Every Tuesday, Corporate Insight releases recommendations to help financial services firms improve a key aspect of the online user experience. Recommendations are taken directly from our Monitor Reports and Consulting Services research, which cover the banking, brokerage, credit card, asset management and insurance industries.
This week’s recommendations come from our Mutual Fund Monitor report titled Email Support: The Quality of Help for Prospects and Clients and focus on ways asset management firms can improve the email support they offer prospects and clients.
Project Realistic Response Times – No one likes to be left waiting around for a message that may or may not come, so to minimize user frustration, firms should offer a wider, realistic window on turnaround times. Breaking these timeframes will only disappoint customers who expect an answer to their question, thus lessening their trust in the firm. We feel it is better to offer a relatively wide deadline that can be reasonably met, but at the same time still providing a short enough window that customers will feel that their questions are being taken seriously.
Do Not Ask for Sensitive Information – Since most firms prohibit customers from asking account-specific questions online in the first place, requiring users to enter sensitive information – such as account numbers or Social Security numbers – seems like an unnecessary risk coming at the expense of client security. At the moment, two firms require Social Security numbers, while three firms require users to enter their account numbers. Invesco is the only firm in these groups to allow clients to ask account-specific questions – a practice that has largely gone out of favor due to security concerns.
Answer Questions with Links – Many simple questions can be answered by directing users to relevant areas on the public site – an efficient way for firms to both assist and promote underlying resources and products. For example, half of the firms in this report currently include such links, with American Century featuring a strong array of investor education, tools, retirement products and calculators. Similarly, Vanguard provided us with a direct link to a name-change form on its public site in answer to our question, instead of requiring us to call the firm.
Confirm Via HTML and Email – In order to facilitate seamless messaging help, firms should provide confirmation both directly on the page after submission, as well as through an email in the address provided by the user. The immediate HTML confirmation assures users that their question has successfully been submitted, while the email confirmation affirms both that the firm has the correct email address to send their answer, and can help users keep track of when they should expect a reply. For impatient questioners, the email (ideally with an estimated response timeframe) will help them maintain expectations. T. Rowe Price, for example, sends an email confirmation, as well as an HTML confirmation stating a reply will arrive by the next business day, and that the private site message center will feature a new mail icon.
Let Them Reply – When users are faced with an incomplete answer, or perhaps one that beckons follow-up questions, the firms that go the extra mile are the ones that allow responses. The ability to reply directly to an email message instills the sense that users are interacting with real people, rather than an automated response machine. For firms without the capability to allow direct responses, including reference numbers in the replies theoretically will allow users to follow-up with the firm and keep a record of their communication on the firm’s system. Currently, 36% of firms allow users to reply to their emails