The emergence of bots, AI, and interactivity in messaging has transformed channels like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and iMessage from places we chat to platforms where we do business. Conversational business is only going in one direction—Gartner estimates that “by 2022, 70% of all customer interactions will involve emerging tools like chatbots, machine learning, and mobile messaging, up from 15% in 2018.”1

While the financial industry has previously been a slower contestant in the digital transformation race, fintech companies are on the rise and changing the competition. They’re taking a bite of the conversational business cake and eating it too, creating fast, personalized, and secure messaging experiences that go beyond meeting customers where they are. And, traditional banks are catching on.

Here are five reasons why conversational customer experiences pay off for financial services.

1. The promise of a better digital experience

Customers are used to easy digital experiences in all areas of their lives and the standard is no different for financial services. However, online banking often falls short: only 44 percent of online customers and 34 percent of mobile customers reported that their online banking service is easy to use, according to a study by Bain & Company.

Many of the major tech companies are using traditional banks’ shortcomings as an opportunity to push into finance with new and improved digital offerings—from Apple’s credit card to Amazon’s small business loans to Google’s plans for a smart checking account—and consumers are eager to try them. “When we probe the top reasons why these consumers are willing to bank with tech providers, the ‘promise of a better digital experience’ ranks as the number-two factor,” states 451 Research.

With over 61 percent of consumers reporting that messaging is the easiest, most convenient way to contact a business, many digital-first financial services are putting their money where their messaging is to attract the next generation of customers and deliver on that promise of a better digital experience. And the pressure is on traditional financial companies to follow their lead, or their customers will change services on a dime.

For example, with Google Pay, users can send money to contacts using the payment method of their choice as well as claim money sent to them and transfer it directly to their debit card account all through an iMessage or a SMS experience.Facebook rolled out a similarly seamless experience in the U.S., enabling users to send and transfer money within Messenger.

Or, Venmo, whose mobile payment experience is so easy that millennials rarely carry cash because of it, also now lets users request payments via iMessage as well as message for help within its mobile app. Similarly, Apple Card rolled out 24/7 text message support that’s as simple as it sounds: “Have a question? Just text,” says Apple.

2. Next-generation self-service

Nearly half of finance and insurance businesses have embraced virtual assistants for everything from lead generation to customer support. Among the latter, self-service is one area where this trend stands out. Self-service is important now more than ever, as consumers move from bank branches to 24/7 account access. Chatbots help financial services keep up, enabling fast answers and always-on support. In so doing, chat assistants reduced support costs by more than 20 percent, saved more than 4 man-hours each day, and decreased customer churn by 20 percent for over 58 percent of retail banking and insurance respondents in a Bain & Company survey.

Bots for banking support are evolving from live chat machines to human-like messaging agents. In contrast to live chat, messaging is asynchronous. This enables customers to begin and end the conversation at their convenience, which is one reason why messaging has the highest satisfaction rating of any channel, with a CSAT of 98 percent.

Bank of America’s Erica, which reached one million users in 2 months, is a prime example. Customers can message her to replace lost cards, dispute charges, and get weekly snapshots of their monthly spending, among other things. They can also communicate with her through voice for improved accessibility.

Or, with Wells Fargo’s Facebook Messenger bot, customers can get directions to the nearest ATM and with Capital One’s Eno, they can pay credit card bills over text message. And these bots pay off when it comes to enabling self-service for routine tasks—in one study banking customers gave a 20-point higher average Net Promoter Score to routine activities performed online over those accomplished over the phone or in-person.

3. Actionable proactive support

With proactive messaging support, companies can anticipate customer needs before they arise. For example, a bank might enable messaging on its website to help with lead generation as processes like applying for a loan often require a long, multi-step web form. Embedding a messaging pop up allows potential customers to ask questions before they get stuck, lowering the chances they’ll give up and abandon the form.

What’s important about proactive messaging experiences is that they’re actionable. For instance, Robinhood is rolling out messaging to proactively communicate actionable updates to users about their holdings, such as stocks, options, and crypto purchases or sales. Similarly, banks are using messaging to proactively notify customers of suspicious charges, when it’s almost time to pay a bill, or if an account balance is running low. What makes these notifications actionable is that customers can act on them within the thread, for instance, by confirming that they made a flagged charge or asking to pause their card if they didn’t.

Conversational business is a two-way street. Outbound messages are proactive, but most of the time, they aren’t conversational. Financial companies must be prepared for customers to respond to their notifications. This requires a connective layer of tissue that unifies messages from every channel into a single conversation so that agents are armed with context that allows them to know what outbound message the customer is responding to as well as relevant background information on that customer, like their name, email, and account type. Without access to that crucial context, agents are completely in the dark, and fast and personal responses are next to impossible. Additionally, features such as WhatsApp’s Verified Business Profiles add credibility on third-party messaging channels because customers know who the notification is coming from.

4. Secure omnichannel experiences

Another benefit to messaging being sessionless is that customers can continue the conversation across channels—omnichannel support enables a three times faster ticket resolution time. Seamlessly switching between public and private channels is particularly important for financial services since they deal with sensitive information. For instance, a customer might reach out through a public channel like Facebook, for convenience. If an agent needs to reference sensitive information, they can transfer the customer to the company’s own secure app or web chat, or an encrypted messaging channel like WhatsApp.

Truly omnichannel banking experiences seamlessly hand-off conversations between bots and humans as well between channels. That’s because different financial conversations require a different blend of digital and human processes, according to Bain & Company: customers tend to prefer bots for routine financial inquiries, but often want to speak with a human for higher-stakes concerns. With role-based messaging permissions, financial companies can connect a customer to the right person and help ensure only the right person has access to that customer’s information.

Whether a customer is transferring between a bot and a human or between channels, it’s always a bad experience when they have to repeat themselves. That’s why banks will need that sameconnective layer of tissue to prepare them with context and conversation history.

5. A more human experience

70 percent of consumers consider their relationship with their bank to be transactional, rather than relationship-driven, according to Accenture. What’s more, is that 40 percent would be more loyal to their bank for a better personalized experience.

Messaging in itself is more personal than other channels as it places a company next to a customer’s friends and family. That’s why many fintech companies are using messaging to provide personalized financial advice. Take Cleo, a sassy bot that makes budgeting easy, and even fun. Ask her to roast you and she’ll use GIFs of Cersei Lannister to teach you how to budget better. Similarly, Plum a Facebook Messenger bot, also available on the Plum app, sends users personalized savings advice, using emojis for encouragement along the way.

With messaging, customer conversations are also more abundant, more complete, and available in one central place. Again, having a complete view of the customer is imperative to a personalized messaging experience as it gives businesses the necessary context for more intimate interactions, such as how long a customer has been with the company, their order history, or why they last reached out as well as provides a way for companies to manage this data. Companies can use the conversational data customers voluntarily share, of course keeping privacy and compliance in mind, to amplify the voice of the customer by drawing insights that create better personalized experiences.

To learn more about how messaging is transforming customer experiences across industries, check out our conversational business report, State of Messaging 2020.

1Gartner, Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center, Brian Manusama, Nadine LeBlanc, Simon Harrison, 11 June 2019

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