With so many users turning to the Internet for their banking activities, it's disappointing how few small banks and credit unions offer customers a live chat communication channel on their public facing websites. Live chat results in significant cost savings versus telephone support. Live chat also increases a bank or credit union's ability to convert visitors into new customers. Given these and other benefits, I'm consistently surprised at the two reasons managers most commonly give for not implementing live chat.
"We're concerned about security. We can't verify the identity of the person on the other end of the chat."
My response when a credit union manager asks this question is always, "How do you verify a customer's identity when she calls on the telephone?" Your online chat operators should use the same security precautions when working in a live chat session as they would if taking the call on a phone. Verify first and last name, ask for their account number (you're using SSL to secure the chat conversation, right?), ask two challenge questions and follow whatever identification guidelines your bank or credit union follows. Another factor, while not foolproof, is that most chat solutions will show you the user’s IP address to allow you to see which country their connection is originating in to further help sift out questionable chats.
"We don't have enough people to man a live chat system."
If you have people answering the telephone to provide support, then you most likely have all the manpower you need to provide live chat. It actually requires less manpower to provide customer support via live chat than on the telephone. A single customer service representative can service one customer at a time on the phone; however, that same customer service rep can chat with two, three, four or even more customers simultaneously using live chat.
With our chat system, any number of operators can be signed in and waiting for chat requests. Incoming chat requests can be directed to specific reps based on the nature of the inquiry, or the reps can accept chat requests on an as-available basis. If a rep needs to step away for a break, to perform other duties or to go home for the day, he simply signs out. If all of the reps signout, then our system automatically hides the live chat button on the website. Alternatively, we can show a message to tell customers that live chat is unavailable at the moment.
More Benefits of Live Chat for Banks and Credit Unions
While live chat has become a mainstay in the retail e-commerce industry, only a handful of the most innovative credit unions and small banks have put the technology to use on their public facing websites. Those that due implement live chat consistently tell me that it pays for itself many times over in very short order. While not an exhaustive list, the most valuable benefits include:
- Improve customer satisfaction since members spend less time on hold and get answers more quickly. Many customers today prefer the convenience of online communication channels, too.
- Lower overall customer service costs since more customers can be served by the same or fewer customer service staff
- Increase "sales" for loan, investment and deposit products since live chat operators can initiate chats with customers when they are evaluating product options on your website
- Chat transcripts can be retained and used for training and audit trail purposes
- Customer service operators can work from remote offices, so the workload can be distributed throughout multiple branches to increase service availability
- Smaller credit unions and banks gain a competitive advantage by appearing more high tech and capable of serving today's consumers to who demand more tech savvy solutions from their financial providers
The easiest and most economical method to implement live chat is to subscribe to a hosted service like we offer. We manage the servers, connectivity and software that you'll need. We simply provide you with a small Windows software application to install, give you one line of code to add to your website and can even provide you with training. Our subscription based services range from $79.95 to $500 per month, depending on the number of operators and security & auditing options you require.
Larger banks and credit unions who have their own data center and connectivity can purchase live chat software to install on their own servers at a cost of between $800 to $4,000 initially, with annual maintenance of usually 20% to 30% of the initial cost.
If you're responsible for managing a bank or credit union website, call us at (586) 726-9490 and we'll help you evaluate whether live chat is right for you. Or better yet, visit our website and chat with us.