Digital Banking with a Human Touch: How to do it the Branch way


Ugo Aliogo


A successful business owner seeking a loan to expand his inventory walks into a bank after seeing countless TV adverts about how it treats its customers like royals. Right from the gate, the security personnel welcomes him in a firm but cordial manner. As he approaches the customer service desk to make his request known, he is greeted yet again by a smiling face who takes him straight to the manager’s office. While in there, he is offered a cup of his favourite brand of coffee as they discuss his impressive credit score, collateral and repayment plan.

A number of people might be familiar with the scenario painted above; in the past, transactions were mostly carried out in this way. A lot of emphasis was placed on building trust, and one of the ways banks did this was by treating customers like they were the backbones of the business. It worked – who wouldn’t want to feel like royalty? Less financially buoyant customers than the successful business owner in our scenario, were still treated like they were important, albeit in a less bourgeoise manner. It was not uncommon back in the day to find treat bowls containing candies for customers in the banking hall which they could help themselves to. Customers generally felt welcome by their fellow human beings and little acts like these helped banks to build and maintain a solid relationship with their customers.

Such ‘royal’ treatment of customers like the one earlier mentioned, is slowly going into extinction with technological advancements in the banking sector. Although most young adults today generally loathe the idea of going into a banking hall, people still want a human touch during service delivery and financial services are not exempted. Technology has brought about a lot of transformation in the banking sector and made it possible for a bank like Branch to offer essential financial services as it currently does in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and India, all at the tap of a smartphone. However, it is important to strike a balance between transformational technology and maintaining the human element in financial service delivery.

Three ways Branch is doing this:
Empathetic customer relations: What is the essence of speaking to customer care representatives if they just speak like robots and not show basic empathy towards a customer? It is not enough to swiftly solve problems encountered by customers – they should be made to feel like the person attending to them truly cares.

During a customer feedback survey at Branch, one of the customers noted that what struck her the most about the company, was how she was treated when she fell a few days behind on her loan repayment. She was awed by how a customer care rep who called to remind her of overdue payment date, listened to her with rapt attention, empathized and extended the due date rather than just telling her to pay what she owes or face harassment tactics like with loan sharks.

Put a face behind chat-bots: If you have ever used an interactive website, then you must have seen a chat-bot before. A lot of websites now have this chat-bot feature that allows users have instant conversations with the customer care team rather than wait hours to get an email response or be put on hold on the phone.
What most websites don’t have however, is an instant messaging feature that connects customers directly to living, breathing customer service agents with names and faces. Branch is not most websites. Interacting with an actual human being helps to build relationships by making the user feel heard and understood.

Great UI on apps: For the less tech-savvy, UI simply means User Interface, which basically refers to the visual layout of an application. Now more than ever, people rely on the internet and apps for almost everything. This has led businesses to invest heavily in building aesthetically pleasing user interfaces to help optimize the user experience (UX) and in turn support the functionality of their websites.

Customers do notice these things, as is evident in the following response to the earlier-mentioned Branch customer feedback survey: “Branch is such an awesome app with a great UI”. Simple tweaks like this go a long way in reducing customer frustration, which cuts down on the number of ‘stinkers’ angry users send out.

Looking ahead, the human touch will continue to remain crucial to building customer loyalty and trust in the banking sector. This is why Branch keeps exploring new ways of forging strong connections with its customers. At Branch, the human element is an important consideration in improving its customer’s experience at every stage of service delivery.

Accessing services such as quick loans at attractive interest rates, and sending or receiving money seamlessly is as simple as ABC on Branch. Simply download the app from the Google Play Store, create an account in seconds and instantly get exposed to a world of easily-accessible financial services.

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