interacting with you.

‘Omnichannel’ is interesting. It has been talked about a lot in recent years and has remained a key priority for banks. Why do you think this is?

We ought not to forget that we are now in the ‘age of the customer’. As Andy Maguire, Group Managing Director & Group COO of HSBC said this morning, the financial services must remain focused on the core reason for developing a service: addressing the needs of customers. Although it is true that customers have more choice in how they interact with banks than ever before, customers now expect to be able to meander across channels as and when the like, setting the terms of their own journey rather than being forced through a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Although I think banks are now much more receptive to this and have begun to implement new solutions that facilitate this movement across channels, there is still a long way to go. Those banks that step ahead of their competitors by implementing a strong omnichannel strategy will reap the benefits, both by providing the safety net that prevents digital misfits from falling out of journeys and enhancing the experiences of existing customers.

To see how banks can serve their digital misfits, watch our vDoc explainer video.

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