While telcos have been late to the self-service party, other industries have enthusiastically jumped on the bandwagon in an effort to retain customers, keep them happy and, most importantly, keep them from jumping ship.
Both telcos and cable operators routinely offer self-installation kits for customers to set up their own broadband and even apps that allow them to troubleshoot problems, but as a whole, they are lagging behind and, interestingly, might do well to look at what the banking segment is doing in this area.
Ever since the first ATM hit the streets more than 40 years ago, banks have been continuously innovating how customers deal with them, including coming up with new and interesting concepts such as phone banking, Internet banking and most recently mobile banking.
Today, many customers can simply take a picture of a check to deposit and have funds available right away; a huge change from the days when we had to go to a branch and actually wait days for a check to clear before having access to the money.
Going beyond these already very helpful features, we’re now seeing the next generation of self-service banking that could very well change the industry and how customers interact with their bank forever.
Bank of America recently updated its mobile app, making it look like a full bank in the palm of your hand. Customers can do the usual things like checking balances and transferring funds, but now they can more easily navigate various features, including opening new accounts, requesting paper copies of checks for their records, scheduling bill payments and getting routing numbers for electronic deposits.
In an interesting step backwards, PayPal just announced that it is doing away with its Mobile Check Capture service, choosing instead to focus on its main digital payments business rather than compete directly with the increasing number of banks offering this feature.
BofA is also making changes at its branches to reflect the way customers want to do business. Its “express centers,” which began rolling out in Manhattan and now include locations in Boston and Charlotte, N.C., feature extended teller hours (until 10 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends) and were created with customer needs in mind. Fifth Third Bank’s CEO said late last year that it may convert one-third of its branches to a self-service format that would make them more efficient while cutting costs.
Next up for BofA and other major banks is integrating video technology into ATMs, allowing customers to interact with tellers without having to set foot in a branch. A report from Mercator Advisory Group published last December shows that as ATMs have expanded their scope from simple dispensers of cash, they are becoming the go-to point of contact with financial institutions. Speaking of ATMs, a couple of years ago the Royal Bank of Scotland pioneered the concept of cardless transactions using only a code generated from a smartphone to withdraw up to £100 pounds.
And the next step in banking’s evolution is going to be even better for the customer as several “digital only” banks have popped up on the scene. Names like GoBank, Ally and Bluebird (from American Express and Walmart) are shaking things up by giving customers basic banking services with low or no fees and without having to worry about where the nearest branch is located.
It makes sense that banking has pulled out in front of the customer self-service race, and that’s going to continue with improvements to mobile payments and other features customers are asking for.
Now if only communications service providers would take a long look at this success and take the next leap in customer engagement.