Julia Hook
Julia Hook May 8, 2019

Much ado about do-it-yourself: The state of banking self-service

Interest in self-service is on the rise: Google Trends data shows a steady climb in popularity for the search term over the past 10 years, with the highest peaks in 2018. A November article from Forbes, "Self-service everything is the end of the call center as we know it," highlights the rise of the DIY consumer and demand for more self-service.

Even dating to 2011, the Pew Research Internet survey found 92 percent of online adults use search engines to find answers on the web, including 59 percent who do so in a typical day. Though Pew has not since updated those numbers, today 40,000 Google searches take place every second, according to Internet Live Stats. In the time it took you to read that last sentence, more than a quarter million searches were made.

One simple truth stands out: Today’s internet users expect self-service from all brand websites—including those of banks and credit unions.

On any given day, articles abound that detail the rise of banking kiosks, AI applications, digital service and more. Most touch on self-service as it applies to transactions, while less is known about how the banking industry performs around self-service for consumers and employees. For the former group, this means the ability to find quick, accurate answers to support, product and tech questions in digital channels. And for employees, self-service yields answers to policy, product and procedural questions quickly and efficiently—as when a customer service representative helps a consumer.

Self-service represents a key component of any financial institution’s strategy to improve consumer experience and revenue. In today’s competitive banking space, a poor consumer experience—in person, over the phone or online—impacts brand perception, loyalty and credibility.

In other words, a self-service strategy of giving consumers and employees fast, accurate information is no longer a “nice to have.” Rather, it’s “must have or get left behind”—with downstream effects on contact center metrics, consumer experience indicators and an institution’s bottom line.

Our 2019 survey of industry attitudes and behaviors around consumer and employee self-service sought to better understand banking industry priorities, opportunities and challenges around employee and consumer self-service: the ability to find answers and execute tasks at will. Here are some key findings:

Five insights: employee self-service

  • Most financial institutions report having a central repository to house institutional policies, procedures, product information and documentation (63 percent). But responsibility for managing this information is scattered.
  • Less than half of banks and credit unions (45 percent) display institutional policies, procedures, product information and documentation in a standardized format.
  • Institutions see great value in providing feedback channels for their employees. But barely half (53 percent) do so already.
  • For managing policies and procedures, internal systems or servers are most common. Close to half (43 percent) report a home-grown approach to creating a central document repository. Yet feelings about the effectiveness of these solutions remain mixed.
  • Revision history offers the greatest area of improvement for employee self-service features and functionality.

Five insights: consumer self-service

  • Survey results suggest financial institutions focus on digital channels for consumer support. Most banking professionals (67 percent) say their institution provides a consumer support center on their website or mobile application.
  • Management of support content is spread across departments. Marketing plays the largest role followed by Operations, Call Center and IT. Moreover, fewer than half of banking professionals (45 percent) say their institution manages support content in one central management system.
  • Roughly a third of financial institutions (36 percent) track support questions in their digital channels to inform their self-service strategy.
  • Increasing mobile and online banking adoption is important to financial institutions, which invest time and resources into different ways to achieve it. Top methods include offering support content on the website (71 percent), deploying email campaigns (65 percent) and providing in-branch tutorials (45 percent).
  • Many say the biggest roadblock to achieving improved mobile and online banking adoption rests with improved consumer and employee self-service (81 and 62 percent respectively).

Bottom line, satisfaction, efficiency: A self-service trilogy 

The survey results demonstrate that today’s financial services organizations believe self-service for employees and consumers drives operational efficiency, consumer satisfaction and the bottom line. And these same institutions now strive to improve self-service levels through centralized document repositories and support centers on websites and via mobile.

Yet opportunities for improvement in both channels exist. For employee self-service, financial institutions must look to further centralize the management of policies and procedures and provide feedback tools for frontline staff to indicate when and where procedures are unclear. Improving content management and accessibility directly impacts frontline employees who rely on accurate, searchable ways to locate policy and procedure information that best serves consumers.

And on the consumer side, most institutions provide support centers but fail to maximize their value. Few track or monitor support questions asked on their digital channels: intelligence that can inform better consumer experiences.

And so, a consumer’s confidence in finding information via digital channels is lukewarm. Moreover, there’s room for improvement in the management of support content in digital channels. Content is largely decentralized with responsibilities for its management scattered across departments.

Lastly, while banks and institutions overwhelmingly agree on the goal of improving mobile and online banking adoption, consumer self-service is a clear avenue for achieving it. Clearly, that requires an overarching team effort—for when it comes to improving self-service, no bank goes it alone.


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Julia Hook is marketing director at SilverCloud, specializing in research and digital strategy.

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