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Online Chat and Mobile Personal Bankers Add a Personal Touch

May 20, 2021

Digital-personal banking channels, including online chat and mobile personal bankers, have experienced significant growth in usage and potential as financial institutions (FIs) look for innovative alternatives to personalize customer experiences. These channels blend digital technology with a personal touch. While online chat can include both text-based and video options, text-based chat currently has a slight edge over video in terms of consumer preference. The mobile-personal-banker concept, which provides customers with an assigned personal banker they contact via their mobile phone, is also appealing to consumers. These are among the findings from a recent study, Transforming Channels for the New Digital Reality, by Phoenix Financial Services. A highlight of the study was an online survey conducted with 1,500 consumer financial decision-makers ages 18 and older.

More than one-third (36%) of consumers report they have used text-based chat on the website of one of their financial institutions. Average reported frequency among users is 2.9 times per month. Usage is stronger among Gen Z and Millennials than among Gen X and Baby Boomers. Importantly, there is widespread satisfaction among users, with 92% indicating they were satisfied with their most-recent experience and 66% saying they were “very satisfied.” Most of the text-based chat activity was performed either on a mobile phone or desktop PC, with few users mentioning usage via tablets. Users’ primary activities were problem resolution, account maintenance, and asking questions about accounts and services they were interested in. Potential for growth is strong, with four in ten (39%) nonusers indicating they would be likely to use text-based chat.

Close to three in ten (27%) consumers indicate they have used online video chat to interact with an FI. Like text-based chat, usage is stronger among Gen Z and Millennials when compared to older generations. Average frequency reported by users is 3.2 times per month. Satisfaction again is quite strong, with 93% indicating they were satisfied overall with their most-recent experience and 64% saying they were “very satisfied.” Most video-chat activity is performed via mobile phone or desktop PC, with few using tablets. The top banking activities performed with video chat are account maintenance and obtaining information. Future potential is notable, with one-third of nonusers reporting they would be likely to use online video chat.

Users and prospects for online text-based and video chat were asked about their overall preferences between the two methods. Four in ten (42%) prefer text-chat systems, one-fourth (26%) prefer online video chat, and close to three in ten (28%) find both methods equally acceptable.

Nearly three in ten (28%) consumers say they have used mobile personal bankers. Similar to online chat, usage is found to be stronger among Gen Z and Millennials when compared to older generational segments. Average monthly frequency reported by users is 3.3. The top activities include account maintenance and requesting information on new products and services. One-third (33%) of nonusers indicate they would be likely to use a mobile personal banker.

Comparisons with a previous Phoenix Financial Services survey show dramatic growth for each of these alternatives since 2019. Some of this increase is quite likely due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A significant number of users of each type of system report that they either began using the service or they increased their usage of these methods during the pandemic.

As FIs wrestle with digital-transformation programs, a great deal of discussion revolves around a “phygital” channel strategy that blends physical and digital channels. In the survey, consumers were asked about their ideal overall channel preference for financial activities. Results reveal that four in ten (40%) would prefer an all-digital process. (These are primarily younger consumers, ages 18 to 49.) One-third (33%) indicate a preference for an all-in-person process. (These are primarily consumers age 50 and older). Those preferring an all-in-person process were asked about the acceptability of a combination of in-person and digital contact. A slight majority (51%) would find a combination of in-person and digital contact acceptable, a finding that increases with age. Overall, seven in ten (71%) consumers would accept some degree of digital interaction with their FIs.

Bill McCracken of Phoenix Financial Services, stated, “Digital-personal channels are playing a major role as banks implement digital-transformation programs. These methods represent the best of both worlds. Consumer usage has grown and potential for further growth is strong. Gen Z and Millennial generations are most positive. Strong consumer satisfaction is a bonus. It is interesting that these channels are being used for new product information, which is important for account-acquisition programs. Consumers may perceive these channels as a more low-pressure sales approach, which they like. All in all, online chat and mobile personal bankers can be successful components of a phygital channel strategy.”

These are among the findings from a recent Phoenix Financial Services study, Transforming Channels for the New Digital Reality, which features 1,500 online interviews with consumer financial decision-makers ages 18 and older.

Phoenix Synergistics, a unit of Phoenix Financial Services, is the leading provider of multi-sponsor marketing research for the financial services industry. For more information, contact Bill McCracken, president, Phoenix Synergistics, email bill.mccracken@phoenixmi.com

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