Should you fully automate your customer service?


Posted by:

15th July 2021

With the growing toolset at the disposal of fintechs and financial institutions – from email and FAQs to chatbots and live chat – it’s tempting to try and automate your customer service as far as you physically can. But is this what consumers want – and is it a good idea to try and fully automate customer service delivery within your app or digital platform?
This was one of the many topics of discussion in our recent live panel discussion, ‘Creating a Truly Digital, Customer-Centric Approach in Financial Services’.
Even though the technical capabilities might exist, automating your customer service proposition fully might not be such a good idea. Consumers still expect a human touch and some automation is only useful for certain circumstances. We’ve picked out 3 key trends in fintech customer service that are shaping the landscape and defining to what extent you should automate CS.

Using CS to reassure people

When things go wrong, your customer service is the first point of reassurance for consumers. “It’s increasingly clear that customers are very happy, and indeed like to, self-serve for the day-to-day transactional stuff,” says Conrad Ford, Chief Product & Strategy Officer for Allica Bank. “Their expectations are really simple: they want things to work. When things go wrong, these days they find it increasingly difficult to actually speak to somebody who can fix it for them.
“For the key financial services moments, perhaps like buying life insurance or buying a mortgage or if you’re a business maybe a major loan, many customers still seem to want to speak to somebody for those key moments. What I think we’re seeing is an increasingly ‘polar view’ of how to serve customers. Just to bring that to life, one of the big banks in the UK has just withdrawn relationship managers completely for businesses up to multi-million turnover. We’ve been speaking to some of these businesses. They’ve been really angry. Despite the digitalisation of the world we’re living in, there does seem to be a desire and need for some human contact in certain circumstances.”
It’s clear that, for many consumers, fully automated customer service is not an attractive proposition. When things go wrong, they want to hear a human voice or know that they’re interacting digitally with a real person.
For example, take research from live chat platform Userlike conducted last year. They found that, of the consumers they surveyed, many would prefer to skip chatbots – 60% say they would rather wait in a queue for a human representative. And although 80% of those surveyed said they had used a chatbot, it was their speed and convenience that was identified as the biggest attractions. That is to say, consumers seem to trust chatbots for basic requests and assistance, but they are no match for human interactions or real customer service agents.

Personalising your proposition

With so many channels available, you risk alienating your consumers when the only customer service channels you offer are non-preferred channels for them. Some consumers will prefer the immediacy and the interactivity of talking by phone, others want the convenience of a live chat.
“Demands are so high now,” explains Andrew Lawson, Senior Vice President EMEA for Zendesk. “I think individuals want really highly personalised service, they want proactivity but also they want to choose their channel. They want to know how they’re going to come in – is it via branch, is it through mobile, is it through app? They want to be in control over which channel they interact with you.”
These demands that consumers are placing on customer service are borne out by the results of Zendesk’s State of Messaging 2020 Report, which found that almost 70% of consumers were already using messaging apps to contact customer service. Zendesk says that they will expect companies to talk to them through the channels they already use – and that this expectation will apply regardless of whether you’re a small fintech startup or a large incumbent bank.
The most popular chat apps – and hence, the most imperative customer service channels for any customer-facing brand – were WhatsApp with 2 billion monthly active users followed by Facebook Messenger with 1.3 billion. Next is China’s WeChat, whose 1.1 billion monthly active users is really driven by its popularity at home; along with another Chinese app, QQ Mobile, with more than 800 million active users every month.
With the prevalence of new channels and new technologies, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s helpful and useful to customers. As digital service continues to evolve, customers will expect more – they will expect smarter features that help them make the most of their money and prevent fraud.
Andrew Lawson continues: “For me as an individual, I want the bank to know me. I want the bank to know how I want to interact – on which device and over which channel. I also want my bank to be proactive. Normally, it’s initiated by me logging into my bank account. I’m looking for things beyond that. It’s the simple things like the good old days, when we used to fly about and get to travel, every time I went to the States my card would get stopped because of fraud prevention. I want the bank to know what I do and understand that so it doesn’t have that problem. How do you get to know your client and build that intelligence about who I am and what I want?

Making CS seamless

One of the inevitable consequences of new digital channels is user fatigue – if consumers don’t get tired of the channels themselves, they will probably get bored of form filling and manual retyping when they come to access help.
Parul Kaul-Green, a board member of the UK Insurtech Board, says that this principal still applies when consumers are straddling multiple communication channels. “If I have spoken to you on my mobile app, then when I speak to you on the phone the information should have been transferred. I do not wish to repeat the same information again and again.”
That goes for repeated interactions on the same channel, too. With so many different options out there, consumers don’t expect to be asked for the same information when returning to a customer service channel they’ve used before – for example, form filling when they initiative a live chat or chat bot conversation. Going back to what Andrew Lawson said earlier, it’s likely they’ll become frustrated with your brand and your customer service if they also have to revisit the same problems that they’ve come to you with in the past.
Consumers expect banks and fintechs to make much smarter use of their data and provide a much more seamless experience when things go wrong – and that is a real challenge for customer service.
Catch up on this live panel discussion in more depth. Click here to watch the full session with contributions from Atom Bank, Allica Bank and Zendesk: Creating a Truly Digital, Customer-Centric Approach in Financial Services.