Few things intimidate a bank marketer like the esoteric terminology of IT, so here are the basics of website hosting in plain English.
The Spectrum of Bank Website Interactivity
If beautiful aesthetics and crisp content create a glorious bank website, then interactivity is the pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow.
When we kick off a new bank website project, clients often ask, “What new technology should we make sure to include?” or “How can we make it more interactive for our visitors?”
Both questions shine a light on the same truth: gone are the days of dull “digital brochure” websites that feature one-way communication only. Today’s customers expect, if not demand, an increasing amount of interactivity on their bank website — multiple avenues to accomplish any given objective.
It’s no longer enough for them to simply read; customers want to react.
When clients ask which elements their new bank website should include, we review their goals and then cite the pros and cons of what tend to be the most beneficial tools available. Here is our spectrum of interactivity, starting from the easiest to implement to the most complex systems:
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but there’s nothing like a disaster to force the adoption of new technology. While online schedulers existed prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 caused the number of bank websites employing this tool to grow dramatically.
With an online scheduler, visitors can confidently arrange for in-person or even virtual meetings with the appropriate bank team member. The sheer convenience this tool affords customers will likely ensure that online schedulers outlive the virus that pushed their importance.
Several reliable third-party programs, each with their own costs, can be quickly and easily integrated throughout your bank website, and BrownBoots has had excellent experiences adding several of them to our sites.
Interactivity Forecast: Fair Weather for the Foreseeable Future
If your bank has services that are available only by working directly with a staff member, an online scheduler is an affordable, labor-light way to foster an interactive atmosphere.
Believe it or not, some customers like homework. In fact, many people prefer to conduct their own research prior to reaching out to a human being. Online financial calculators allow prospects to crunch the numbers themselves. Once they are comfortable with their preliminary data — or if they find they need assistance along the way — only then do they follow up with someone at the bank.
Every BrownBoots bank website comes equipped with five standard financial calculators: a loan calculator, savings calculator, home affordability calculator, retirement calculator and a tuition calculator. We also build customized calculators as needed, though we caution clients to avoid offering an overwhelming number of estimators; analysis shows that most of them get used rarely, if ever.
Interactivity Forecast: Mostly Sunny all Year Round
Customers’ needs may change, but math doesn’t. Once a calculator has been added to your bank website, it’s available forever without any additional work or cost.
Online Account Opening
According to The Financial Brand, 87% of Americans shop for a new credit card, mortgage or deposit account online, first and foremost. So if your bank website tells visitors they must pursue these products in person, you’re sadly destined to lose a significant portion of those shoppers.
Like most interactive tools, online account opening systems encompass a wide range of options. Plenty of vendors provide a smooth process for customers and bank employees alike, integrating the account opening with a CRM and automating as much as possible. Prices for these types of integrations can vary considerably.
While BrownBoots is happy to install third-party systems, we also realize that not every bank is prepared to go fully digital with deposit account openings and loan applications, so we provide incremental solutions, including custom-built, encrypted webforms to deliver all the required information a new customer must provide as well as simple lead-generating forms that capture enough information for a banker to follow up with the prospect.
Interactivity Forecast: A Warm Front Moving In
Whether you’re ready to embrace a 100% digital approach to account opening or seeking a low-pressure system to let visitors get started online, some measure of interactivity is advised, or you may risk customers’ cold shoulders.
Over time, a bulleted list of individual account features became a comparison chart to help shoppers choose the option best suited for them. Account wizards add action to an otherwise passive experience, walking prospects through a series of simple questions to produce a strategic recommendation.
Account wizards are a small, self-contained step into an increasingly interactive arena populated by live chat, chatbots and virtual assistants. (More on that below.) These logic-driven applications can be updated as needed, and more can be added over time to build a robust customer-service tool. As with calculators, little maintenance is needed once they are installed.
BrownBoots has built product-specific wizards, such as those that help customers select the right checking account, as well as more comprehensive platforms that cover a broader range of products and services.
Interactivity Forecast: Watch for Lightning Strikes
Simply put, account wizards are selling tools that don’t cost a lot to implement and don’t put a high demand on bank employees’ time. So why not add a bit of electricity to your sales funnel?
Live chat made its debut in the banking sector a decade or so ago, but early adopters were few and far between. Today, customers tap into live chat for a variety of tasks — from resolving account problems to requesting additional information to reporting fraud — because it’s faster than filling out a webform, making a phone call and (especially) visiting a branch.
Despite the steady increase in customers willing or even eager to use text-based chat as their primary means for contacting a business, many bank websites continue to sidestep this increasingly commonplace interactive tool. Why is that?
While we have integrated third-party live chat applications on a few BrownBoots bank websites, some banks are reluctant to pull the trigger because they don’t yet have a position dedicated to typing back to live queries, let alone a team available for on-demand video chat.
Interactivity Forecast: High Chance of Storms
If history is any indicator, smaller banks will gradually adopt live chat, even as bigger financials leverage it in the present as a differentiator. Our prediction: when it rains, it pours! Live chat will increasingly become a “must have” rather than “a nice to have” on bank websites.
Whereas live chat requires an ongoing investment in employee labor, chatbots demand not only ongoing tweaks from bank staff, but also a hefty amount of time before its launch.
In a recent survey by Phoenix Synergistics, chatbots are defined as “services that answer your questions using artificial intelligence that provides automated responses…[via] online chats, emails or computer-generated phone calls.” That same survey found that chatbots ranked lowest in customer satisfaction of the four remote-service channels explored. With just over half of all users stating they were “very satisfied” with their chatbot experience, plenty of room for improvement remains.
To be blunt, chatbots are a chore. Until they become more mainstream and, therefore, easier to implement, the time required to successfully set up an intuitive chatbot — not to mention the cost — make this interactive tool unwieldy for modest-sized and small financials. However, that could change in a relatively short span.
Interactivity Forecast: Expect Patches of Fog
Will chatbots supplant face-to-face live video and text chatting as the go-to communication tool? Can they even replace the need for website navigation and serve as a central point of contact with a bank’s online branch? The future is cloudy on this one, so stay tuned!
At the end of the day, every bank has its own comfort level with existing and emerging interactivity, but as technology and its users evolve, so too must bank websites, lest they get lost in the storm.