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  • Writer's pictureW.B. King

Engageware’s 2024 Outlook Examines Tech and Human Interaction in the FI Space

By W.B. King

Among findings from Engageware’s 2024 Outlook for Customer Engagement in Banking is that quickly evolving advancements in technology, paired with digital-first consumer expectations, present operational challenges for both banks and credit unions.  

“On one hand, they are pushed to innovate continuously; on the other, there's a risk of alienating customers who are not yet comfortable with the pace of change,” the report stated. “This year, building a unified strategy and maintaining the human touch in customer engagement will be as critical as the adoption of new technologies.”

The Tewksbury, Mass.-based firm offers a self-service, appointment scheduling, and knowledge management software as a service (SaaS) platform. Data and Insights from the report were gathered in 2023 from a survey of banking professionals and customers.

Don’t Lose the Human Touch

Though the artificial intelligence (AI) market is proliferating via virtual assistants and the like, the report found that respondents have a “strong preference” to talk to customer service representatives (when needed). To this end, 95% of those polled agree that it’s important to have the ability to reach a human agent.

“As tech and AI expand their footprint, customers are expressing their desire to retain a more personal, human touch,” the report stated. “Despite technological advancements, customers still prioritize the ability to connect with human agents.”

One respondent, a 71-year-old male, noted that it is “Hard to get a human. Not available 24/7.” Another 60-year-old female said: “Calling customer service is a hassle. Too many buttons to press to get a human being on the line. Sometimes the options given do not cover what you are calling about and get sent to the wrong department.”

These findings, the report contends, underscore the importance of balancing AI and human-driven services to maintain elevated levels of customer satisfaction and trust. “Customers prioritize being able to immediately connect with a human when needed rises to the top – with 39% of banking customers reporting it is absolutely essential that their primary financial institution makes it easy to do this.”

The customer service call-in scenario dictates satisfaction rates. There is a lower level in using virtual assistants for financial needs, for example, opposed to retail customer service (62%), needs/questions related to government services (53%), or medical questions (48%).

“This calls for a cautious approach to integrating AI into customer engagement strategies, ensuring that technology complements rather than replaces human interaction,” the report said.

Integrating Tech Solutions

Findings from the survey also supported a “strong desire” among banking leaders for streamlining, consolidating and creating a unified strategy. “A unified platform that can serve as a single source of truth for both employees and customers is seen as essential.”

The average bank or credit union, the report offered, utilizes 6.6 technology solutions. The complexity of which “often overwhelms banking leaders,” highlighting the need for more streamlined and integrated solutions.” Seventy-five percent of banking leaders are often overwhelmed with the number of solutions (e.g., vendors, services, systems) in play.

“Almost all banking leaders (97%) agree on the need for a centralized knowledge base servicing both employees and customers. There’s a strong push for a single, comprehensive platform,” the report continued. “In fact, 94% of leaders agree it is important for financial institutions to have one system in place to manage the overall customer journey.”

Looking forward, the report noted that customer communications, AI, and employee-related technologies are “top investment priorities” for banking leaders in 2024 and beyond. Banking leaders prioritize technology investments as follows: AI (47%), customer communications (36%), digital banking (35%), employee retention (31%), and new product/service offerings (31%).

“A large majority of banking leaders (94%) view investment in technology as also crucial for employee retention and satisfaction — and agree the benefits of adopting new technologies outweigh the drawbacks of employees constantly learning how to use those technologies (87%),” the report stated. “This perspective underscores the importance of technology in creating a positive work environment and supporting staff in delivering effective customer service.”



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