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Moriah Campbell-Holt
Moriah Campbell-Holt
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Excelling With Secure Messaging

Secure messaging simply provides a private channel through which customersand financial institutions (FIs) can communicate regarding account numbers,transactions, balances and related information. This opportunity, however,will go unrealized unless banks and card issuers improve the service and efficiency of their secure messaging offerings.

With secure messaging offered by the majority of banks on the Gomez Internet Banking Scorecard and nearly half of the issuers on our Internet Credit Card Scorecard, it's clear that firms in these segments understand the importance of providing a means for customers and customer service to safely communicate sensitive account information sans telephone.

Secure messaging simply provides a private channel through which customers and financial institutions (FIs) can communicate regarding account numbers, transactions, balances and related information. This opportunity, however, will go unrealized unless banks and card issuers improve the service and efficiency of their secure messaging offerings. Let's take a look at a few considerations and some representative best practices used when deploying secure messaging.

Offer Pre-formatting, Pre-filling Options
Gomez has long argued the importance of pre-formatting and pre-filling self-service forms to facilitate routing and customer completion. The same opportunity exists for secure messages, which are utilized under a range of conditions and often contain only a large message field with no guidance or specification.

Banks can improve the quality ofa inquiries they receive via this channel by presenting fields that specify all required and pre-filled information. Additionally, banks should consider opportunities to present common topics in a drop-down menu. SunTrust, for instance, allows customers to select a topic from the drop-down, reference an account number and/or enter a free-form subject.

Communicate Timeframes
Banks have significant opportunity to improve the upfront messaging surrounding the timeframe for responses to secure messages. Many banks present response information on the message confirmation screen (i.e., "Your message has been received, we will respond with 24 hours.") however this information should be placed earlier in the customer's path to insure selection of the proper channel on the first attempt.

While specific time references are generally missing from upfront messaging, a number of banks do direct customers to call in specific situations (ATM card lost or stolen, for example). Fleet, for example, provides a note regarding time-sensitive requests before customers can send a message.

Notify Customers Of Response
Secure messaging allows customers and FIs to communicate regarding sensitive account-related information. One shortfall is that customers must repeatedly log into online banking to ascertain whether or not they have a response. Ideally, banks will alert customers at an external e-mail address when they have a secure message waiting within online banking.

Banks should also place clear messaging with a link to the mailbox directly on the account summary page, rather than requiring customers to navigate through various customer service screens to view their mail. Consider the approach taken by Bank One, which updates the account summary screen to inform customers that they have mail waiting.

In a nutshell, secure messaging allows FIs to raise the level of information they can deliver to customers. However, the aforementioned examples illustrate opportunities for banks to improve customer experience and efficiency when servicing customers via secure messaging.

In the current iteration of secure messaging, many banks run the risk of increasing servicing costs (by forcing customers to utilize multiple channels for one inquiry) and reducing customer satisfaction (by increasing customer frustration).

Moriah Campbell-Holt is an analyst who follows the online banking and credit cards space at Gomez, Inc., an Internet Quality Measurement firm in Waltham, MA. She can be reached at mcampbell-holt@Gomez.com.

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