The great lockdown of 2020 may soon be gradually easing in some states, but banks are still doing their level best to give customers better options than visiting a branch as their online services get a rapid-fire COVID-19 makeover to cater for people stuck at home.
The National Australia Bank on Friday released details of a swag of new additions and digital enhancements to its well established online services, ranging from the rather contemporary NAB WhatsApp customer service channel to boosting existing voice biometrics and cheque digitisation facilities.
The steps might sound small, but for a bank that has always prided itself on a more personal touch for business and retail customers than larger institutions, keeping the convenience and engagement factor there for online services when there is no walk-in smile is a serious business.
Even more so now that former CBA retail chief Ross McEwan has set his sights on lifting the NAB’s occasionally patchy online performance to once again steal share from its peers and become envied for its customer service smarts.
WhatsApp au go go
"We launched WhatsApp to provide an alternative banking from home experience, giving our customers the choice to connect with us via a channel they’re already using in their day to day," NAB’s head of social media Reveka Katakis said on the bank’s tech blog.
"As part of this launch, we also implemented a straightforward bot that answers frequently asked questions — customers can interact with the bot to get instant answers about how they can self-serve online."
Biometric viva voce
Paula Constant, executive general manager of NAB’s consumer direct arm, was another senior staffer offering up the fruits of NAB’s cultivation of tech, pointing to its now highly mature voice biometrics function that was first rolled out more than a decade ago.
Voice biometrics, indeed voice telephony per se, may have recently been viewed as a glide-path technology in the age of FaceID and payments initiated within apps, but for millions of senior Australian’s who prefer to live without the likes of Twitter it’s the liquid gold of customer retention.
The customer journey is not hard to imagine: customers comfortable with the likes of viewing paper or online statements suddenly need to hit NAB’s inbound contact centre lines to find a way to pay bills they might otherwise go to the Post Office to transact.
"This technology has been crucial in the last few weeks (during the COVID pandemic) to be able to speed-up the authentication process for the thousands of customers that have calling us for assistance," Constant said.
"We want to assure customers that keeping their information safe and secure is our highest priority. This technology is among the strongest in the industry. It is highly sensitive and sophisticated enough to detect if someone is impersonating you. It can even recognise you if you have a cold or sore throat."
Which is great, but possibly all the more reason to stay away from a branch for the time being.
NAB also says that VoiceID will also soon be extended to business customers as well as consumers, which could make business customers wonder why they didn’t get it sooner.
Business customers – the kind NAB’s shareholders once loved but might now be somewhat concerned about, especially on the retail front – also get an upgrade.
Apple iMessage integration
NAB is claiming bragging rights as “the first bank in Australia to launch iMessage support for our customers” via Apple Business Chat that it says lets “users to easily communicate to NAB via their iMessage app to support their simple servicing needs.”
Or perhaps not so simple emotionally if you view it from the perspective of a struggling customer who prefers not to have to talk to someone directly and needs a written record of the advice. Let’s face it, email as a channel for banks has been pretty shot for a while.
"Hi. Due to my husband’s and my capacity to work during the current restrictions being enforced for COVID-19, we are having trouble coming up with the total amount to be paid on my credit card," NAB cites as one example.
Our business has been severely impacted by Coronavirus and I want to find out what we can do with payments of loans and credit cards.
Cue the shift to a lower-priced unsecured, or better yet secured credit option, that may not put that couple’s house on the line in six month’s time.
Ross McEwan may have been pipped at the post for a local top bank job before he left Australia to resuscitate the Royal Bank of Scotland. It doesn’t look like he’s about to waste the COVID-19 crisis either, and for NAB customers and shareholders alike, that may not be such a bad thing.