When consumers talk, it's always a good idea to listen. And right now, they're talking about voice banking. In response, you should ask an important question: Is our financial institution ready to meet those consumer expectations?
The popularity of voice banking – or conversational banking, which includes chat messaging functions – is evident across multiple market indicators, including the most recent quarterly consumer trends survey by Fiserv. The Expectations & Experiences: Channels and New Entrants survey found that half of consumers used a voice-activated device in the past year, with 79 percent of them doing so through their smartphones. The research, conducted in February by Harris Poll on behalf of Fiserv, surveyed 3,116 U.S. adults who used their checking accounts to pay a bill or make a purchase in the 30 days prior to the survey.
The survey also found that 8 percent of consumers used a hands-free voice-activated device, such as Amazon Echo or Google Home in the past year. That percentage doesn't seem so small when you consider the product category wasn't even widely available until mid-2015.
The growing interest in voice banking also carries with it a compelling aspect for financial institutions constantly in search of ways to enhance consumer experiences to spark deeper and broader engagement.
While the Expectations & Experiences survey found that 37 percent of millennials who used voice-activated devices in the past year used them for banking functions in the preceding 30 days, we're also seeing interest among older generations. Voice banking likely strikes a note of familiarity for people who might not be technologically savvy. We think it might also draw interest from people with disabilities because it allows greater accessibility to digital banking.
Taken together, the various pieces of evidence show voice banking is responding to consumer expectations and behaviors to such a degree that I believe we're on the verge of a paradigm shift in the market.
Voice banking's popularity may be a reflection of the evolving ways consumers interact with their financial institutions. You have an opportunity to embrace that technology and meet what is becoming a clear expectation.
Consumer Intelligence Research Partners in May estimated 10.7 million people own an Amazon Echo device, more than tripling the 3 million Echo users in March 2016. And Bloomberg recently reported the bot economy is growing faster than the apps economy and doubling every month.
Conversation and messaging are the new platforms, and bots are the new apps. As opposed to call centers and human interaction, chatbots and Alexa never get tired. And they can engage at such a high level that you wouldn't be able to tell they're not an actual person.
For financial institutions, this is about brand equity and strength. You likely position yourself as innovative to drive engagement, and the more channels you have, the more opportunities to engage with consumers.
Still, as with every new channel, there are hiccups. Security is often one of them.
I use voice services and recently noticed I had 10 different 99 cent charges on one of my accounts. When I called to check on them, I discovered my daughter had authorized the purchase of 10 different versions of the "Frozen" soundtrack.
There is the chance that anyone in the vicinity of your device can perform banking on your behalf. Depending on the platform, there might not be voice authentication right now, though some services offset that risk by requiring a personal security code to access voice banking.
But my daughter's freewheeling "Frozen" purchases do more than highlight the risks associated with voice; they underscore the convenience and speed for users of voice banking. Consumers are noticing, and they're telling you that their expectations are rising with their interest. Do you hear them?
Interested in learning more? Download Expectations & Experiences: Channels and New Entrants.