How to Really Get to Know Your Bank’s Customers: Collect Better Data

May 30, 2017

 

 

How well do you know your bank’s customers? No, really, be honest. Sure, you know their current account balance and how often they’ve overdrafted in the past year. But do you know that they just had a baby? Or that they’re planning to purchase a home in the next few months? What about their vacation plans for next year?

The reality is, the banking relationship has become very one-sided. Today’s digital banking may be more convenient, but it’s also created a disconnect between banks and their customers. When you don’t see or talk to your customers, you don’t get to know them and find out what makes them tick. All you know is their basic demographic information and where they spend their money. But people are much more than their transactional data.

You can’t serve your customers when you only know half the story. So how do you get the rest of it?

You can’t serve your customers when you only know half the story. So how do you get the rest of it? Click To Tweet

You 1) collect better data, and 2) use it to better understand and serve your customers.

And you do that by talking to them.

Start a (Virtual) Conversation

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But I already talk to my customers!” Very true. Your tellers and branch managers chat with clients that bank in person, and you have great customer support agents that engage customers by phone. But the question is: are you collecting good data from these interactions? If you’re like most banks, probably not. And what about customers who don’t use these channels? How do you have a conversation with a customer you never see?

How do you have a conversation with a customer you never see? Click To Tweet

The answer is simple: a chatbot.

You’ve probably heard of the benefits of chatbots for scaling virtual customer service and streamlining back office operations. But you may not realize that customer conversations with a chatbot generate more and richer data than what you’re currently collecting.

By offering your customers a friendly, easy-to-use chat interface, you can converse with all of your customers, wherever they are. And in the process, you’ll improve the quality of data you collect and capture more of it than you ever have before.

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Benefits of Conversational Data

Conversational data has three major advantages over traditional data collection methods.

1. It’s Automated

Human conversation is incredibly complex and useful. But it’s also pretty messy. We have a tendency to mishear, misinterpret, and forget things we’re told. Just like in the game “Telephone,” things get lost in translation, and the more people are involved, the worse it gets.

The same is true for your bank. Say a client speaks to a teller one day and a customer service representative the next; more often than not, these two conversations are siloed. Whatever information was discussed isn’t shared between the employees or recorded for future visits, and important customer data is lost.

Data collection that relies on word of mouth or employees recording client information is simply unreliable.

Chatbots automate the data collection process and capture more information that human conversation can. When a customer talks with a chatbot, the entire conversation is automatically recorded and the data stored for future analysis. Plus, the chatbot remembers all previous conversations so the customer doesn’t have to reiterate information that they previously shared. This significantly limits the potential for human error and boosts operational efficiency.

2. It’s Asynchronous

A key feature of conversational interfaces like SMS text and Facebook Messenger is that they permit asynchronous dialogue. You may get a message from a friend first thing in the morning and not respond until late in the afternoon, either because you didn’t see the message when it arrived or because you weren’t able to answer at the time.

What this means for your bank’s data collection is that you put the ball in the customer’s court. Rather than forcing them to provide information at a time that may not be convenient for them, messaging interactions let customers set the pace of the conversation. Customers provide their information when they’re most comfortable or ready. This makes the entire data collection process more convenient and customer-friendly, resulting in more complete and accurate data collection.

This two-way conversational interaction also lets banks and customers reach out to each other at any time, even outside of normal business hours — when a branch or customer service line would be closed. Banks can use this asynchronous messaging to give customers helpful push notifications or timely offers, and customers can get the information and guidance they need, when they need it. This gives banks insights into customer engagement and allows them to maintain an “always-on” banking relationship for superior customer service.

3. It’s More Human

How many times have you filled out paper forms at the DMV or doctor’s office? How enjoyable was that experience?

If you’re like most people, you probably found it pretty tedious and frustrating.

The fact is, data collection forms are impersonal and restrictive. When you fill them out, you’re probably not in the best frame of mind, and you only provide what information is asked of you, nothing more. Reducing people down to check boxes on a form tells you nothing about their personality, priorities, and goals.

So if you’re learning about your customers by having them fill out forms or by reading their transaction history, you’re getting incomplete data. And you really can’t understand your customers that way.

Conversation is a much more natural way to learn about your customers. Because conversation is more open, flexible, and personal, people are inclined to share more intimate details about themselves. When you consistently engage your customers in conversation, you’re more likely to find out important details about their life circumstances, needs, and desires so you can better serve them.

Plus, you can establish your brand as friendly and helpful outside of the branch. Your chatbot can be programmed with a personality that reflects your company’s values and makes it fun and effortless to talk to your brand. With a friendly chatbot, you can become a trusted advisor and build real relationships with your customers.

Several companies are already excelling at this. Take the U.K.-based insurance company Jack, for example. To get an insurance quote, customers usually have to fill out a series of forms or call a live agent. Not with Jack. To get a quote, customers have a short conversation with “Jack” (the company’s chatbot), who guides users through the quote request process. It’s a seamless and pleasant experience that sets the company apart from the competition.

Using Conversational Data to Improve Customer Outcomes

“All right,” you say, “I’m sold. What do I do with this fantastic conversational data now that I have it?”

I’m glad you asked.

When you really get to know your customers, you can start really serving their needs. With conversational data, you can better serve your customers in two ways:

1. Financial guidance

When you understand your customers’ financial goals, you can provide positive financial guidance to help them achieve them.

For example, say your customer is saving up for a vacation to Europe next year. If you know when they’re planning to go and how much the trip will cost, you can give them proactive savings tips to help them afford the trip.

By supporting your customer’s financial goals, you’ll build a deeper, more trusting relationship with them and earn their loyalty.

2. Tailored and timely product recommendations

Knowing your customers’ life stages and financial circumstances enables you to better match your bank’s product offerings to your customers’ current and future needs.

For example, if a customer repeatedly asks your chatbot about this month’s budget, you know that they’re probably struggling to make ends meet right now. Your chatbot can help by making a timely offer for a new savings account with a higher interest rate or suggest opening a credit card with cash back and rewards.

By keeping track of your customer’s financial state through conversation, your brand can consistently meet their needs and exceed their expectations for customer service.

Conclusion

A lot of banks claim their competitive edge is truly understanding their customers, but not many actually deliver on the promise. Better customer data collection through conversation can close this gap and make your bank stand out from the competition.

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