Voice of the Customer

A new UK study on 2,000 consumers and 500 banks reveals that many customers feel let down by their banks’ lack of online services and support since lockdown, with 58% unable to access the help or online banking facilities they need from home, at a time they need them the most.

With high street banks only open for limited hours, the most common complaint since lockdown by a third of customers was not being able to get through online when needed, and 30% criticised their bank for failing to respond to their query in real time.

The report “The UK digital banking landscape during a pandemic” by managed cloud communications provider, Olive follows recent news on the temporary failings of the online banking systems of major banks, which left thousands of customers unable to access banking services and customer call centres during lockdown.

Disconnected services

Olive found that customers’ frustrations with their bank’s digital services, were heightened further by fragmented online banking services and support channels with a quarter complaining of customer service channels not being joined up.

Nearly half said there was no way of contacting their bank online through live chat, virtual agent or social media and a combined third of customers were unable to reach their bank by phone or email for enquiries.

A quarter highlighted that no video banking facilities are available, failing to meet their online banking needs, particularly among Millennials and the Generation Zs.

Banks unaware of current dissatisfaction 

In spite of Olive’s consumer findings, banks have been striving to improve their online banking services for some time. Olive polled 500 banks both before and during the pandemic. 60% admitted back in February, before Covid-19 struck the UK, that their online banking services were not up to standard for the next generation of digital natives such as Generation Zs. As a result, 69% of banks said they were planning to improve their online banking facilities and customer service this year.

The impact of Covid-19 has seen these plans to digitally transform services fast tracked, with 73% of banks polled by Olive since the pandemic spending £50,000 or more in improving their digital and online customer services; one in three have invested between £500,000 and £2 million.

As a result, 58% of banks believe they have successfully met the heightened demand in customers’ online banking needs since Covid-19 – a stark contrast to Olive’s consumer findings.

“While some high street banks do provide excellent digital services, our research highlights the need for wider digitalisation of the industry,” said Martin Flick, CEO at Olive. “Lockdown has been a real opportunity for banks to aid and support their customers through testing times, by providing the best in collaborative, online customer service; enabling customers to stay safe and observe social distancing rules by being able to bank online, whenever and however.

“Despite banks investing significant sums in enhancing their digital banking systems since Covid-19, our report shows that consumers are still feeling immensely frustrated by the lack of choice, accessibility and at times, quality of online services. In particular, a clear 60% of Gen Zs and Millennials feel their digital banking needs are still not been met – a generation where immediacy and convenience are essential, as with generations before.

“The key is knowing what banking customers of all ages want and ensuring the services on offer are connected and collaborative. As with our work with financial providers such as Yorkshire Building Society, a clear omnichannel strategy combined with AI is critical to bring all points of customer contact together to enable consumers to reach their bank when they want, how they want and where they want. Adding this additional layer of intelligence, data and insight, banking staff are empowered to offer smarter, more personalised interactions, while delivering a more seamless customer experience that resolves queries at greater speeds.”

Gen Z’s – the next generation of customer

Prior to Covid-19, in February 2020 Olive also sampled a separate 2000 Generation Z customers to explore their banking habits. 63% felt let down by a lack of online services and support that met their banking needs even before the pandemic. One in five highlighted again the lack of online chat or video banking available.

A quarter of this generation which accounts for £111 billion worth of spending power, said “having live chat operators 24/7” and “fingerprint technology” is most important to them. One in five said “calls to be answered quicker” is crucial, and 11% requested a better handover from virtual (VA) to human assistance when dealing with their enquiries.

Over half of Gen Zs (61%) prefer to bank out of hours, before 8am or after 6pm, with a third (37%) wanting access to a branch or pop up branch.

Flick continues: “While there are digital provisions in place from financial services providers, much more could be done to meet their consumers’ needs and to tap into the huge potential of spending power of the next Generation Z.

“Advances in AI and machine learning means a 24/7 customer service is possible while the latest collaboration tools can seamlessly bridge all services into one platform for a meaningful and consistent experience across all channels. But it’s essential that financial providers get on board now. AI is fundamental to a positive customer experience. It unlocks the art of the possible.”

Key points again:

  • 58% of consumers unable to access much needed online banking services since lockdown
  • One in five were unable to reach their bank by phone
  • A quarter complained of disconnected customer service channels
  • Yet, 1 in 3 banks invested between £500,000 and £2m to improve their online services since Covid-19

This new research follows recent reports of failing online banking services among major banks

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