Digital banking is here to stay. But to work optimally for customers and financial institutions (FIs) alike, an omnichannel banking system must be underpinned by the right mix of digital, AI, and live assistance. How can FIs properly balance their support offerings with all 3? Read on to learn more.

Your customers are moving to digital…

Even prior to the pandemic, digital banking and AI were becoming increasingly popular due to their convenience, accessibility, and cost savings. The trend was driven by a number of factors, including the increasing use of mobile devices, the demand for convenience and speed, and the need for more personalized and efficient banking services.

We are now firmly in the age of self-service banking and finance. According to our ENGAGE 2023: Customer Engagement in Banking Annual Trends Report, conducted in August 2022, 73% of banking consumers report interacting with a mobile banking app at least weekly, and 68% utilize a banking website or online banking on at least a weekly basis.  The next most frequently utilized channel is an ATM or ITM — which 39% of consumers use daily or weekly. 

By contrast, human-assisted channels are used more selectively. According to our survey, 18% of consumers used drive-thru banking on a daily or weekly basis, just 11% used walk-in banking, and only 8% say they use in-person appointments or video banking on a daily or weekly basis.

The benefit of providing both human and automated support options is clear — and according to our ENGAGE 2023 report, 43% of all the banks and credit unions surveyed said digital was their top priority in 2023.  

…except when they aren’t.

While many consumers — of any generation — prefer the convenience of digital banking, some still prefer to interact with a human being or come into a branch — especially for high-value or high-complexity transactions and services.  

For example, according to the 2021 Citizens Bank Banking Experience Survey, 65% of consumers agree that they prefer human expertise when receiving financial advice. And our ENGAGE 2023 report found that while consumers like to use digital channels for more transactional or routine tasks, they prefer to route more complex, higher value, strategic interactions to human channels. Banks and credit unions are therefore on the hook to provide a seamless experience that integrates both digital and human assistance. 

How digital makes human assistance better — and vice versa. 

The best way to meet the diverse needs of your customers is to provide multiple channels for customer service – phone, email, chat, and FAQs. Through these support channels, customers can request the assistance of live support such as:

  • Online Appointment Scheduling  
  • Interactive Teller Machines (ITM)
  • Video-banking
  • Call Center 

Similarly, those who start in human-assisted channels can benefit by the incorporation of digital technology to make their experience easier and faster. Places where digitization can augment human assistance might include:  

  • Appointment making 
  • Digital queues and check-in 
  • Kiosks 
  • Lobby management 
  • IVR 

With all of these bridges available, customers can confidently choose the channel that best suits their needs. Those who prefer digital channels can use an advanced chatbot for everyday transactions — while those who prefer human interaction can more easily speak to a human representative.

3 cautions for creating hybrid support channels 

This all sounds great, but it requires thoughtful design. It is important to put the right infrastructure into place to help your digital channels and your human channels augment one another — and not cause more confusion or frustration. Here are three things to consider:

1. Find the proper balance between human and digital

BAI’s 2023 Banking Outlook found that technology integration and platforms is a top investment priority this year. But FIs who overlook human channels do so at their own risk. A poor customer experience (CX) will lead to higher churn and more complaints about service, especially from business depositors.

Our ENGAGE 2023 report found that only 54% of consumers believe their bank tries to engage with them to understand their needs, and even fewer (43%) say there is someone at their bank or credit union they always talk to when they need answers to financial questions. Be sure that you are finding a mix of channels that keep customers feeling seen, connected and taken care of. 

A chart from Engageware's Survey showing responses from consumers for the question My bank/CU tries to engage with me to understand and meet my needs.
Q: My bank/CU tries to engage with me to understand and meet my needs.
A chart from Engageware's Survey showing responses from consumers for the question There is someone at my bank/CU that I can always talk to when I need financial help.
Q: There is someone at my bank/CU that I can always talk to when I need financial help.

2. Fewer humans can result in lower customer engagement

Customer engagement (CE) is a pattern of customer experiences that build good relationships with customers no matter where or how customers interact with the financial institution. Where customer experience (CX) measures customer sentiment around one transaction, CE measures how customers interact with their FI across all experiences, in all channels, over time. 

Unfortunately, digital-only interactions tend to yield lower levels of CE. When BAI recently asked bankers: “How would you describe the customer experience your organization delivers in person versus digitally?” 35% said the in-person experience is excellent, and only 9% said their digital banking experience is excellent. Banks must counter this by making digital channels feel more human and helping human solutions be as accurate as digital ones.  

Our ENGAGE 2023 report found that only about half of consumers believe their financial institution tries to engage them or that they have someone to turn to with questions. This represents an opportunity for banks to better promote and use their banking-by-appt and video banking capabilities.

3. Staffing must be in place to support the digital-human partnership

It almost goes without saying that to have great synergy between digital and human channels you need great humans. But we’ll go ahead and say it anyway. You will need to have staff in place and provide them with the digital support they need to hold up their end of the deal and provide consumers with fantastic human assistance.

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This isn’t lost on most FIs. Staffing is also far and away the most common place they are focusing in 2023. In our ENGAGE 2023 report, 68% of branches said they will be prioritizing training and staff development, and 44% said they will be working to ensure appropriate staffing levels in 2023.  

It is important that human staff are provided with knowledge bases and training that keep them as informed as their digital counterparts — and that that information all comes from a single source of truth. The right resources will help human staffers feel more confident, and reduce their likelihood of voluntary attrition, which will in turn create more stability and customer confidence. 

Learn how consumers and financial institutions are approaching the intersection of human and digital banking in 2023 by downloading a complimentary copy of  ENGAGE 2023: Customer Engagement in Banking Annual Trends Report

Interested in seeing how Engageware facilitates a hybrid approach to the banking customer experience — including appointment scheduling, chat, and a robust central knowledgebase? Contact us for a tour of the Engageware platform.

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