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Michael Ellison
Michael Ellison
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Online Message Centers: The Wait is Over

With improvements to online security, come options to improve customer service and reduce servicing costs.

There has been much discussion about online security for banks lately and generally it has centered around the obvious importance of keeping customer data secure. Aside from this fundamental need, there are ancillary benefits that accrue from successfully implementing such measures. Among them is the ability to provide enhanced customer service online, which not only can increase customer satisfaction, but reduce service costs as well.A recent Bank Monitor report that we published reviewed the customer online messaging centers at 14 major banks. In it, we reviewed message center design, secure message design, accessibility, timeliness of responses, etc. and in doing so were able to determine some best practices for providing this useful service.

In a telling sign of the industry's adoption, every firm we track except one offers an online messaging center. And, of those, 85% allow clients to both send and receive messages. The major benefit of well-designed message centers is that customers can get support on specific account-related issues. Since the centers are secure behind the customer login, there is no need to filter sensitive data, which would be necessary if you were communicating via standard email.

Despite the overall high use of these centers, only 28% of firms send a confirmation email to clients confirming that customer service has received the message. More importantly, only a little over half the banks we reviewed email clients when they have posted a response to the question.

Our report goes into detail and provides screenshots, examples, and best practices. Suffice it to say, however, if you plan to offer such a service, here are some important features to include:

  • Set expectations - let clients know when they expect a response; and more importantly meet that expectation!
  • Offer FAQs or knowledge base answers based on the client's question prior to taking receipt of the message. This can greatly reduce support costs - after all, it is likely that other clients have had similar questions.
  • Design the message center following conventions around online mail clients (e.g. gmail or Yahoo mail).
  • E-mail clients confirming the submission of their question as well as when a response has been posted.
With improvements to online security, come options to improve customer service and reduce servicing costs.

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