When people think about banks, the thoughts that spring to mind are images of serious people in conservative suits, large buildings with marble-floored lobbies and rows of teller windows, and well-fed men who look like the guy on a Monopoly box. Indeed, leading banks have always worked hard to maintain stellar reputations for reliability, safety, and longevity. You don’t tend to think about banks being big risk-takers, or experts at trying out new business practices or cutting edge technologies.
But when you look a little closer, the truth is, leading banks are expert at understanding and taking calculated risks, which is essential to their core business of taking deposits from some customers and prudently loaning out those funds to others. They are also remarkably forward-looking in trying out new technologies and business innovations, even if they don’t always portray themselves this way.
In the past, a lot of this innovation was aimed toward improving customer convenience. Think about something as common today as branch banking. Banks originally occupied prestigious locations in city centers, the more imposing the better. But when customers started living and shopping in the suburbs, branch locations soon sprang around malls everywhere to provide fast and easy access to financial services.
When customers started driving everywhere, banks responded with drive through tellers. I remember riding in the car with my Mom when she would pull into a drive-through teller bay and send deposits whizzing away down a vacuum tube someone working inside the building. The best part is that the teller would send candy back with the receipts because she could see kids in the car. Now that was customer service!
Next came ATMs. They are everywhere today and everyone uses them without a second thought. But when they first came on the market, no one quite knew what to think about them. What if the machine gives me the wrong amount? What if I ask for cash and nothing comes out? Isn’t it crazy to use a machine to deposit my paycheck? You used to have to put your deposit checks into an envelope and list each item before putting them into an ATM, but customers hated that. So now in the US, banking technology allows you to authorize your checks and deposit them directly into the ATM where they are digitally imaged for later display on your monthly statement.
But why bother going to an ATM to deposit checks when you can log into your bank’s smart phone app, take a photo of your check, and have the money added to your account without leaving your house?
Back to the Future: Customer Service and Engagement
Having advanced on the convenience front so far with innovative business practices and new banking technologies, leading financial institutions are now turning their attention back toward customer experience. For all of the efficiency and convenience technologies have brought to banking, banks always want to differentiate themselves with superior service. How do you do that when an increasing number of your customers experience your services through automated machines, a website or mobile app?
WebRTC (short for Web Real Time Communications) is a new technology in modern browsers that lets companies embed live voice, video, and messaging into their websites, and mobile applications as well.
With WebRTC, banks are now able to offer live customer assistance through their websites, ATMs, and mobile banking apps. Because WebRTC-powered communications are integrated into Web or mobile app experience directly, banks can choose to offer (or not offer) live online service based on when it is most valuable to their customers and to the bank. Innovators in the banking sector are piloting this new technology now through video banking solutions and we are seeing some very interesting use cases emerge from their work.
Four Use Cases
1. Wealth Management
People are busier than ever, and this seems like it is particularly true for today’s private banking customer. These are folks with larger than average net worth, often times busy executives or people who run their own businesses, and they have packed work and family lives. It’s a common practice among wealth management professionals to review a customer’s accounts once a quarter or so, but it can be difficult to find time to do this in person. With WebRTC, a video banking meeting can be scheduled online regardless of whether the customer is traveling or if schedules simply don’t allow meeting in person.
Coutts & Co, part of the world-renowned Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), has launched a video banking pilot that enables customers of the bank to video call their advisor through their mobile device or PC, powered by OpenTok. The multipoint video banking calling solution allows customers to speak to several experts simultaneously, face to face, from any location in the world, ensuring complex queries can be handled there and then. Clients can invite other parties to join the private and secure online meeting, such as joint-account holders, additional account signatories, or even third party professionals such as accountants and professional advisers.
2. Leveraging Branch Locations
For most younger bank customers, a trip to the branch is a fairly infrequent thing. With the convenience of ATMs, and online banking portals and apps at their disposal, branches are really used only for the larger transactions in life – opening a new checking account, taking out a home mortgage or auto loan, or for seeking advice on things like retirement and college savings accounts. And yet the cost of running branches is more or less the same, so banks are coming up with innovative ways to operate branches with maximum efficiency while getting the most out of customer visits.
A few of the banks we have seen are retooling branches to be staffed by qualified banking generalists, with comfortable meeting rooms equipped with video screens from which expert resources can be called to consult on any banking subject. This lets the bank leverage centralized pools of experts to assist customers, or perhaps spread the experts out among different branches so that it is not necessary to place say, an auto loan expert in every location.
3. ATMs on Steroids
We are also seeing the familiar banking technology workhorse the ATM getting an overhaul. ATMs are, after all, computer-powered kiosks for banking, so why not put a video screen directly into the ATM so that if a customer has a question they can speak with someone mid transaction? Today’s newer ATMs show advertisements for new financial products while you wait the few seconds for your transaction to be completed. What if the customer wanted to learn more about that offer right at that moment? Or maybe he would like to set up an appointment for an online consultation later using the online banking portal? Those mid-transaction advertising impressions are valuable, and there is no reason that a conversation can’t happen when voice and video communications are available from the ATM.
Bank of America recently launched ATMs with “Teller Assist”
4. It’s Not Just Customer Support
Leading banks have embraced this last point: these customer interactions aren’t solely about solving a customer’s problems. Video banking can be used for so much more. Because the customer authenticates their identity when using an ATM or when logged into an app, the service agent can view all of the financial products associated with the account. Armed with this information, every opportunity to talk to a customer becomes a chance to discuss new bank products which might better serve the customer’s needs, to talk about putting those extra dollars in savings to better use, recommend online bill pay services, or to suggest that it might be time to consider a mortgage refinance. The customer might have gone to the ATM or the banking app for something simple like withdrawing funds or to check an account balance, but they leave a more loyal and better educated customer of their financial institution.
Today’s consumers are used to communicating with companies or brands on their own terms whether it’s through a tweet, Facebook post, or ‘click to chat’ functionality. WebRTC introduces a new customer service paradigm – digital face-to-face communications within context. Where WebRTC stands out amongst digital interaction is the high degree of humanity. While other formats are largely anonymous/impersonal, driven by social accounts and asynchronous text, WebRTC-enables communications that is highly personal and engaging, fostering deeper and more meaningful interactions.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Today there are more than one billion WebRTC-enabled endpoints, meaning voice and video communications can be integrated into web browsers, personal computers and mobile devices. By the end of 2016 that number is estimated to reach over 4.6 billion. This growth will be further accelerated as we move beyond the browser through the use of platforms such as OpenTok, enabling Internet-of-Things devices to become communication devices.
As innovation progresses rapidly, there is a significant opportunity to provide highly personalized, online service directly with the customer wherever they are.
Learn how you can use the OpenTok Platform to make that possible today.