“Most banks have an interaction pie that looks like 80% phone calls and 20% live chat.” -Dan Michaeli

Financial brands have an exciting opportunity to merge messaging, audio, and video into a seamless multichannel digital customer experience. So why are many financial brands stubbornly sticking with old-fashioned phone calls?

Dan Michaeli, the CEO and co-founder of Glia and the author of “Digital Customer Service” sees this as a major barrier to success in the financial world discussed the possibilities of multichannel messaging with James Robert Lay on the Banking on Digital Growth Podcast.

How “On Screen” is Your Financial Brand?

In the past decade, screens have come to dominate communication. Everyone’s neck is always craned down to look at the small screen sitting in their hand.

Screens are almost everywhere you look: restaurants, stores, gas stations, and on billboards along the road. You use a screen to log into the systems at your worksite and you might even use a screen to keep an eye on your home’s temperature and security system. After work, you go home and look at the TV screen and iPad until it’s time to screen it all out and go to sleep.

Most major banks now have screens at ATMs and drive-through stations, but this is where things often come to a screeching halt. Financial brands rarely use their screens for much more than, “Thanks! Have a good day!”

Dan asks the financial industry to picture what things will look like 5 or 10 years from now. Do you think there will be more screens or fewer? The forecasts say more, more, more. 

He says, “When we're looking for information, when we're looking to get in touch with somebody, when we're bored, we are going to a screen.” Why? Because they’re like helpful friends or extra brains that live outside our bodies. Screens share information that reassures us and allows us to make progress in our lives. 

The screen-focused trend was already in progress when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. People couldn’t interact in person, so they turned to screens. Even the most old-fashioned grandparents learned how to Zoom with their grandkids. The result was a rapid acceleration in the acceptance of digital-first communication.

Rethinking What it Means to Chat

Dan believes the meaning of the word “chat” is shifting in a significant way that impacts financial brands and fintech. Most people probably associate chatting with either talking to a person or interacting with a chatbot.

“It can encompass so much more, and it should encompass so much more,” Dan says. A customer chat can include an array of formats like text-based discussions, sending vocal notes, sending social media messages, opening up Zoom calls, and arranging muted on-screen interactions with captions. Why not provide every possible way for your customers to connect with you?

As Dan says, “Digital customer service is all about putting screens at the center. So you're putting either a mobile device, a tablet, or your computer at the center, and then there are three core components to digital customer service.”

The three core components of digital customer service are:

  • On-screen communication: messages, voice, and video
  • On-screen collaboration: meeting, guiding, and teaching the customer
  • On-screen automation: virtual assistance, visitor detection, and other technology

Examine whether your organization is offering all three components to every customer in every interaction. Consider whether there are gaps in digital communication that allow interactions to fall flat.

  • How are they navigating to and through our information?
  • Where are they clicking or asking for more information?
  • What’s causing them to struggle?
  • Can we see customers’ physical body language?
  • Can we understand their digital body language?

In the list above, “digital body language” refers to detecting how people behave in the digital world. This wades into innovative technological options for improving the customer experience. Ask the question, “How are we detecting digital behaviors and responding to them, moment by moment?”

Dan points out that there’s a treasure trove of information available in customers’ real-time interactions. By noticing their behaviors, you have an opportunity to act on their needs and become a more proactive and collaborative financial partner. 

One Channel to Omnichannel to Channel-Free

Let’s face it, most banks still rely on telephone communications for most customer service interactions. If a customer has a problem or needs a question answered, the bank probably pushes them toward their 1-800 number.

Imagine a new model that merges chat, voice, and video into a multichannel customer service experience. There’s been buzz about this model for almost a decade. James Robert recalls seeing demonstrations about it at conferences going back to 2013. Yet not much has happened.

Related Content: Story-Selling: Targeting Your Audience Through Decentralized Communication 

Most traditional financial brands have dragged their feet on embracing this model of customer communication. Fintechs do somewhat better, but they often force their customers into faceless internet-based communications.

“It doesn't matter where the customer starts,” Dan says. “They should be able to move between those modes of communications and perceive it to be one channel.”

That’s why he avoids the word “channel” because he believes the future of communication is channel-free. Every channel comes together to form one unified channel, so the term becomes meaningless.

Shifting the Mix of Interactions

One of Dan’s passions is “shifting the mix.” This involves flipping the script on the traditional 80-20 rule that says 80% of something happens a certain way.

In the financial world, 80% of customer service still takes place through phone calls. What would happen if you shifted the mix so that just 20% of your customer interactions were in phone calls and 80% were in other forms of communication? Dan pictures it as “a beautiful mix of video and on-screen voice and messaging and all these rich interactions that don't imply, ‘hey, I don't want to talk to my customer anymore.’”

This is already happening in other sectors like the retail world, where top fashion brands are interacting with their fans in an exciting omnichannel experience. A bank executive might shake their head and think, “That wouldn’t work for us,” but they’re probably wrong.

Dan explains that normally when you try to make something more efficient, you have to sacrifice quality. But it’s not the case with digital communication because the mass audience is already there. Everyone already went digital, so what are you waiting for?

First Steps Toward Success

When people ask Dan how to make progress toward his vision of digital-first, channel-free communication, here’s what he tells them: “Every conversation with a customer is an opportunity.”

Many businesses think if they’re not making a big splash or investing in an expensive new piece of technology, they’re not making any progress.

Not true!

Progress on this front is made incrementally within each customer interaction.

Establish a way to learn something from each customer contact with your company. Determine, “Why are they calling us? What are they thinking?” and track this information, turning it into measurable metrics.

James Robert emphasizes the importance of pattern-matching when you’re trying to spark digital transformation. Look for patterns in behavior and react to them. As James Robert says to wrap up the conversation, “If we can pattern-match common people problems causing common people pain, those are often some of the greatest opportunities - the low-hanging fruit.”