Chat, chatbots, and conversational banking are hot topics lately.

We’ve researched chat among various industries and interviewed 100 credit unions and banks to better understand the current landscape of chat and where it’s heading.

Delivering What Your Consumers Really Want

Chat isn’t just happening in banking. It’s taking place everywhere. Chat is happening across all industries, from cable providers to media companies, to shoe retailers.

Chat is becoming ubiquitous, and in turn, making your consumers expect and demand that same level of technology, service, and convenience of banking, as they do of other service providers.

What’s Happening Across Industries

Consumers’ desire for convenience combined with immediate responses and excellent service show why the demand for chat is steadily increasing. The burden is now on the businesses to be able to provide faster response times and shortened handle times.

Customer Service Expert Shem Hyken was recently quoted as saying “Customers no longer compare you to just a competitor. You are now compared to the best service the customer received from any company and that raises the bar for everyone.”

The Current State of Chat in Banking

We surveyed & interviewed over 100 bank and credit union employees from institutions ranging in size from 1 to 1,000 full-time employees. The majority of those surveyed represented a credit union (76%) with 250 or less full-time employees (66%).

Decision making for the implementation of a chat tool at financial institutions is widespread among the CEO (41%), IT (33%), Call Center (30%), Marketing (28%), Branch Operations (21%), and General Operations (21%).

Presently, more than half (57%) of institutions lack a chat tool or chatbot solution on their website or mobile application. Less than a quarter (21%) say they have a chat tool or chatbot solution in both web and mobile channels. The remainder (21%) say they have one on their website exclusively.

Of the 57% who do not currently have a chat tool or chatbot solution on their digital channels, 71% report that it is something their institutions are considering now or in the near future.

Survey results show there are as many newcomers as first adopters, suggesting the use of chat tools is poised to increase. Nearly half (48%) of the institutions who currently have a chat solution, have had one for 3 years or more. A chat solution is more of a recent happening for 45% of the institutions surveyed, having brought it on in the last two years or less.

What Chat Tools Financial Institutions Use and Level of Satisfaction

Of the 43% of institutions who do currently have a chat solution, 83% utilize a live chat solution such as LivePerson (40%) or LiveChat (11%).

Satisfaction with institutions’ current chat solutions varies, with just over half (54%) reporting some degree of satisfaction.

  • “It’s very easy to use and it helps reduce our call volumes.”
  • “Chat works great and our members love it. Our Contact Center, not so much. Sadly it has limited hours. It needs to be better utilized.”
  • “Look, feel and support leave something to be desired.”

What Drives Financial Institutions to Adopt Chat

By far, the predominant reasons institutions decided to implement a chat solution were to improve support quality and the consumer experience. Just 9% of institutions who adopted a chat solution report doing so to lower support costs.

  • “Our goal is to reduce friction, enhance the user experience across all of our channels, especially our digital channels. Letting our consumer access us in any way they wish to do so. And make it convenient for them.”
  • “We’re looking for different ways to communicate with our customers. Especially in today’s age, people aren’t necessarily wanting to visit a branch. They want to do their banking from their smartphone. So I think it’s just us trying to use every medium possible to make sure our customers’ needs are met.”
  • “Chat meets the need that people feel for the instantaneous. If they have a minor question – how do I add a beneficiary on my account, or what information do I need to know to do that? – having information for them quickly versus having them call in and possibly be put on hold, I think it meets that instant gratification people are looking for today.”

Challenges and Concerns Regarding Chat

Adopting a chat solution does not come without its challenges. Institutions who have adopted a chat solution have faced a wide range of difficulties in staffing resources, integration with existing tools, security and more.

Even for those institutions currently without a chat solution but looking to implement one, concerns arise. Among those surveyed who do not currently have a chat solution, half report (49%) that a top concern of theirs for implementing a chat solution is staffing resources. Nearly a third are concerned with the ability to provide responses quickly and accurately.

When it comes to expectations of a chat tool, first and foremost, nearly all (96%) expect that a chat tool would help their institution improve the consumer experience. Secondly, a majority (65%) also expect it would improve support quality.

Still others expect that a chat tool would help improve sales and increase conversion rates. 18% of those surveyed expect a chat tool to lower support costs.

What are some of the features that you are looking to include in a chat solution?
  • Ability to display canned responses (FAQs, etc.)
  • Ticket creation, backend management of chat
  • Easy to pass of tickets to other users
  • Ability to upload files, if people are looking for a particular document
  • Emoji support that can help communicate culture through the digital forum
What are the top questions your team are debating?
  • What impact is this going to have on our call center?
  • How much information do you ask up front to help validate a member?
  • How do we validate our members and do we need to?
  • How do ensure ease of use, and ensure a majority of the time a customer leaves the situation feeling like their problem was solved

What It All Means

With much ado about chat lately, where is there to go? Our research and the activity we’re seeing and hearing in the marketplace tells us there is only one direction to go; and that is to give consumers what they want and demand – the ability to connect with their bank anytime, anywhere. Chat offers one avenue to do that.

Conversations are not a thing of the past. Despite changes in communication behavior where conversations have taken on a different form via email, text, chat, they are still at their core – conversations. Banking consumers want an open dialogue with their financial institutions.

Conversational banking is what will drive the efficient growth of small to mid-tier bank and credit unions – allowing them to continue building on their consumer relationships via an avenue that matches today’s lifestyle.

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