Financial services executives are out of touch with online customer expectations, focusing on cost-cutting "convenience" strategies over growing demand for "individualised" Internet services, a global Deloitte Consulting report claims.
Given that 50 per cent of IT budgets in large enterprises is allocated to front-end e-business systems, John Billington, a partner with Deloitte Consulting Australia's financial services practice, warned institutions to listen more to customer demand for personalised online service instead of subscribing to management's focus on the bottom line.
Commenting on the Deloitte Consulting report released this month, Myth vs Reality in Financial Services: What Your Customers Really Want, Billington said 30 per cent of Australia's financial services customers used Internet services (such as retail banking, discount broking, insurance, mortgaging) while 25 per cent of users were highly likely to use online facilities down the track. The report showed 50 per cent of clients had no intention of using these services in the future.
Billington attributed low uptake to the depersonalised Internet experience customers often encountered.
"Customers don't consider Internet banking and financial services a personalised service, but merely an information tool," he said. "But when it comes to the average transaction, people want 'touch and feel' service before they close any deal."
The report revealed there were major gaps between executives' perceptions of effective online customer service and customer expectations. While most institutions provided low-cost convenient services like basic transactions or account history retrieval, they fell short of proactively resolving complex customer problems like credit card charge disputes or late bill payment queries, for instance. "The bank should be able to touch the customer via SMS (short messaging service), WAP or face-to-face communication, using all distribution channels in order for the online service to work," Billington said. "I'd love it if the institution could tell me via an SMS if a bill is due."
While executives felt convenience facilities like 24-hour telephone access and ATM services were key to customer satisfaction, users rated responsiveness and personal attention both on and offline as more important satisfaction drivers.
Billington recommended institutions seriously consider implementing e-mail messaging facilities like Lands' End and Quicken.broker.com's instant messaging service, offering a real-time, personalised channel for problem-solving.
Overall, the major problem in online financial service delivery remained the institutions' approach to basic customer service, Billington said. "Companies have the e-business strategies and strong brand in place. But from an IT viewpoint, while a lot of dollars have been spent on building access portals and information channels . . . executives [will] find they haven't built customer trust and lasting relationships," he said, adding that customers needed to be able to choose online service providers based on differentiated service levels, not purely on fees.