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Digitalizing customer service and support in SMB lending

Banks that provide a seamless, digitally optimized online application experience will be well positioned to attract business and increase profitability.

May 24, 2023 / Business Banking

As rising interest rates reduce the pool of small business borrowers, the lending landscape has grown increasingly competitive, amplifying the need for banks to keep business customers engaged. Beyond meeting them online, banks must provide a more seamless service experience throughout the digital application process.

Banks are struggling to get some customers over the finish line. Even though six out of 10 businesses prefer to apply for a loan on their online lending platforms, abandonment rates are as high as 60% within only five minutes of online activity, often due to a disconnected experience.

Making customer service digital-first can help banks combat these challenges, increase conversions and gain much-needed revenue, all while providing borrowers with a better experience. For example, consider what happens when a customer runs into a question or issue with an online loan application and the bank still relies on a phone-first approach to customer service. The customer is then faced with three choices: dial the call center, visit the branch, or abandon ship.

In the first scenario, the customer would have to disengage from the online experience to dial a phone number, be routed to the correct department, wait in a queue to speak to a representative and then reauthenticate and re-explain the issue at hand. The second option requires the customer to wait until the branch is open, find time in their schedule, drive to the branch and wait until a representative can assist. And, door number three involves the customer giving up entirely, a missed opportunity for all parties. Sadly, this third option is all too common.

There is another option, however, that allows banks to deliver personal, secure support within the context of where the customer is in the application journal. With digital-first customer service, banks can provide optionality to the customer from within the digital experience, letting them select how they want to engage: via chat, voice, video, ideally with online collaboration tools, such as CoBrowsing, that help banks guide people online and provide personalized service. It’s not just about meeting customers online but keeping them there. The ability to easily transition across all channels—from chat to video, for example, with the same representative reduces friction that would typically otherwise drive customer abandonment. This continuity not only increases conversions but customer satisfaction as well; NPS scores have been proven to increase by 20% when customers are interacting in one seamless engagement. Plus, better customer experiences lead to long-term loyalty.

Many people would rather do just about anything rather than call customer support. However, it’s worth noting that the aversion to call centers isn’t necessarily a disinclination to voice-based conversations. Despite the stereotype that millennials and Gen Z hate phone calls, it’s less about the vocal communication and more about forcing them to restart interactions via a disconnected phone experience. There is a stark difference between offscreen phone calls and onscreen voice.

Offscreen phone calls require customers to leave the current experience to dial a toll-free number. Onscreen voice, on the other hand, connects the customer with a live representative through their website, portal or app, all without ever breaking the interaction.

With onscreen voice, customers can instantly ask pressing questions about their applications to a representative that already has visibility into necessary context and background. Taking it a step further, enabling CoBrowsing allows the applicant and representative to quite literally get on the same page. The representative can act like an online coach, walking the customer through any points of confusion. This saves time and boosts efficiencies for both customers and employees. In such a complex process as applying for a loan, the value of digital service is particularly apparent.

Being able to help small businesses identify and apply for the right loans becomes especially critical in a volatile economic outlook, when every opportunity counts. It generates revenue for the bank, and, most importantly, helps business owners during times of high stress. As the competition for borrowers grows increasingly stiff, the banks that are able to provide a seamless, digitally optimized online application experience will be well positioned to attract business, improve the customer experience and positively contribute to their bottom lines.

John Fernandez is SVP of marketing for Glia