Ron Daly, President/CEO
Virtual StrongBox, Inc.

The other day, my friend, Susan, told me about her experience trying to add a personal hotspot to her iPhone. Susan is a small-business owner who frequently works away from her office, and I’d been on her case to steer clear of public Wi-Fi – it is absolutely not safe! Now, Susan is no tech expert; but she’s fairly adept at consumer apps, regularly using mobile devices to book flights, buy books, write research papers and do her banking. Activating a hotspot on her smartphone seemed simple enough.

Customer last

But what proceeded was a primer on bad customer service. After two trips to her carrier’s phone store didn’t result in a live hotspot, the company reps gave up and told Susan to call customer service. This led to a series of calls, multiple transfers to different departments and, get this, a hand-off to the Apple Store without being told! Apple’s tech support guy could hardly activate the app without the phone company turning it on, so together he and Susan called back. To Apple’s credit, the rep stayed with her until the problem was solved.

An improperly installed app cost Susan hours of work time, but I’ll hand it to her; most people would’ve given up on both the carrier and trying to safeguard her information. It seems ironic to receive bad service from the phone company at a time when smartphones represent the fastest-growing commercial channel!

A February 2016 report from eMarketer predicts some 95 million Americans aged 14 and older will use smartphones to make a purchase in 2017, representing a new high in mobile commerce. Even so, the digital marketing researcher cautions that many more shopping sessions start on smartphones than are completed on them. In 2016, it’s estimated that 165 million Americans 14 and over – more than three-fourths of total U.S. digital shoppers – will browse, research or compare products on their phones but likely won’t finish the purchase. Why? Because the companies selling their goods and services don’t offer a simple, satisfying customer experience. eMarketer puts it like this: “To get people to make purchases on their phones, retailers need to make it as easy as possible for consumers

[via] fully optimized mobile websites, a checkout process with few steps, and fully personalized merchandising.”

This begs a question for the financial industry: As more banks move deeper into the mobile channel, what are we doing to make it a stress-free, positive experience?

Customer first

Some retailers get it right, and banks can take a lesson. Apple and Amazon are practiced at making mobile buying easy, each offering a one-touch process. Another best-practices retail example comes from the travel industry, as reported Jan. 25 in The Financial Brand (“What Financial Marketers Can Learn From the Travel Industry”). Citing another eMarketer study, Epsilon’s Beth Merle, VP, Enterprise Sales Financial Services, wrote that digital travel reservations via mobile devices will jump to 52% in 2016, compared with 44% in 2015. That’s because hotels, airlines and online travel sites have become expert at optimizing their websites for mobile bookings and making the process a fast self-service experience. With more than 52 billion travel sales done by mobile device in 2015, eMarketer says this channel will continue to eat away at desktop sales, representing a 31% share this year.

Consumers take their smartphones everywhere and use them for practically everything today … getting directions, finding a restaurant, tracking calories and carbs, monitoring blood pressure, ordering flowers, buying coffee, doing their banking. When their apps work well, they keep them; when they don’t, they hit “delete” and choose a different provider. With so many easy-to-use options, it’s no wonder bank customers expect their mobile-banking apps to offer an experience that’s not only consistent with visiting the branch, but also with the experience they enjoy on other types of apps. (For tips, see our companion CB Insight article, What’s fueling your mobile-banking channel?)

Consumerization of IT

But it isn’t just your customers who take their smartphones wherever they go; so do your employees. Consumer technology has entered the workplace, and 451 Research says 62% of U.S. employees use a smartphone on the job to access company applications and services, as well as cloud technology. On the upside, many employers are seeing greater productivity cost savings and customer satisfaction as a result. A 2014 IDG Enterprise study learned 83% of organizations surveyed were planning to invest in mobile technology in the next 12 months, with a hefty budget for tablets and training. More recently, “Bring your own device” (BYOD) policies have sprung up, and businesses responding to a Gartner’s CIO Survey said they expect most smartphones used at work to be personally owned as soon as 2017.

But security concerns prevail for banks and their customers. Fewer than half of worldwide organizations are confident they can fend off a cybersecurity attack, and security concerns are the No. 1 barrier companies cite for not using the cloud. At Virtual StrongBox, we’re addressing this issue with our patented end-to-end customer engagement platform, which offers the data security to drive consumerization of IT forward. Our platform is Enterprise IT ready, so financial institutions can enable their customers to place their sensitive documents (wills, deeds, mortgage papers, etc.) in personal online safe-deposit boxes. The banks can use that same secure cloud storage process for file exchange and workflow enhancements, like collecting business and consumer lending documents.

From small businesses, like Susan’s, to Fortune 500 companies, employers and employers are embracing personal devices and consumer-based cloud apps for work solutions – but only if it’s safe. Your customers are looking to your bank to make it easier and faster to do their banking; but they also want to know their personal information is secure. You can offer both, improving customers’ experience by offering optimized mobile-banking, money-management, digital storage and other related apps that embrace security the new “financial institution way.”