BANKTHINK

Mobile Chat Has a Place in Every Banking App

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With live web chat absent at most of the largest financial institutions in the U.S., the idea of offering a mobile-based live chat service seems unwise. However, given consumers' rising dependency on mobile banking and increasing usage of text messages, mobile chat addresses the two trends in one fell swoop and presents a win-win scenario for banks and their customers.

For customers, the benefits are clear. Mobile chat, which is essentially text messaging with a bank associate, is less formal than an email and less time-consuming than a phone call.

I don't want to make the trek to a branch and I dread the 15-minute hold to reach the right customer service representative. But, I always have my iPhone so I can log into the mobile banking application and start a mobile chat session.

RBS launched its in-app mobile chat feature in March, currently for business banking customers only, with the intention of reducing call-waiting and in-branch queue times.

Due to live chat being offered more and more by retailers, consumers have heightened expectations from other businesses. As Keynote Systems told American Banker, "We see that one predictor of a bank doing well is having live web chat."

For banks, mobile chat allows customer service agents to address multiple inquiries at once. And, if the feature is offered after the login phase, banks are able to offer a much more personalized experience as customer information, account history and past customer service interactions are readily available. As a result, these sessions are likely to be shorter and more effective.

As with every other form of communication, customer mobile chat is another channel to boost sales. In the rulebook of every online live chat rep, he or she is trained to ask customers if they would like any assistance with opening an account or signing up for a service. The same selling opportunity is made available through mobile chat, regardless of whether or not the feature can be accessed after logging in.

Furthermore, banks may consider improving mobile chat by connecting it to their secure customer-messaging platforms, if any is offered to begin with. The secure messaging platform can assist the mobile chat feature by continuing the conversation even after the chat has ended follow-up can play a major role in enhancing the customer service experience.

Other neat upgrades are definitely possible. For instance, San Diego County Credit Union's mobile chat service allows screen-sharing so that agents can show customers how to navigate the mobile apps and sites. The next stage of evolution of mobile chat may be live video chat (sort of a FaceTime for banking), but that may be in the distant future.

While larger financial institutions may not be in any hurry to implement mobile chat, new mobile-centric financial startups have the most to gain from providing a mobile chat service. Companies such as Simple, Moven and GoBank are positioned to act as catalysts for the adoption of mobile chat.

Simon Zhen is a financial writer and research analyst for MyBankTracker.com, a website that features consumer bank reviews, personal finance articles and bank product comparison tables.

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Comments (2)
Good points! The chat function can be handy for transaction issues; BUT, it raises many interesting issues if the "chat" is for any kind of financial advice. The reason is that the banking industry (ABA) has adopted by default "Caveat Emptor" as the approach to responsibly providing advice This is opposed to "prudent man" or "suitability" levels of duty. The public has learned the hard way that too many banks cannot be trusted. On the other hand, if a bank would make a commitment to only offer prudent advice and train and support their staff to act accordingly, then a great opportunity could exist. But banks such as US Bank, Wells Fargo, Regions, Fifth-Third are blocking the way because they might never commit to actually always doing what is prudent for a customer. And the CFPB and OCC agree with me.Any bankers have a thought on this?
Posted by frankarauscher | Tuesday, August 06 2013 at 9:22AM ET
Your point that "consumers have heightened expectations" is important for banks to consider if they wish to come out ahead in the race to win customer loyalty. The entire customer experience must be considered in order to eliminate points of friction and elevate brand image. Mobile chat has the potential to be a strong touch point in many ways, but it has to be executed well. I've used online chat in other industries with mixed results. Some chat sessions were readily available and resolved my questions easily. Other experiences fell short by stating "nobody is available at this time, please check back later". If you are in line at a store and your credit or debit card is declined "check back later" is not the message a bank would want to send. The benefits of mobile chat for conducting banking business include the ability to have a private conversation in a public setting and quick resolution of issues that may arise. If those interactions are handled well, opportunities to cross-sell and create stronger customer relationships will naturally fall into place.
Posted by Karen Gordon | Zoot | Tuesday, August 06 2013 at 3:32PM ET
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