Article | 8 min read

Five ways in which financial services can use messaging to create a better experience

By Hannah Wren, Content Marketing Associate

Published February 18, 2020
Last updated November 3, 2021

The emergence of bots, AI and interactivity in messaging has transformed channels like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and iMessage from places where 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, personalised 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% of online customers and 34% 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 current 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 second,’ states 451 Research.

With over 61% 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 the promise of a better digital experience. And the pressure is on traditional financial companies to follow their lead, or their customers will change services immediately.

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 via an iMessage or an SMS experience. Facebook rolled out a similarly seamless experience in the US, 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-messaging support that’s as simple as it sounds: ‘Any questions? 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 now more important 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 have reduced support costs by more than 20%, saved more than four man-hours each day, and decreased customer churn by 20% for over 58% 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%.

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 via 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 via a 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 customers’ requirements before they arise. For example, a bank might enable messaging on its website to help with lead generation, because 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 that 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 notify customers proactively 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’ve made a flagged charge or asking for their card to be stopped if they haven’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. This allows them to know which outbound message the customer is responding to, as well as relevant background information about the customer, such as their name, email address and the type of account they hold. Without access to that crucial context, agents are completely in the dark, and fast and personal responses are next to impossible. In addition, 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 omni-channel experiences

Another benefit to messaging being sessionless is that customers can continue the conversation across channels – omni-channel support enables a three-times-faster ticket-resolution time. Switching seamlessly between public and private channels is particularly important for financial services because they deal with sensitive information. For instance, a customer might contact them via a public channel such as 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 omni-channel banking experiences hand off conversations seamlessly between bots and humans, as well between channels. This is 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 enquiries, but often want to speak to a human for more confidential concerns. With role-based messaging permissions, financial companies can connect a customer to the right person and help ensure that only the right person has access to the customer’s information.

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

5. A more human experience

Seventy per cent of consumers consider their relationship with their bank to be transactional, rather than relationship driven, according to Accenture. What’s more, 40% would be more loyal to their bank if they had a better personalised 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 personalised financial advice. Take Cleo, a cheeky 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 personalised 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 personalised 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 contacted you. It also provides a way for companies to manage this data. Companies can use the conversational data shared voluntarily by customers, always bearing privacy and compliance in mind, to amplify the customer’s voice by drawing insights that create better personalised experiences.

To learn more about how messaging is transforming customer experiences across industries, take a look at our conversational business report, The state of messaging 2020.

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