Survey after survey tell us that customers continue to value their experience at the branch. It’s where they are reassured by a human. A handshake, a frank conversation about the future, eye contact and a personal story - these are exchanges that build trust and relationships.

But people aren’t visiting branches as often in these digital times. According to some estimates, customers expect more than two-thirds of their banking usage to be digital in the next year. So how do you get to know your customers better and build closer relationships when they aren’t visiting the branch very often? What’s the right balance between human interaction and the convenience and efficiency of digital channels?

There are two contradictory forces at work in this balancing act. The independent, savvy consumer who expects self-service on every device exists alongside the innately social human being who derives value from seeing and interacting with one another. In fact, research shows that taking away the opportunity for this kind of connection can undermine service performance. One study found that when banking customers used the ATM more and the teller less, their overall level of satisfaction with the bank went down.

Bots aren’t the answer

For all the buzz around bot customer service capabilities, chatbots aren’t the answer either. At this point, most are interactive voice-response systems that provide generic FAQs without a pathway to an agent. According to Forrester’s, 60% of chatbot deployments in 2019 will not have effective live-agent safety nets attached to web chat sessions. 

Bridge the digital disconnect

Technology is only half of the equation. Banks have generally focused on technology as a means to drive efficiency, rather than enhance the customer experience and make it truly personal. But efficient self-service can leave customers stranded in the middle of a digital transaction when they actually need human help. They are left “alone” to browse and transact in a self-service universe at the detriment of a relationship. This is the growing gap between well-delivered self-service and the actual sharing of human knowledge, expertise and connection that customers are asking for. The challenge is to bring them together so that digital is building personal, meaningful relationship, not disenfranchising them.

Human + Digital = the best of CX

Transactions, like paying a bill or transferring money, can fit into a customer’s daily life asynchronously, whenever they choose to fit it in. But making the largest purchase of your life – like buying a home – is the time to sit down with a human being and get advice. Technology can bridge both of these human and digital experiences so that they complement the other, deepen a relationship and deliver the best in customer experience. For example, a customer takes a picture of a cheque. This is now a lost or missed human interaction– the branch visit – that needs to be replaced. This is the space where banks can be pro-active in initiating a human experience, and in this case, make up for the original lost opportunity of face to face interaction of depositing the cheque at the bank. Banks need to consider how to bridge these gaps, so that the human interaction complements the convenience of digital, and vice versa.

Be Ready to Fill the Gap with Human Helpfulness

A conversational interface can bridge automated transactions with high touch interactions, and in doing so, facilitate human connections. When a customer needs help, with one click they can be connected to a helpful human. This needs to be a simple pivot, from self-service to a person. This way, banks can provide the convenience and efficiency of automated service and ensure the customer is supported with human help. When it’s a smooth transition, automated interactions can improve satisfaction and loyalty, not erode them.

Finding the right balance between digital and human needs a truly customer-centric approach. Because in the end, the best use of technology will make the customer experience more human.  It will also make your customers feel more valuable to your organization, not less.

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