I worked on the first web-chat deployment at Lloyds TSB back in 2006. At the time, we were convinced it would deliver us a range of sales and customer satisfaction benefits. And yet, it flopped. It was hard to operationalise and customers were decidedly lukewarm. I’ve been a little cynical of real-time digital communications since then, but a recent statistic in Celent’s recent Myths and Misconceptions in Digital Channels report caught my eye.
Celent have identified that tablet ownership is a clear predictor of video chat usage (e.g., Face Time or Skype), with tablet owners nearly twice as likely to have ever done so (59% versus 36%). This is very significant when you consider the growth in tablet ownership - up to around 35% for US respondents. However this figure rises to over 50% for those with salaries over $100k p.a.
This means there is a growing device class which is particularly popular with wealthy customers who already have a high propensity to use video-chat technology. The devices and technology are reaching critical mass.
This is significant because many banks are still struggling to connect with customers online – particularly during sales processes. I’ve always believed that video chat would be much better for banking than webchat. From a customer’s perspective, it is easier to initiate – it takes just one click, no tricky numbers to remember or dial in. The face to face option gives the customer a more human touch.
From the bank’s side, the customer interactions are likely to be faster than via webchat – where customers tend to drift off mid-conversation. They also provide the opportunity for banks to differentiate their service, by providing a human interaction – which can be particularly tricky to achieve through digital channels. It is one of the ways a bank can deploy an effective and targeted omni-channel sales process.
The word targeted is significant here. Obviously, deploying this technology will involve cost. Rather than try and video-chat enable all online processes, bank must stay focused on targeting the right customers at the right times.
All this given, I believe the changes to customer behaviours and device adoption are now sufficiently advanced to make online video chat a meaningful opportunity for banks. Time to turn the hype into a reality.