My local grocery store has installed a second set of self-service stations. And while older regulars have some minor complaints, the majority of shoppers with lower item counts gravitate towards them. It’s not just grocery stores, either. From large retailers to fast food chains, the march toward self-service has been happening for more than half a century.
Don’t believe me? When was the last time you paid someone to pump your fuel?
We live in a time when consumers crowdsource their evenings and weekend plans on Facebook, Yelp and other social platforms to see where others will be and compare reviews. Meanwhile, the mobile phone has become a constant companion.
Avoid lines by ordering movie tickets online? Make an online reservation? Have my food ready for pickup at a specific time? Yes, please! Even Taco Bell has an ordering app and no wonder: The Harvard Business Review reported digital app orders make an average 20 percent more in revenue than orders made at the store—because people can take their time to compare menu items and select additional ingredients, as cited by Salesforce.
It’s not just stores and restaurants, though. Most consumers prefer to handle their own issues whenever possible. In survey conducted by Nuance Enterprise and Zendesk, 67 percent of customers said they preferred self-service over speaking with a company representative. And some 68 percent of consumers would prefer watching an explainer video to solve product-related problems, reports Wyzawl.
Self-service in financial services is hardly different. You could even say banking led the charge—introducing the automated teller machine (ATM) in London in 1967 and New York in 1969. The ATM rocketed to a standard financial self-service channel in the 1970s and ’80s, thanks to technological innovation and deregulation. Now with online and mobile banking, many account holders are saving the branch for more personalized financial questions and services.
A study of millennials from Facebook reported a 49 percent preference for mobile banking over other channels while 61 percent stated mobile has made banking better due to the ability to quickly track their money. Mobile also represents the fastest-growing check deposit method across age groups—preferred by 21 percent of respondents for deposits $50 and below, according to Mercator. For higher-value deposits, however, older generations still visit the teller while young adults prefer the ATM.
Whether due to a technology addiction, inability to handle human interaction or simply a time-saving practice, more people opt to take the self-service route when it comes to smaller, everyday tasks and questions. How can banks and credit unions keep up?
- Cross-channel consistency. Every channel matters: social media presence, mobile application, website, branch, phone service and ATM. Each must convey the brand’s core values, goals and knowledge of the account holder. Consistency and attention to detail will improve relationships through trust and brand awareness. A BAI Banking Outlook report on Trends in Marketing and Customer Acquisition notes that focus on the omnichannel experience will help retain more than one in three customers (35 percent) on the fence about switching banks.
- Optimize for convenience. While every consumer has reasons for choosing self-service, the perceived increase in speed is undeniably the most seductive part. Our society constantly strives for instant gratification. We want the money transfer now. We want the bill paid now. We want cash now. Design and plan for the culture of NOW.
- Rethink personal interactions. With the prominence of self-service slowly taking over standard account processes, financial institutions can focus more on how to meet account holder needs. Reach out with financial advice. Generate new products and services. Provide financial education to the community. Nurture relationships and encourage financial questions.
The right preparation, planning, and testing can place your financial institution in the right place to face the future. The advent of self-service is certainly not the end of the world: In fact, it could be the beginning of a new banking universe.