Tuesday Tips – Five Ways Banks Can Improve Online Chat Customer Service

by on Apr 23, 2013

Tuesday Tips helps 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 banking, brokerage, credit cards, asset management, retirement, annuities and insurance

This week we examine the live chat customer service capabilities banks offer online. Live chat offers customers a quick way to reach out to their bank, without having to endure long wait times or picking up the phone. Banks can use online chat not only to offer customer support, but also to promote products and services. Live chat is also a great way to provide account-specific assistance to existing clients.

The following five tips are taken from our recent Bank Monitor report, Live Chat Tools: Real-Time Online Help, and  focus on ways banks can improve the live chat customer service experience they offer prospects and clients online:

#1 Make live chat easy to locate on the website – Live chat is of little use if customers have difficulty finding or accessing the tool. A link to the tool should be visible in a static location on the site, such as in the customer service section or on the online application, offering an easy entry point. Additionally, firms should always provide dedicated chat ads or icons, alerting users as to whether the tool is available or not, as is the case with Bank of America (see image below). Prospective customers and clients alike are always shown ads informing them that the firm offers chat capabilities and providing details on whether an agent is available at that particular time.

Bank of America Public Contact Us Page
Bank of America Public Contact Us Page – Live Chat Status

#2 Require minimal personal information to access – Requiring users to enter personal information prior to initiating a chat may make some users uncomfortable. In particular, prospective clients may be hesitant to supply contact information, such as an email address, to a firm with which they do not currently do business. However, providing an input section for users to enter their names helps to personalize an otherwise faceless discussion. Citibank, E*TRADE and SunTrust all offer users the option of entering their name within the Live Chat interface – a solution to offering users the opportunity to provide information without making them feel burdened to do so.

#3 Provide live chat for general information and customer support – Firms should consider live chat as a supplemental and effective online help resource for both prospective and existing clients. Live chat offers prospective clients an immediate connection to a firm representative, a nice benefit for those looking for general information, while also giving firms an opportunity to promote specific accounts. Private site live chat, meanwhile, should be focused on the existing client base, helping to answer specific account questions. Bank of America does a nice job of providing a live chat that services both new and existing clients, providing access to the tool on various pages on both the public and private site, and providing both general and account-specific responses.

Bank of America Live Chat Window
Bank Of America Live Chat Window

#4 Provide users with the option to select discussion topics prior to chat – Providing a pre-defined list of chat topics is a helpful way to guide a discussion or ensure the Chat is routed to the correct department, and a list of topics can help users identify their needs and any specific questions they may have. Additionally, Customer Service Representatives can pinpoint a customer’s specific needs quickly, without having to ask the user a set of questions to get to the inquiry at hand – an efficient approach. SunTrust offers a straightforward version of pre-chat topic selection, asking users in advance what product they are looking to discuss during their chat session. This can help ensure that users are directed to chat reps who are knowledgeable in that particular account – a plus.

SunTrust Pre-Chat Screen

#5 Offer record keeping options – Providing an option to email or print allows users to keep it as a receipt of the discussion for future reference.  This is particularly helpful for users who may contact the firm again and use the discussion for reference. Though the ability to print the chat transcript is a more common feature now, with eight firms offering this option to users, no firm allows customers the option to have a copy of the chat to be emailed to them.