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Building trust in financial services: can chatbots replace human interactions?

The foundation of the relationship between brands and their customers is communication. As such, an organisation’s ability to foster trust and grow its operation is inextricably connected to its ability carry out “successful” conversations.

However, in our complex, digital-first world, there are now so many avenues for businesses to engage with their customer base – from chatbots to automated assistants – it can be tricky to know which methods are the most appropriate on a day-to-day basis.

This is a fact that’s particularly salient to the financial services (FS) industry. For instance, In the UK, when it comes to more transactional tasks, such as paying online, setting up direct debits or checking account balances, 72% of customers prefer to access information and services via their provider’s website, recent NetApp’s research uncovered.  

However, when it comes to difficult or complex subjects, such as challenges around mortgages or debt payments, 71% state they would prefer to speak to a real person, with a further 46% reporting that they still prefer to go into a bank’s branch for these services.

Understanding the best pathways to route customers down when engaging them is only going to grow increasingly vital.

Digitising the traditional banking experience

The FS experience has come a long way over the past decade – from being entirely comprised of physical branches to being mostly built on digital interactions and data. And while this digital focus has led to more efficient and accessible services, it’s important to remember that physical brick and mortar branches have always been integral to how banks foster trust with customers.

But now that branches are slowly being phased out, with Barclays alone closing 160 branches last year, how will this impact the future of these institutions? There’s no question that customers favour digital apps as their primary means of engaging with their banks, but can these tools foster trust in the same way in-person banking has for hundreds of years?

There are significant implications for FS businesses to consider when it comes to the future of their operations. Digital services offer firms an opportunity to reimagine the entire customer service experience in ways more fitting to the modern world, by prioritising ease and convenience.

But these strategies need to make room for customers that need more of a human touch, if they want to ensure every touch point is working to build brand loyalty and trust.

Putting customer choice first in a digital world

We may soon begin to see the way financial services firms engage customers transform, led first and foremost by their own preferences.

For instance, in the future, people may choose financial service providers based on the level of service they need. Some customers may choose to pay less as they predominantly rely on digital services, with the knowledge that this will mean fewer human interactions. However, other customers who desire a more personalised, human touch, will likely opt to pay more for it.

With greater innovation within the industry, financial services institutions will be able to offer customers more choices. Soon, segmentation based on service level may be just as relevant to customers as product and price is today.

And as technology’s ability to deal with increasingly complex queries continues to improve, human interaction will likely become an even higher level of service, meaning the need to further differentiate it from more digital – and likely cheaper – service delivery methods will intensify.

So, it’s crucial financial institutions begin to strategically consider how they approach the inclusion of AI-powered communication tools into their operations. And remember that there will always be times when customers will desire human interactions – especially when it comes to major financial decisions.  



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