These days, some would find it hard to believe that not so much time ago, doing any kind of banking activity, including cash withdrawal, required people to pay their banks a personal visit. Over the years, banks have gradually evolved, offering their clients new ways to use banking services. However, those new ways, while convenient, could only offer a fraction of the possibilities a face-to-face meeting with a consultant does. Will the digital banking of the future still seek compromises between convenience and personalization? Or, perhaps, will it find a way around it?
In order to answer these questions, let’s go back for a while to the distant past many of our readers can only know from books and their parents’ nostalgia trips.
Pre-digital era banking
Banking services have always been a matter of great importance for all of us. After all, whether we like it or not, the topic of money is a big part of our everyday life. Despite that, until the early ‘80s nearly all of interactions between banks and their clients took place within physical banking locations. In order to make a purchase or withdraw some cash, one needed to pay their bank a visit. Around this time, automated teller machines (ATMs) made their first appearance and provided a much-needed break.
During the ‘90s, the emergence of call centers as well as IVR systems made it possible to obtain information without going to the bank.
The era of trade-offs in customer service – the beginning of digital transformation
Banks have always been interested in new technologies and the many ways they can be used to offer more convenient, secure and simply better service to their customers. Therefore, as soon as the Internet became popular in developed countries, online banking was born. About a decade later, the same thing happened all over again with mobile technologies – the very moment people got their hands on smartphones, mobile banking emerged.
Digital banking gave people access to many banking services at their fingertips, without having to talk to the bank’s employee. However, since many complex banking services require identity verification and consultancy, self-service banking failed to completely eliminate trips to the bank’s physical location. Eventually, many people simply came to accept the fact that online banking services and apps, convenient as they are, offer only a fraction of the entire banking experience.
No more trade-offs – customer service revolution
The latest achievements in the field of customer service in banking makes a compelling case for the imminent end of the era of trade-offs. The customers of the future will expect their banks to offer them all services and functionalities as well as maximum security in all channels and from every place on the planet – without any compromises.
It can already be observed. Traditional call centers and IVR systems are being gradually replaced by video banking and text chats. Solutions such as LiveBank provide the ability to authenticate clients remotely using biometric measurements, making it even possible to open a new account during a remote video conversation with a bank advisor.
Popular ATMs are gradually transforming into VTMs (virtual Kiosks), which provide video banking and other complimentary services such as printing and scanning of signed documents as well as sending them to the advisor in real time. In Greece, the Piraeus bank is already enjoying a great success with its brand of VTMs, enabled by the virtual bank branch system from LiveBank – watch a video. As such innovative solutions become more and more popular, not only does the number of traditional banking locations change, but also the appearance of the remaining places. The number of staff decreases and the remaining employees focus more on helping customers make full use of those automated virtual banking machines.
Today, a meeting with a banking advisor can even be requested at the bank’s Facebook fanpage (verification and authentication take place in an external window opened by clicking a link sent by the advisor) – the number of touchpoints where the customer and the bank can meet and interact without any limitations is far greater than at any point in the history.
What will the future bring?
A lot of the new customer service solutions can soon turn from innovations into commodities. And that’s just the beginning of the revolution. The emergence of chatbots, which make it possible to obtain detailed information in a completely automated manner, is one of the early examples of the use of artificial intelligence in banking. Some of these complex algorithms are already hard to tell from actual living human beings.
And that’s just a step away from science-fiction-like solutions such as personified artificial intelligence holograms, or augmented reality enhanced remote encounters with banking advisors, which feel just like a face-to-face meeting.
Is it the end of the good ol’ bank advisor?
Will the emergence of such solutions bring a definite end to human-to-human interactions in banking? Not necessarily. Even chatbots are being increasingly used to improve the performance of human banking advisors by serving them with ready-made answers to choose from. Face-to-face meetings will probably still be taking place, but their context may change. For example, they may serve as an expression of utmost respect and be used only sparingly for important events such as signing an agreement. One thing is for sure: regardless of which of our predictions will prove true, the customer of the future will not agree to any trade-offs between security, convenience and functionality. They want them all at the same time, ready to be used from any place on Earth and in a variety of everyday situations. Is your bank ready for the customer of the future?