Sexy Apps Are No Substitute For Intimacy

Mobile Banking App

Imagine this scenario. You stop at an ATM on the way to work to withdraw cash and you notice that the balance seems low. So, the moment you reach the office, you go online to check your statement. And that’s when your day begins to derail.

The bank’s expensive and heavily promoted Statement App appears to have defaulted to ‘baffle and dysfunction’ mode. It welcomes you as a valued customer but it is not intuitive, so you struggle to obtain your recent transaction details. Puzzled – and increasingly concerned – you decide to visit the local branch for some personal assistance.

It’s now lunchtime. Long shuffling queues snake from the two available service tills – a slow motion study in peak time frustration. Not for the first time you wonder why banks spend so much on dumb terminals when they could – and should – be investing in intelligent service.

Returning to the office, you dial the line of last resort. Call centres, whilst well intended, are universally hated, because the customer experience is often so bad.

‘Helpful Banking’… ‘Here for You’… ‘Where People Matter’ – these catchy slogans appear ludicrously cynical to a customer who has just answered an endless litany of voice-activated questions. And when, eventually, they do get to speak to a real voice – somewhere in Manchester, Motherwell or perhaps Mumbai – their ordeal isn’t over. They will almost certainly be asked the self-same questions they have just answered!

Having patiently provided information, why isn’t it made available to the one person who really needs it? Why is that key link in the service chain so ill-informed and un-empowered? Despite the fact that banks pour over £1 billion into IT, each and every year, their first line of customer contact has no record of your morning’s activity. So, once again, you are obliged to explain your experience and your very real worries.

The response will always be charming – but largely ineffectual. The customer advisor will apologetically explain that, because they cannot access the necessary system, they will have to refer your enquiry for investigation at a higher level. For a customer who is now deeply frustrated and increasingly worried, this is most definitely not the reassurance they need.

However, the good news is that the nameless higher authority will respond. The not-so-good news is that you will probably never take their call. Flagged up as ‘Withheld’, ‘Private’ or an 0800 number, you will assume that the call is just another law firm touting for PPP business. You will reject it and the information you so dearly wanted.

But this depressing cloud does have a silver lining… of sorts. You are very likely to receive an email proudly informing you that your bank has just created another wonderful new app….for iPhone users. Great news for Apple aficionados – but not a lot of help to the vast majority of us Android phone users!

If this scenario sounds depressingly familiar, we genuinely sympathise. More importantly, we want to offer some simple suggestions to remedy these problems. Because, without a shred of doubt, all of the issues we have just described can be simply and swiftly resolved for a surprisingly low cost. Right now, using innovative but well proven technology, banks could:

1. Keep track of each transaction you conduct and then make that information instantly available to all systems and employees. We all know the importance of establishing context before a conversation and this can all be achieved within the Data Protection Act.

2. Empower Customer Advisers within call centres so they can access all of the systems needed to solve your problem. Indeed, allow Advisers to replay your attempt at using any of their banking apps earlier in the day. Then there is more likelihood that your problems will be solved whilst you are still on the phone. Called ‘first time resolution’, this makes a huge difference to customer satisfaction – and, incidentally, it also drives down the bank’s costs!

3. Keep a watching brief on our financial affairs and take proactive steps to help you…

For example, technology might reveal that your bank balance can, on occasions, fluctuate dramatically… sometimes showing a major cash surplus; occasionally plunging you deep into the red. This information could be used to trigger a recommendation for a short-term savings facility balanced by an increased overdraft limit. What’s more, the bank could alert you to all movements, as they happen, by email. Now wouldn’t that be refreshing and reassuring?

These solutions are not in development – they are actually available, here and now. So here’s an honest plea to all banks. Please stop spending your £1bn on building new apps for us. Instead, spend a fraction of it on getting closer to your customers. Intimacy is a lot sexier than apps.

Robert Baldock

Robert Baldock is MD at Clustre, the innovation brokers. Clustre connects 'C' level executives with innovative technology firms that provide breakthrough solutions. Robert has more than 35 years' experience of conceiving, selling and delivering mulit-million pound solutions to major institutions.