“Opening a New Bank Account Online is No Picnic,” says analyst

Earlier this week, Asaf Buchner recounted his difficulty opening accounts online at some well-known financial institutions. "I discovered that banks still need to work on their online application processes. All five banks allow new customers to open an account online…However, opening the account was not so easy."

A survey conducted by Buchner’s firm indicated that while a certain segment of online consumers prefer to sign up for an account online, the majority prefer offline channels.

One reason for this is that, all too often, banks will try to drive the online process down a single path and force consumers to complete the application on their Website. However, as Buchner states, many banks do not make opening an account online easy. So what happens if an online consumer has trouble trying to open an account? That bank loses a customer. Period.

Unless the bank’s services are uniquely differentiated from its competitors, it’s unlikely that the consumer will open an account at the same bank’s local branch, because the brand perception for that bank has already been tainted by a lousy online experience.

This may not have happened if, during the online process, the consumer had been invited to speak with a customer service representative at the very moment the customer decided to abandon the application.

Customers must feel a connection to a bank’s brand to create loyalty and trust, and sometimes a Web environment simply can’t accomplish what a live conversation can. However, the Web can facilitate those kinds of interactions with customers and thus boost the customer’s perception of the brand. It’s just a matter of banks working to develop a strategy to offer customers the right contact at the right time.

If a customer is having difficulty completing a complex transaction, like applying for a mortgage or loan, a bank may want to offer them a click to call button which offers the customer the opportunity to speak with a customer service representative over the phone.  If the customer’s behavior dictates the need to resolve a common question, like how to change a PIN number, the bank may want to deploy an automated chat agent that can offer canned responses to such frequently asked questions.

Depending on the customer’s needs, these solutions can be proactively deployed at key points during an online transaction to offer assistance to consumers when they need it most, and assure that the transaction is completed.  Additionally, both click to call and click to chat can preserve the context of the customer’s online session as they transition from the Web to a phone or text chat conversation and guarantee a continuity of experience, and eliminating the need for them to start over.

The fact of the matter is, until banks begin to offer guidance to online consumers the way a bank teller does at a local branch, consumers will continue to have difficulty online.