Amazon’s Mayday Button Could Revolutionize Banking

It's time for banks and credit unions to consider the potential of providing mobile banking customers single-click live customer support similar to Amazon's Mayday button that is embedded on the latest Kindle Fire HDX tablets. Similar to a virtual version of Apple's store-based Genius Bar, without needing to wait in line or leave your house, a banking version of Mayday could provide both basic customer support as well as specialized or advisory services that could revolutionize both mobile and online banking.

This concept may seem like a major leap into the future for an industry that has yet to fully embrace 24×7 ‘push to talk’ or text-based customer support for the mobile or online customer or extensive video banking at physical locations, but as technology advances and more customers are relying on mobile, tablet and online banking, there is significant potential. And, with the desire to create powerful emotional connections with customers, live video may replace the telephone for customer support.

The Amazon service is easily accessible with a button on the Kindle HDX device home page. Press the Mayday engagement button and a customer sees a remote Amazon Tech Advisor on their screen within seconds (over the 2013 holidays, Amazon beat their goal of 15 second response with a 9 second average wait). While a customer can see the live advisor, the advisor can’t see the customer, just their screen. Once credentials are authorized, Tech Advisors can annotate the screen, change settings, download apps and do anything needed to help a customer step-by-step.

“With a single tap, an Amazon expert will appear on your Fire HDX and can co-pilot you through any feature on your screen, walking you through how to do something yourself, or doing it for you – whatever works best. Mayday is available 24×7, 365 days a year, and it’s free,” stated Amazon CEO and founder, Jeff Bezos. The commercial for the Mayday button is a great illustration.

While some people were initially concerned about privacy, the advisor can’t access a customer’s camera or access information within the computer that is private. Only audio is transmitted back to the advisor.

For Amazon, the Mayday support teams reside within the normal call center. While these advisors most likely didn’t replace any of Amazon’s other support channels, there could be additional resources that were needed (Amazon does not reveal details).

Supporting this capability required video-equipped computers and a de-cluttered environment for the advisors to work that appears more professional than a traditional call center cubical. For Amazon, they actually put each agent into well branded ‘mini-studios’. Video agents also needed to be ‘camera ready’ based on wardrobe, visual appearance and even body language.

Mayday in Banking

None of the hurdles above seem to be insurmountable for the financial services industry. In fact, the latest generation of self-service devices (ATMs, Kiosks, etc.) are video-enabled and institutions such as Bank of America have already launched relatively small scale real-time video communication support services such as Teller Assist.

According to a recent Capco blog post entitled, ‘Will Video Replace the Telephone in Banking’, banks would need similar capabilities to deliver video support to customers.

  • People. Skilled resources would need to be engaged who can handle a wide range of customer inquiries.
  • Process. Live video support requires banks to redefine aspects of their operating model. As opposed to self-service applications, video support requires the discussion of product options based on insight already available and insight captured during discussions. Security is also important.
  • Technology. Vendors already provide quality video services. The challenge is to successfully integrate these capabilities into existing operating systems.

Here are some ways a direct link to a human being could provide differentiation for banks or credit unions:

  1. Basic account inquiry calls. While this may seem resource prohibitive at first, how much more difficult would it be for a bank to provide video support as opposed to a call center connection? Because more context information is available with this solution, the call time could be shortened and savings could be realized. Long-distance costs would also be reduced since video interactions would be IP-based.
  2. Contextual specialists. If a person is having difficulty conducting mobile or online banking, the customer support area can direct the interaction to the best CSR who can ‘take over’ the customer’s screen (with customer approval) and provide technical channel support to help the customer conduct their banking. This is the foundation of Amazon’s Mayday service and would increase deeper digital engagement beyond balance inquiries.
  3. Insight collection. One of the major reasons Amazon introduced Mayday was so that they could collect insight directly from customers that could improve service and products in the future. While this can be done via traditional channels at a bank or credit union, a live video agent could gather greater insight into financial needs, services held elsewhere, etc. They can also verify information already on file like email addresses and cell phone numbers.
  4. Cross-selling. At a time when organic sales by financial institutions are needed more than ever, precise real-time offer management could be leveraged by skilled personnel utilizing enhanced contextual insight known about the customer. With the potential for enhanced insight gathering as discussed above, better recommendations could be made.
  5. Advisory services. It would not be too difficult to expand the Mayday type service to include advisory services from other areas of the bank. With a simple live transfer, the customer could be connected with an investment advisor, small business specialist, commercial banking or loan officer. With video engagement, the ability to conduct much more involved interactions is possible.
  6. Customer acquisition. The abandonment rate from a digital shopper in banking is extremely high. A live video agent could provide an abandonment intercept by allowing a shopper to talk to live CSR as part of their shopping process. This is especially helpful for consumers who do not want to visit a branch.
  7. Customer retention. With the ability to access a live agent immediately, and with greater contextual insight available to the agent, issue resolution will be faster and will provide a superior customer experience.

Testing Proof of Concept

I imagine most banks and credit unions aren’t ready to jump into the 24x7x365 single click live video customer support ocean just yet. So how could an organization test this concept in more shallow waters?

  • Determine the nature of most of your customer support questions and determine which ones could be better answered by a live agent.
  • Instead of placing access to a live video agent on the home page of your mobile or online banking application, place it where abandonment occurs the most or in areas where you want to increase engagement. Are customers confused as to how to use mobile deposit or online bill payment? Is your current rewards program not meeting expectations? Place the video agent access button on the pages for these services first.
  • Test live video support during regular business hours. While not optimal, it provides parameters for testing the scalability of the service.
  • Have a live video agent available only to brand new customers of your mobile or online banking services. In this case, it may be best to provide the link to a live agent via email as part of your new customer onboarding process. This may also provide the ability to cross-sell additional services early in the relationship.

While your organization is testing the scalability of a live video agent, it may be good to also test customer support via text and push-to-talk. The upside potential may not be as great, but the customer experience is definitely better than current customer support options at most financial institutions.

The banking industry has just received a Mayday customer service wake-up call, requiring customer support centers to rethink their strategies and raising the customer experience bar. What financial institution(s) will answer this challenge?

Case Study: ASB Video Customer Support

ASB Bank in New Zealand is one of the only banks in the world that I have found that as developed applications for live video customer support. Discussed in a recent article on The Financial Brand, ASB customers can connect directly with banking specialists face-to-face at a time and place convenient to the customer.

While not quick a 24x7x365 immediate video link, ASB allows a customer to set up an appointment with a banking specialist for more involved interactions such as insurance, home loans, business banking, etc. With this application, customer can securely share documents, providing all of the convenience of a branch visit without needing to leave home.

ASB has been at the forefront of video technology banking integration, offering in-branch video banking for some time and even introducing a Facebook Virtual Branch, also written about by The Financial Brand.

Amazon Mayday Feature Video

Below is a great video highlighting the features of the Mayday solution from Amazon.

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