Financial services needs are many and varied and so the digital alternatives will be equally diverse. There’s no shortage of surveys interrogating whether consumers and businesses want more automation but the findings all boil down to an essential purpose: they want something done, not a digital experience for its own sake.
For example, communications application developer Avaya commissioned YouGov to survey more than 5,000 banking customers in four countries – Australia, India, the UK and the UAE.
Avaya found given the choice of only one channel, 28 per cent of the 1,153 Australians surveyed would prefer access to a complete list of services via their bank’s web site, speaking to a real person only if they really have to.
More than half, 54 per cent, regularly use online banking, behind only the UK’s with 60 per cent, while only 36 per cent usually visit their branch - the joint-lowest with the UK.
Younger customers were not surprisingly more likely to use mobile services – 58 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds compared with just 13 per cent in the 55+ category – yet 22 per cent of Australians still prefer to visit branches.
The Indian data however were particularly insightful: while more than half, 51 per cent, of Indian respondents said they regularly visit their branch, the highest of the four countries surveyed, only 13 per cent said they prefer to do so – by far the lowest of the four.
I’d argue what that illustrates perfectly is customers are interested in solving financial problems, not being either physical or digital. Obviously, Indian customers have particular financial needs but they would prefer them to be fulfilled outside a branch. I’m guessing on a mobile phone or at least online.
As Peter Chidiac, Avaya’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand noted, what customers value is an efficient experience.
For example, regardless of how they choose to contact their bank, Australian customers want their problem resolved at the first point of contact. The most common customer complaint is being kept waiting for a long time on the phone, cited by 21 per cent.
So making a call centre more digital, perhaps employing AI, is meaningless if a problem can’t be solved in one call.
For a different perspective, Suvo Sarkar, head of Retail Banking & Wealth Management at Emirates NBD, wrote in Gulf News an opinion piece called “Technology is making banking human again”.