UK’s digital focused banks risk alienating customers

Customers in the UK like their bank's digital initiatives but don't appreciate losing the human touch.
10 May 2018

Chatbots have become a vital tool in customer service. Source: Shutterstock

How many times do you visit your bank? Not nearly as many times as your parents did, for sure. For many, visiting the bank is a cause for concern and frustration in this generation, as they expect to be able to transact seamlessly ‘online or via an app’ once they’ve opened an account.

These new-age customers prefer to always have access to their finances and their financial records – in fact, they demand it. However, unlike their parents, they expect a better service from their banks and a degree of personalization when it comes to managing their relationship.

When they call the customer care number, they want to be greeted by name and be verified with a fingerprint or a code texted to their phone instead of having to pull out all their account details for scrutiny by the executive on the other end. They want personalized dashboards on their app and desktop, customized advice, and tailored products.

Failing to provide this level of customization is going to cost banks dearly as customers might choose to open an account with a competitor who offers a more customized product, maybe even simpler – all without losing the human touch of the relationship.

According to a recent Accenture study, the decision of some banks to increase digital-only interactions risks alienating customers of all ages. There is a vast increase in digital banking services.

It seems as consumers make more frequent, but fleeting, banking transactions, they feel more alienated by their bank.

Despite reduced bank branch visits, consumers still want human advisers for banking services. Seven in 10 consumers want the ability to raise a complaint with a human adviser, while almost two-thirds (63 percent) want to be able to open an account in person. Almost half (48 percent) want to be shown hands-on how to use the bank’s mobile and online services.

“The number of customers regularly visiting the branch is significantly reducing, but the number of customers regularly using mobile digital service remains static. This could be a concern for the banks as consumers still say they want to have the human touch. The next challenge is how banks provide convenient customer experiences that blend human and digital services to stop them becoming faceless and putting their newly earned trust at risk,” said Peter Kirk, who leads Accenture’s Financial Services Distribution and Marketing practice in the UK.

According to Kirk, because consumers today expect banks to anticipate their needs and offer tailored services, the key will be offering the right balance of personalized, relevant offers, and interactions, rather than impersonal transactions.

Consumers want natural conversations with a bank that understands their needs and acts in their best interest while keeping their data safe and secure. This is particularly significant given the data revolution expected with open banking in the UK, which will challenge banks to compete on consumer experience.

We know that customers have evolving attitudes towards the privacy of their personal data and the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) later this month will add further fuel to the fire.

Banks will be keenly aware of the need to let the customer retain control and to be careful not to cross the line from convenient to intrusive, suggested Kirk.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that simply building smarter solutions by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies won’t help win customers in the long run. Chatbots and AI-powered voice assistants might improve the customer experience but banks can’t afford to ignore investing in building a relationship with their clients.