Is self-service always the solution?

Video banking gives users the direct, human-to-human connection they want.

July 1, 2021

We’ve all been there: We’re trying to renew our car insurance, apply for a loan, or do something simple like pay a parking ticket and we think, “this will be easy to do over the phone or online.”

But soon we encounter a roadblock or find that the self-service platform does little more than ask irritating questions and run our patience thin. 

When this happens, I yell at the computer or phone, “I don’t speak zeros and ones.” 

I can’t help but think that if I could just speak to someone, my issue would be solved promptly.

In the world of banking, this trend is especially evident. In part, this was why I helped build POPi/o, a provider of full-service video banking software. 

I believe the best way to execute complex banking services and transactions is with the help of a dedicated professional.

I imagine most people would find that statement agreeable. It seems obvious that people would need help selecting and opening accounts or applying for new loans. 

But with the implementation of digital self-service platforms, I’m surprised at how often that principle is compromised. When a self-service platform is the only digital channel through which users can open an account at a financial institution, they can be made to feel the institution is telling them to “visit a branch or go it alone.”

The more complicated a transaction or service is, the more difficult and frustrating it becomes for a user to do through self-service channels. After a certain point, it just makes more sense to have a human help you.

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for self-service. When it comes to simple, high-volume transactions, these kinds of solutions can be very helpful. They (usually) make things quick and painless for the user, and they save the institution money by eliminating the need to pay an employee to handle the transaction.

But as services and transactions become more complex, self-service becomes less feasible for the user. According to IDC [PDF], users attempting to open a new account through digital self-service channels have an abandonment rate of 70% to 85%.

The obvious reason for this high abandonment rate is the fact that establishing a new loan or account through a self-service channel can create a more complicated process than the user expected. What was intended to be the simpler option turned out to be the more complex one.

For tasks like these, cost-saving measures can become consumer-angering measures. Users become frustrated that they can’t speak to someone or get simple questions answered. 

The process that was intended to save the credit union money ends up costing them unsatisfied members and lost opportunities.

It was for situations like these that we built POPi/o. Because self-service platforms don’t have the framework necessary to execute complex transactions, video banking can complement these tools and give users the direct, human-to-human connection they’re looking for to efficiently handle their needs. 

And what’s more, it mobilizes financial institutions to take their complex, in-branch services outside the traditional walls of the branch.

JED TAYLOR is president of POPi/o, a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider.