So much is said about how Amazon and Netflix and other e-commerce giants make digital browsing, buying and paying so intuitive and personalized that a critical point often goes unmentioned: They handle consumer support questions exceptionally well. These firms don’t simply answer questions. They use technology to respond in a way that keeps live-chat or call-center staff from bogging down on routine — often technical — questions, and leads the consumer further along the path of intent using clear action steps.
Effective online support is an area where many banking providers fall short of what can be done, yet improvements do not require massive investments in artificial intelligence or personalization capabilities, according to D.J. Haskins, Vice-President of Marketing for SilverCloud. What Netflix does is well within the reach of banks and credit unions, he adds, not necessarily at the same scale or degree of sophistication, but achievable through small steps.
“As consumers we live in an on-demand, self-service world,” says Haskins, who spoke during a webinar hosted by The Financial Brand. “Netflix, Amazon, Uber, AirBNB have all rewired our brains so that we not only expect to be able to watch or shop on-demand, but get answers to questions the same way.”
Consumers still want to have conversations, but not always in the same ways they used to. While they want the option of live chat, a phone call or an in-person conversation, Haskins maintains, often they simply want a quick solution to their question.
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Tech-Related Questions Swamp Support Staff
The popularity of online banking, mobile banking, P2P transactions, and online account opening has brought an unforeseen consequence: a whole new set of consumer questions from what they would have asked five years ago. Questions like “How do I set up direct deposit on my phone?”; “How do I reset my password?” and “What is the bank’s routing number?” Many of these are what Haskins calls “tier 1” questions that could be handled easily on a help page. But without that capability, banks and credit unions feel the impact of this surge in questions in their contact centers and in their branches.
When institutions add live-chat capabilities, it often compounds the problem. “We’ve talked with many financial institutions that are implementing live chat,” says Haskins, “and it’s crushing their contact center because these chat conversations are longer, and slower.”
Netflix provides a good template for how to improve the support situation. With 139 million users in 190 countries, the entertainment giant receives thousands of questions daily, many are of the tier 1 variety. To cope with this, Netflix developed a robust help center that does two things exceptionally well, according to Haskins.
- They curate the top questions and break them into simple-to-understand “buckets” such as “Manage My Account” and “Can’t Watch”
- They arrange these question buckets in an easy-to-find way on their Help Center page, which has the effect of creating “speed bumps” to direct contact via phone or chat.
“Netflix makes it easy to get in touch by a call or chat,” Haskins explains, “but by prominently showing these question ‘buckets,’ basically they’re saying, ‘Hey, before you chat or call you can self-serve and you’ll probably get the answers to your questions before you actually have to contact us’.”
Actually many consumers now would prefer not to call if they don’t have to, Haskins states. It’s simply a lot easier and faster to self-serve.
Another reason for a “curated answer” approach to online support is that just over half the time (54%) consumers are doing their banking at nights or on weekends when the bank or credit union’s staff is not available, according to SilverCloud data. If the help center is properly set up, this shouldn’t be a problem. Haskins cites Zendesk data that 91% of consumers say they would use an online knowledge base if it were available and if it had the right content.
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The Missed Opportunities of a Poor Help Page
SilverCloud analyzed the websites of more than 100 community banks and credit unions. The company found that these institutions overall are “great at telling people the why and the what, but not the how.” As Julia Hook, SilverCloud’s Director of Marketing explains, the institutions tell you why you should sign up for something, but offer little information on how to use it. “And the ones that do, bury it so deep that you can’t find it,” says Hook.
She shares two startling facts: Only 1% of the 100 sites studied have a dedicated support page and just 6% have easy-to-find FAQs. Every site directs people how to call the institution, Hook states, but people want the ability to self serve. 82% of consumers say the number two reason they come to a bank or credit union website is for support, according SilverCloud data. (The number one reason is online banking.)
Most bank and credit union websites are focused on selling and not support. Hook describes this as a “huge missed opportunity” that negatively impacts the consumer digital experience and increases call center volume. But even more important are the missed opportunities to offer an additional product or service.
“These questions aren’t just queries,” Hook states, “They’re opportunities to capitalize on intent.” As an example, she points to the number one question asked on bank and credit union websites: “What is the institution’s routing number?” Most institutions provide the answer — “if you know where to look” — but the main point here, says Hook, is “Why does the consumer need the number?” In all probability they’re looking to sign up for direct deposit, transfer funds, or set up bill pay. “That’s the moment to provide support and encourage the consumer to continue down the path to additional products,” Hook maintains. “They’re engaged. Why not use this as an opportunity to help them sign up for online banking or mobile banking?”
Examples of Good Online Support Presentation
In addition to the Netflix help page shown above, Hook says Verizon’s page is very clean and clear.
“With Verizon’s page you can see clearly that this is a support site and they’re here to help you,” Hook explains. In addition, on all pages, the communications company puts ‘Support’ right in their main navigation bar at the top, including in front of their login.
TD Bank and Capital One both have very good online support pages as well, according to Hook.
These institutions not only make it easy to find answers to many common questions, Hook points out, they incorporate simple ways for consumers to find additional information, and, most important, make it easy for them to take action. Another common question — “Where are your locations?” — provides a good example of her point. The bank or credit union should, of course, answer the question of where it has locations, but then add: “If you can’t make it to a branch, you can access your account 24/7 by using our mobile app.” That should lead to a way to download the app and help in setting it up.
Finally, Haskins emphasizes the importance of having all the above-referenced support-page capabilities equally available and clear on an institutions’ mobile banking app, not just on its website.