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What's up with WhatsApp? Why messaging apps are critical to banks

Arpana Sharma Senior Manager, Omnichannel Customer Acquisition & Servicing
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September 8, 2017 - Do you feel lost without a mobile device? Research suggests mobile users can't leave their phone alone for six minutes and check it up to 150 times a day. Banks need to adapt to this fundamental shift in customer behavior.

As customer change, organizations are heavily investing in deploying bots to service them. Capital One’s chatbot Eno, Royal Bank of Scotland’s chatbot Luvo have helped streamline operations. Other banks also are allocating  investment budgets to ensure that bots not only learn and mimic human actions but also understand the language and meanings of words (e.g., Bank of America has built a profanity filter for its mobile app, erica).

While the focus on deploying bots is picking up steam, organizations should look at directing their energies towards understanding the opportunities that messaging apps will unlock in the years to come.

eMarketer projects 2.19 billion consumers will use consumer messaging apps by 2019.This trend is being led by customers in the 18-29 age segment. Organizations should focus on building solutions that appeal to digital natives as they become a dominant customer segment. If banks do not provide the seamless experience that these digital natives expect, customers may leave for a competitor – perhaps an innovative fintech which does meet expectations. 

Forrester highlights the importance of messaging apps for providing a strong digital engagement platform : frequent interactions, emotional connection, and convenience. The future provision of end-to-end services to consumers will rely on unlocking the value of messaging apps.

Consumers demand personalized services. Imagine being able to set up a new standing order through your messaging app. The messaging app would connect to your bank’s systems, and understand and execute your request directly, without the need to navigate a different app. It could also send you a message to confirm the action had been completed.

Chinese messaging app providers like WeChat are already leading the way, providing services beyond basic peer-to-peer texting. They already offer shopping, bill payments, taxi booking, social games, and a range of other complementary capabilities that connect to the messaging app. Consumers have the choice to enable these features much like settings on any other application.

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Banks, however, also need to be cautious – consumers are connected on social media; any negative interaction may impact a bank’s brand image. Given the risks associated with mobile phones, encryption of apps is critical, from personal identification number (PIN) protection to the remote scrubbing of stolen devices.

With dollars already spent on building chatbot technology powered by machine learning, natural language processing, natural language generation, and other artificial intelligence, banks should leverage these technologies to transition into the world of servicing through messaging apps. Today’s tech-savvy consumers demand seamless experiences. Messaging apps offer an opportunity for banks to differentiate themselves by providing a user-friendly way to reach customers, address consumer behaviors, and differentiate their financial institution’s services. Do you agree?

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