There’s no doubt that COVID-19 accelerated consumer expectations around seamless digital experiences, which has driven banks to invest in furthering their digital capabilities. This is an obvious way forward for both customers and brands. Brands can lower the cost of service, and customers can avoid the annoying telephone and branch queues. While many things can be done online using self-serve, we still gravitate towards human intervention and assistance from time to time. “Chat” is a logical way of bridging these two worlds, and our research shows a growing use of this channel.
But whilst Chat is growing, our Moments of Truth study in Australian Retail Banking has shown that, as yet, there has not been a noticeable drop off in the use of other channels. Our results also show that for those that use it, chat is usually the first port of call to resolve the query and most report that they are likely to continue using it. Customers are using chat almost equally across channels: online banking, the company’s public website, and from within a mobile app, which shows that it’s an appealing way of engaging with brands across a range of situational contexts. Our research shows that at this stage, the customer ‘job to be done’ that drives usage of the chat function over other channels is a general inquiry or problem resolution rather than product research.
Our results tracking the performance of Chat across Australian Retail banking reveal four important operational breakpoints for brands to understand and monitor.
These industry breakpoints are consistent with the types of guardrails we see for interactions in other channels. They consider customers’ expectations around how long it takes to get a response, length of chat, and resolution rates.
Customers expect a response within 5 minutes, and NPS drops off markedly if the chat duration exceeds 10 minutes. These figures also outline that knowledge is power. Customers are more likely to recommend the channel when an organisation can quickly and effectively answer questions.
A key measure that is also highly important is how easy they were to deal with, which is going to be in part influenced by these operational outcomes, but is also a marker for the quality of the interaction on the chat itself. And that’s where brands are still struggling with the purely digital part of chat. Across the industry (and, of course, it varies by brands), the mix of chat conversations across humans (live chat), AI chatbots and both is roughly equal. And whilst the AI chatbot-only conversations outperform on efficiency measures, response time and chat duration, they carry lower resolution rates and lower customer satisfaction with “easy”.
If we equalise the operational elements of the experience across these different use cases, we can see that the Human obtains an overall better score for the SAME outcome than the other two delivery methods. In the hypothetical scenario below, where a chat enquiry is answered in under 5 mins, completed in under 10 mins, and resolved by the end, we can see the difference in NPS across different chat agents.
What does this mean for brands?
To increase perceived humanness, many systems with conversational user interfaces (e.g., AI chatbots) use response delays to simulate the time it would take humans to respond to a message. However, as we can see from the breakpoints above, delayed responses can negatively impact user satisfaction, particularly in situations where fast response times are expected, such as in customer service. Brands who engage in delayed responses to Chat interactions, even if only a few seconds, could be missing the point of this channel! They also look to use Natural Language Processing but have a way to go.
The disparity in NPS results across digital and human poses challenges for brands looking to remove humans from the equation altogether and still maintain positive customer sentiment towards the channel and ultimately, the brand. There is a fine line between technology and human interaction due to the empathy and sense of value a human can provide. These experiences need to be seamlessly connected. At this stage, the technology is not yet able to provide a seamless experience as well as high-resolution rates, so humans still have to get involved. But one thing that Chat does do is remove some of the communication issues that can arise in telephone conversations. This, in part, maybe a way to get around some of the implicit human biases that customers have with offshore call centres that are more formulaic and use more standardised responses.
It’s not so surprising, then, that at this stage of the game, the brands which are performing the best in Chat are the ones that have a higher use of humans in the interaction. Newcomer UP has the highest % of human vs AI chatbot interactions, followed by ING. But UP’s lead amongst the competitive set is also fuelled by market-leading resolution rates; 97% of its Chat interactions are resolved by the end, vs only 75% to 80% of those amongst the big4 banks. Westpac stands out for exceptional response times, with 64% answered within 5 minutes and 87% dealt with in under 10 minutes which far exceeds CBA, ANZ and NAB. But this lineup is ever-changing, and it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse and monitor whether you are within the critical operational guardrails that underpin good performance outcomes.
Digital adoption is not an aged-based play!
Naturally, any conversation involving the digital vs human debate sees our clients speculating that it’s really just older people who hold onto human interactions! Whilst as a general trend, this is partly true, digital has been more readily adopted by younger cohorts; we would be missing a trick if we ignored the wider cohort of customers. Our research shows that across brands 32% of customers aged 50 to 74 think they will use Chat a little, if not a lot more, in the future. At this point, I like to share the experience I have with my 80-year-old mother, who whips out her mobile to check the menus via the QR codes the moment we sit down in a café, vs me a young at heart and I like to think forward-thinking 50 year old, who prefers to go up to the counter and get the real thing. Age is not the only factor and many other contextual and psychosocial drivers of digital adoption play a role.
If brands truly want to drive digital adoption, it’s not a great strategy to sit around and wait for a new generation of customers! Here are three behavioural interventions you can use to help reframe preferences for a real human, highlight the benefits of digital, and drive greater use of your Chat function. These are drawn from BVA Nudge Consulting‘s proprietary Drivers of Influence, summarising 200+ human biases into 21 Drivers of Influence©. We’ve made it simple so you can apply it!
Our Australian Moments of Truth Study in Retail banking benchmarks both the behavioural and operational aspects of Chat experiences and allows brands to set themselves apart from the rest, increase efficiency and, most importantly, customer satisfaction. MOT complements your internal perspective giving a competitive lens and powerful insight into industry breakpoints and acceptable service thresholds for operational performance. Context is king! The market is always moving, and you can guarantee that your competitors are also investing in digital capability.