While financial services organizations know the importance of search engine optimization (SEO), few emphasize the need to optimize search and support on their websites. At the same time, more people than ever now engage with a bank’s digital channels—which demands intuitive search and easy-to-find support information.
This reality begs the question: What impact does failure to optimize your digital support strategy have on your institution's customer experience, call center service levels and mobile adoption? Let’s examine all three of these categories.
Customer experience: A bank’s digital channel sets the tone for overall brand experience. While financial institutions may not compete directly with Netflix, Amazon or Google, these companies set the bar. Consumers expect self-service functionality everywhere, even when they search for support answers on banking websites or mobile applications. Experience not only drives revenue, but also net promoter scores and the overall likelihood for referrals.
Call center volumes: Banks and credit unions continue to invest heavily in technology that enables self-service in their digital channels. But the more technology introduced, the more call center volume grows. A large percent of this consists of technology or support-related inquiries. Forward-thinking financial institutions optimize their site search and digital support centers to combat this trend by providing detailed “How To” answers to support questions that inundate call centers and frustrate consumers. A robust digital support strategy meets consumer demands for the 24/7 self-service they now expect.
Mobile adoption: Financial institutions understand just how mobile adoption removes friction from the consumer’s journey and positions them as a bank of choice. Yet as more self-service mobile banking options appear (e.g. online account opening, mobile deposit, online bill pay), consumers have more questions. These investments increase the need for self-service support around new technologies. Focus on increasing support and mobile adoption will rise.
In particular with online accounts, there’s a cause for concern. BAI Banking Outlook finding show that more than half of customers (57 percent) would prefer to open a deposit account online, while 47 percent would prefer an online option with loans. Yet it turns out that nearly half of financial institutions surveyed do not allow the first account to be opened online.
To deliver the experience consumers demand, financial services organizations must optimize their digital support centers with content that’s easy to find and follow. But how do you know what consumers seek?
Search engines, bank websites and mobile apps: Not all searches are the same
Turning your website, mobile, and online banking applications into a true digital support center involves more than a simple search bar: Search should inform content strategy. By monitoring the questions consumers ask in search, you can ensure you provide the right answers across your digital channels. It’s a continuous process but directly impacts your institution’s experience and service levels.
What’s more, it’s important to understand the difference between consumers’ behavior within a search engine and a bank’s website and mobile applications.
Consumers today turn to Google to find just about “the best” anything: from restaurants to dishwasher repairmen. The more we do this, the more specific our searches become and the more numerous the words in the query. For example, search queries for restaurants are typically four or more words (e.g. “Mexican restaurants near me”); those for dishwashers might contain six or more (“the best top-loading washing machines”). A study by AHREFS found that more than 60 percent of Google searches have four or more words per search. And that number is growing.
However, data from SilverCloud shows that the same search patterns do not apply to search within a bank or credit union’s digital channels. Searches on banking websites and mobile banking apps average 1.4 words, compared to four on search engine platforms. Users are not searching for “the best checking account for me” on a bank website as they would on Google. Instead, they use broader terms such as “online banking.”
Two main drivers explain this search behavior. First, banking consumers are already on the desired site and therefore utilize narrower searches. Secondly financial terminology can sound confusing and unfamiliar. As a result, consumers who don’t know specific banking terms may default to broad search terms to zero in on answers.
For a bank or credit union working to provide strong support content, this behavior makes it harder to understand a searcher’s intent. The solution? Banks must provide a variety of answers for the user in order to anticipate needs.
Do, know and go: What you need to know
Writing strong support content begins with understanding a searcher’s intent. Google distinguished scientist Andrei Broder identified three main types of search queries that users conduct:
- Transactional: The user wants to get to a website with more interaction, e.g. a purchase, download, sign-up, or registration.
- Informational: The user is looking for a specific piece of information.
- Navigational: The user seeks a particular website or page.
Google has since shortened these categories to three words: do (transactional), know (informational) and go (navigational).
If you know users on your website and mobile applications enter shorter queries and have one of these three main categories of intent, you can then determine questions and answers needed for a popular search term.
Let’s take “online banking” as an example. Below is one example of how that search term looks when analyzed in this manner:
- Transactional/do: How do I register for online banking?
- Informational/know: Do you offer online banking?
- Navigational/go: Take me to my online banking login.
Banks and credit unions should review their digital channels to see whether they provide support content for all the ways consumers seek information. Content around general search terms should be robust enough address the many reasons consumers interact with digital channels. Most search terms require 10 or more custom answers to address the three areas of intent.
The top 20 banking search terms on bank and credit union websites
Need a head start in finding those plum search terms? Based on 2018 statistics, the top 20 are:
- Routing number
- Overdraft protection
- Order checks
- Skip a payment
- Online banking
- Wire transfers
- Credit card
- Open account
- Account number
- Direct deposit
- Address change
- Loan rates
- Debit card
- Check card
- CD rates
- Mobile deposit
Remember that as much as customers search for answers, you are as well. By giving them the right information in the right way and at the right time, part of your challenging search will end just as theirs begins.
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DJ Haskins is the vice president of Marketing at SilverCloud.