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To say that technology has changed banking is an understatement. Your customers can now access their accounts whenever and wherever they like, deposit checks without coming to your drive-thru and turn their debit cards on and off. As an institution, you’re sitting on massive amounts of data, and you can use advanced analytics and advertising platforms to target and track campaigns to the most specific degree possible.

But in this boom of technology and data, a disturbing trend has come to light. There appears to be an overdependence on technology to do all the work. I’ve seen this with financial institutions I work with, as well as internally at the company I work for. However, this cannot possibly be the right solution because you don’t serve machines, you serve people.

This leads me to my main point: technology is a means to an end, not the end itself. The true end is more meaningful and deeper interactions with your customers and potential customers. This may sound odd coming from someone working at a web development company. However, we always stress to our team members to keep the people, both our clients and their customers, in mind on every project. Because no matter how technologically advanced the industry gets, human interaction is still a requirement. The technology your bank uses should inform the conversation your staff has with your customers.

Interactions, a communications company based in Massachusetts, partnered with the Center for Research on the Information Society on a study looking at the human touch in the customer service experience.

One of the main findings of the study was that the quicker you can get a solution to your customer the better, stating, “In today’s world of instant gratification, what consumers want most from their customer service experiences is speed and accuracy. The study found that customers’ ‘frustration mounts as the time ticks away’ without a resolution or a response.”

Another high-level finding from the study showed that most customers would visit a company’s website to start their customer service experience. “All of the study respondents indicated that they initiate the customer service journey by first visiting the company’s website. In some cases, this is just to locate the customer service phone number, but other users reported that they often use the FAQ section to try and avoid contacting customer service altogether,” the report stated.

So what about banking-specific examples. Let’s say you have an online deposit account application on your website. A customer can enter in all the basic information you would normally ask for face to face:

  • Name
  • Contact information
  • Residential information
  • Which account they’d like to open
  • Any information for a joint account

When this person then comes into your branch to complete the account opening process, the information they submitted is already there in your system, meaning your staff doesn’t have to spend time asking for it, but can instead focus on finishing the account opening process and getting the customer in and out in as little time as possible.

Another example is live chat. Instead of forcing customers to fit their problem into a limited list in an automated phone system, live chat allows them to type in their specific problem or question. This allows your team to provide the best solution in as little time as possible, making it a win-win customer interaction.

Over-reliance on technology takes the human element out of community banking. Isn’t the cornerstone, of community banking the idea that you create lasting relationships where your customers are more than just a number or a data set? I don’t think any community banker would disagree.

Therefore, keep the human interaction in mind when evaluating new technology. Ask yourself how this new software or analytics program will enrich the conversations your staff has with customers, or at the very least save time in face-to-face interactions.

Don’t be blinded by the shine of fancy technology at the expense of the personal relationships you’ve invested time to build. Instead, look at how it can help you do your job – serving the needs of your customers and community – better.

Matt Cunard, Sr. Digital Marketer

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