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The presence of people in digital banking processes increases the security of transactions, facilitates the customer journey and builds more trust. Welcome to human banking
ABSTRACT | Human banking is a new modality and philosophy of doing digital banking, with which banks humanize their online services so that they are accessible, understandable and personalized to each customer. It is no longer about the customer journey, but about putting technology at the service of each person on the user journey. In this way, less digitized people, or those with special needs, trust electronic transactions and are fully integrated into the use of their bank’s applications
Iftechnology has one good thing, it is that it brings efficiency to our lives. However, the downside is that it replaces people with robots, machines or digital processes that make our environment impersonal and sometimes incomprehensible. Many people are exasperated, for example, when they cannot find a bank branch where they can ask for personalized advice or ask someone the reason why certain amounts have been deducted from their account.
The problem, however, is not in the technology itself, but in the inadequacy of the customer journey of that technology (that is, of the user’s process experience) to the level of digital skills of each person. A virtual onboarding process is not as easily traversed by an 85-year-old as a digital native. The problem is also that this person has difficulty finding a branch that remains open. For this reason, the customer journey must be redefined as a UX-journey or user journey with multiple combinations of technology, processes and “languages” to adapt to the technological level of a customer, and thus offer him/her a digital process that can be understood, managed and enjoyed. Likewise, these UX-journeys must provide the intervention, to a greater or lesser extent, of another person who assists the digital experience and makes it totally simple.
An empathic gap
Greedy for the benefits it generates, technology has prevailed at the pace of political interests, government initiatives and budget cuts from large companies, without waiting for people who are less knowledgeable, with fewer resources or with greater difficulties to fully access digital processes to join it. This situation already has a known name and many meanings. The digital gap is not just one and, as Ainara Zubillaga, Director of Education at the Cotec Foundation, explains in a statement to El País, “the problem is cultural, you have to be more long-minded to solve it”.
Beyond a problem of economic inequalities or digital skills, the digital gap also extends through psychocultural “breaks” based on an unfounded distrust of technological advancement. The feeling of danger caused by cybercrime or the tracking of data and “cookies” are examples of this.
All of these factors project digital transformation as dehumanized progress. And indeed, technologists have done little to design their inventions with an empathetic “language” between people and machines. This unfriendly usability is one of the ingredients of the psycho-digital gap, as three researchers from the University of Seville have called it since 2015. The result is that while some understand the robotic “essence” of the machine and no longer know how to live without smartphones, apps and the Internet, others feel that, in practice, the new tools leave them helpless and hinder their day-to-day life.
Demographic differences in the use of digital banking is a clear statement of this gap. Although older people gradually approach it, many people still prefer the security and confidence that paper and face-to-face give them. “Nobody has taught us how to use this, and in the end we have to annoy our children or the employees of our branch to even know how much we have in the account,” Rufina Seco, an 86-year-old from Madrid who experienced a striking situation. “I went to the branch next to my house and I found a woman older than me shouting out loud, criticizing that the banks were kicking out people who could help her,” she says.
Rufina stays calm and affirms that she continues to receive the same care as always, but she believes that it is already a burden for the new bankers. So does Begoña Valdeolivas, a 57-year-old blind woman whose digital banking app does not offer her full accessibility. “We blind people have an automatic voice system that reads the mobile screen to us. But it is not always accurate or does not always recognize everything in it. In the end, I have to call the bank or ask my children for help. And my children are not always available, nor do the banks allow me to complete transactions by phone“, laments Begoña.
“Human banking means to provide banking with that soul that customers ask for in order to trust their bank” Hugo Álvarez Rodríguez, Redis Lab Country Manager
Although she cannot fully enjoy it, Begoña is firmly committed to online banking. “Of course I prefer it. It gives you a lot of independence and allows you to do everything by clicking a couple of buttons”, she points out. Begoña considers that not using it is not a problem of accessibility, but of ignorance, disinterest or simply a matter of customs. “As we do not see that transaction is made by a person, it transmits distrust to us. I even have an older brother who is already used to digital, but who continues to delegate his banking transactions to someone else”, says Isabel García, an 82-years-old woman and president of the Fuerte Hoteles Group. This mistrust is even more pronounced approximately 3,700 km away from Spain. “Older people in Russia don’t even use bank cards. They believe that through them they are going to steal their savings”, clarifies Natalia Dmitryevna, 78, an extranslator from the Spanish embassy in Moscow.
Rufina, Begoña, Isabel and Natalia are the voice of all those silvers and groups forced to migrate to the digital age without feeling included in it. Meanwhile, the financial sector is also facing the irreversible digital economy, and must find a way for everyone to follow along to survive in the new market. In this context, human banking is becoming increasingly important and is already being exploited by some banks such as the argentinian Supervielle. As Enrique Ávila, CIO of ING in Spain and Portugal, explains, it is about adapting the technology to “show empathy and attention to important decisions made by customers, who hope to have an entity they trust and continue to accompany them.” The short film “Te lo digo a mí” (I say it to me) by Banco Mediolanum, or the recent expert colloquium held by Executive Forum on this topic, reveals the potential of this new business philosophy to attract, retain, teach and help customers over the course of changes.
Human banking means providing digital banking services with a fully understandable, accessible, personalized and humanized user experience for any type of customer, with the aim that they know how to handle and trust their online transactions. Taking advantage of customer and artificial intelligence (AI), and offering simple usability with human support, the customer feels that his/her bank understands him/her and adapts to his/her needs. A simple step towards human banking is to issue SMS verification codes as a fun quote rather than a series of numbers. Thus, the customer perceives a greater sympathy with the process and remembers the temporary password more easily.
Human banking can be as simple as incorporating a person supporting the digital service, virtually recreating the face-to-face requested by many seniors or people with special needs. Branddocs assisted video identification is one such example. It is a qualified system of smart video calling used to identify, register and advise a bank’s customers remotely, with the supervision and assistance of an expert video agent during the session. Thus, before any doubt, incident or difficulty, the user can ask for help from a real person who speaks his/her language and adapts to both his/her cultural level and his/her digital knowledge.
Apart from offering help and facilities, human banking is a social commitment. The bank develops with it an “affective” technology that, accompanied by people, helps the less digitally advanced or those who prefer to have the presence of a person who can help. Human banking is to understand money as a very sensitive and personal value of people since it represents their energy to do things, and it means understanding that the difficulties of its management can frustrate the opportunities and personal objectives that customers deposit in their funds and their banks.
These state-of-the-art solutions break the stereotype that the digital is at odds with the human and the authentic, offering technology by and for people. In this way, all the benefits of digitizing business processes without eliminating the security, trust and human approach that can sometimes become so critical are taken advantage of. And, above all, it does not leave any group behind.
1. Personal interview with Isabel García Bardón, 82 years-old woman, President of the Grupo Fuerte Hoteles.
2. Personal interview with Begoña Valdeolivas, 57 years-old woman, retired stenotypist from the Provincial Court of Madrid.
3. Personal interview with Rufina Seco, 86 years-old woman, unemployed from Madrid.
4. Personal interview with Natalia Dmitryevna, 78 years old, extranslator of the Spanish embassy in Moscow (Russia).
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