e-Monitor Awards: E*TRADE, Merrill Edge, Fidelity, Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade Excel in Help Resources

Eric Stahler by on Jan 10, 2017

e-Monitor is proud to present its annual awards report recognizing excellence in site offerings across the brokerage industry. In this report, we analyze the state of the brokerage industry’s best digital resources and features by benchmarking our 19-firm coverage group across six major aspects of brokerage client websites: Account Information, Quotes, Trading, Online Help, Prospect Experience and Mobile Capabilities. Following the launch of the latest report, we now provide a brief summary of top firms within the Online Help category:

Online Help

Though not the flashiest or most glamourous aspect of a site, help resources are an essential component of a good user experience, offering users guidance when they reach impasses on their brokerage’s site. Further, in a digital world where consumers expect to be able to resolve issues quickly without making a phone call, investors increasingly view online chat and email offers as “important” or “very important,” as found in our 2016 Investor Survey. With that in mind, in this category we examine general online help centers, contextual help within sections, site search functionality and online communication channels (chat and email).

No firm rose to the level of a gold medal this year. Charles Schwab, Fidelity and TD Ameritrade led the category, earning silver medals for all-around useful resources that, despite their overall quality, fell victim to significant shortcomings. Schwab, for example, makes its help resources readily accessible throughout the private site: Through static links and pop-up windows, clients can read and respond to messages from the Message Center, initiate a private site chat, search for specific information and access the site’s overall help center without having to leave their current page. These design aspects are an industry best practice, but Schwab can still improve its help content, which at times is excessively long, wordy and contains several outdated images.

Schwab’s Help Section

Fidelity and TD Ameritrade similarly excel overall but falter in key areas. While Fidelity offers strong site search functionality and an online private chat, the firm could improve its chat’s accessibility by making it available through a static link. The firm should also standardize its section-specific help sections across its platform. TD Ameritrade, on the other hand, offers one of the strongest help centers with section-specific content in our coverage group. The information, which is presented in a series of questions, is concise, direct and easy to understand. The firm’s grade, however, is ultimately held back by its lack of a private site chat function.

TD Ameritrade’s Help Center

Fidelity and TD Ameritrade, though, stand out this awards season for their automated chat tools. Fidelity joined TD Ameritrade this year in offering an automated chat tool, becoming just the second firm in the coverage group to do so with its Virtual Assistant on its Customer Service page. Both Fidelity’s and TD Ameritrade’s tools are effective at answering simple questions and frequently provide helpful links to related pages in their responses but still struggle when handling more complex queries. We expect chat bots to become more prevalent in our coverage group as the technology improves.

Fidelity’s Virtual Assistant

Finally, E*TRADE and Merrill Edge earned bronze medals this year after making major improvements to their private site chat offerings. E*TRADE now allows clients to discuss a wider range of account-related topics and added an online screensharing capability while Merrill Edge added online chat to its private site.

For more information and to access a free slide deck highlighting the gold medal winners in all six categories of this e-Monitor Awards Report, click here.