Conversational user interfaces, which let consumers ask for what they want in their own words, are a staple in the mobile world overall. For bank apps, though, the approach is decidedly cutting edge.
That makes Orrstown Bank a trendsetter. The Shippensburg, Pa., bank wanted to give consumers an option that would let them easily ask the bank their questions via a smartphone, rather than wait on hold over the phone.
Consumers "don't want to spend their time on that call," said Shashi Korithiwada, the digital technology director at Orrstown.
In February 2015, the $1.2 billion-asset company introduced a feature that lets customers text with its bank agents using tech from Twilio, a private company in San Francisco that is used by companies like Uber.
Text alerts are an increasingly popular way to flag potential fraud or keep customers informed about their account balances, but Orrstown's text function goes a step beyond. Its customers can text the bank requesting that an agent contact them on something personal or to ask a representative on how to get online banking access, for instance.
"It's like the next level of live chat," Korithiwada said.
The bank has been receiving fewer live chat sessions since launching the popular communication option. And luckily, most of the texts thus far are coming to bank agents during typical workday business hours. No matter what time customers text the bank, they receive an immediate response acknowledging the message but agents only follow up during business hours.
The text function is part of a push to enhance the technology at Orrstown, something it has been doing for a few years now.
Another tech feature it rolled out in 2015 was to bake in a Zillow-like functionality into its website. With the update, customers can look up housing listings in the community – which has been adding value to local Realtors.
Behind all the Web updates is a motivation by the bank to encourage engagement to deepen digital relationships, and then, to sell when appropriate.
"That's the nirvana," said Ben Wallace, the executive vice president of operations and technology at Orrstown Bank.