Spanish people are fundamentally changing the way they deal with their banks, savings banks and insurers, according to a new study by BT and Avaya.
In the two years since the companies last conducted a similar study*, the number of different ways (or channels) that people use to contact their financial services providers has grown by 50 per cent. In 2012, people contacted their banks, savings banks and insurers using an average of 4.5 different channels, such as face-to-face at the branch, telephone, mobile app, website, ATM machine, social media or by post. The new study finds that in 2014, people use an average of 6.7 channels.
Much of this growth is the result of a surge in the number of people using digital channels such as mobile apps, web chat, in-branch technology and video calls to interact with their financial services provider. In Spain, 71 per cent of people online use smartphones and the number of them using mobile apps has leapt from 10 per cent in 2012, to 34 per cent in 2014. Webchat has grown from four per cent to 10 per cent in the same period.
But despite the growing use of these digital channels, it appears that people still want the human touch traditionally delivered by their bank branch. The survey found that four out of five people had visited a branch in the year surveyed and 59 per cent say they know the name of at least one person in their bank. In-branch innovation is also important to Spanish people, with 67 per cent saying that free access to wi-fi would make branches more appealing and 49 per cent valuing access to a computer.
The emergence of video as a new contact channel could help financial services companies provide a human touch in the new digital age. Video is beginning to be used more frequently, with seven per cent of people having tried it to contact their financial services companies in 2014 (versus one per cent in 2012).
The study finds that 67 per cent of people buy more from finance companies that are easy to do business with (up from 35 per cent in 2012). Sixty-four per cent of people say that they use self-service for simple transactions. The cost to a company of handling a self-service interaction can be as little as one tenth of that of a regular telephone enquiry, freeing up companies' budgets to invest in improving overall customer experience. But the survey also suggests that a balance needs to be struck by finance companies in how they use this technology. Sixty one per cent of people think that banks, savings banks and insurers have focused too much on automating services and forty five per cent say that they are too faceless.
Jacinto Cavestany, VP Iberia and head of sales Europe, BT Global Services, said:
"Banks, savings banks and insurers looking to build loyalty and win new business will find this research very useful indeed. It captures a step-change in how people interact with their financial services providers.
"The research shows that people have a huge appetite for new technologies that make companies easy to do business with but still want the human touch of traditional service. Successful financial services companies will be those that strike the right balance between automation and human interaction, ensuring they work harmoniously — whether that interaction takes place face-to-face or is delivered over the phone, video or web-chat. Through our portfolio of branch and contact centre technology and services, BT and Avaya can help banks, savings banks and insurers orchestrate all the communication channels people expect in the most integrated and cost-effective ways, helping them grow customer loyalty and win new business."
José Antonio Paz, country manager for Avaya in Spain and Portugal, said:
"The branch is still important and this research tells us that customers aren't substituting one channel for another. Instead, customers are happy to combine traditional channels with digital ones to achieve the best result as a multichannel model.
"This increasing customer dexterity poses a real opportunity for savvy companies to differentiate themselves. By delivering an omnichannel customer service experience which is consistent yet tailored to individual preferences and habits, financial services companies can finally start to deliver an in branch-quality experience across any channel or device."
BT has been working with financial services companies for over 30 years, from international trading floors to retail bank branches, insurance companies' contact centres to major corporate head offices, providing them with technology that underpins all aspects of their business.
*Youbiquity Finance; BT and Avaya, 2012