How are providers satisfying the need for human interaction while promoting self-service?

human interaction vs self service

Written by Geri McGann & Suzy Sliwczynski

In our blog post Can buying a home ever be a true end-to-end online service? we discussed the challenges facing providers when trying to make an online mortgage application a truly digital experience reducing the need to speak to someone directly. We saw within an online mortgage application, making sure they had the right mortgage product was one of the key moments that participants were dropping out of the application funnel. Other industries providers also face this challenge of trying to match a product to the needs of a prospective customer.

Within the health insurance industry, consumers can be faced with over a hundred health plans from which to choose from. In the energy industry, while it’s a lot less, they can still have up to 10 different plans to choose from. So what trends are we seeing that reduce the need for prospects to call a provider, but still provide that important human interaction that many still require to ensure they are getting the product that’s right for them?

We have seen two distinct patterns emerge that seek to reduce direct contact by:

  1. helping prospects choose a product that’s right for them
  2. still provide a human-like interaction

These patterns centre around the use of ‘conversational’ design patterns to help match a product to a user’s need, and the increased uptake of online chat to support customers throughout the acquisition funnel (a feature whose usage and expectation has increased amongst consumers).

Conversational design patterns act as a Q&A-type interaction to help understand user needs and direct them to a suitable product. One of the first initial adopters of this pattern was US health insurer, Oscar, but we are seeing it being implemented by Australian health insurers like Frank, Australian energy providers like Dodo, UK energy company Bulb and Irish health insurer Vhi.

frank dodo bulb vhi

Most providers start by asking a series of questions upfront and then show suitable plans/products. In the Frank example, Frank keeps it to simple initial questions before showing 13 products which might suit. Users can then add additional criteria to reduce this number down further.

Vhi also use it to show prospects how the number of plans available to them initially are reduced by entering criteria that’s specific to them. In the example below we see the number of plans going from 71 to 5.

vhi narrow down quote

These approaches serve to:

  1. not overwhelm users with loads of different options upfront, which make it difficult to know where to start
  2. help users determine what initial criteria is important to them, and from there they can make additional tweaks and alterations to tailor their plan further
  3. help users find a plan in a user-centred way, using language they understand, as opposed to a provider-centric approach where, for example, products might be listed in alphabetical order

A recent Global Reviews mobile study1 of Irish health insurance providers suggests the Vhi model works better when matching to needs with participants having a greater chance of finding a plan that suits their needs and less chance of abandoning.

Online chat is being increasingly sought after by users who are still not confident and need help. For the last four years we have benchmarked 182 brands across 14 industries and have been tracking what users would do if they encountered problems on a website. Online chat is the channel that has seen the largest growth and is an expected channel in almost all the industries we conduct studies in.

Question: If this was a real-life situation and you encountered problems on a website whilst researching, please select what you would do next

Question: If this was a real-life situation and you encountered problems on a website whilst researching, please select what you would do next (online chat)

 

Click Loans – a 100% online mortgage company – provide online chat and also offer other alternative channels referring to them as ‘Talk to a human’.

click loans online chat or talk to a human via phone or skype

Some providers are using the chat model as a complete end-to-end solution. US insurer Lemonade, which offers renters and homeowners insurance online and via mobile, mimics a chat interaction with “Maya” from the beginning of journey. This ‘humanises’ the process making it feel more like a conversation than a form-filling exercise.

Lemonade maya

Making users feel in control and giving them freedom of choice is important however this needs to be balanced by not overwhelming them with choices either.  Conversational design patterns provide a ‘humanistic’ approach to helping users filter and sort through plans and products. But sometimes they need more reassurance when buying particular products and services where they might be locked in for a period of time and/or paying significant sums of money. In this instance an online chat feature can serve to provide timely intervention and help mitigate drop-off even after the consumer has left the site.

Increasingly we are seeing more instances where the chat model is moving beyond the website and into messenger programmes and apps. This enables brands to continue the conversation even when the customer has left the site. This style of chatbot is typically designed to send notifications to customers, update them on their purchases and remind them of upcoming events.

Bank of America has recently launched an AI-powered chatbot powered app called “Erica” who acts as a personal banker. “Erica” marries together self-help tools and customer service, giving consumers a sense of human interaction while also delivering on self-service.

Bank of Ameria Erica

Not all chatbots are humanised in the way that Lemonade’s “Maya” and Bank of America’s “Erica”. UK insurance provider, Aviva, clearly present their chatbot as being just that…a bot. It does, however, still employ a conversational tone making it easy to interact with.

aviva chatbot

Gartner has predicted that “by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.” This is not to say that chatbots such as “Erica” will take up 85% of the interactions, but increased use of chatbots will certainly contribute greatly towards the total.

In 2016, 1.6 billion people were using mobile messaging apps, in 2018 that number is expected to reach 2 billion people, or 80% of all smartphone users. This means that the use of chatbots gives businesses a huge opportunity to reach consumers to help drive awareness, acquire customers, provide customer care, and enable transactions.

Whether it be in-site, through specific apps or via Facebook messenger, there is no doubt that chatbots are going to be playing an instrumental role in the future of digital customer service and brand interaction. While providers always need to give users a choice of how they would like to interact with them, they also need to promote self-service and reduce costs. These two patterns provide a nice way to meet both users and business needs.

1Global Reviews Mobile Fruition Ireland Q3 2017 (N=147)

Global Reviews is currently running researching into the digital maturity of brands across a number of industries. Contact us to learn more about how companies are using online chat and what the future holds for digital.

 

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Can buying a home ever be a true end-to-end online service?

Written by Geri McGaan – Principal Client Advisor

Today we don’t give a second thought to buying online. From products like groceries, clothes, and books, to services like TV subscription, flights, and insurance. For most of us, it’s an everyday occurrence. But what about bigger, more significant purchases, where we are parting with large sums of money? Will there come a time when, for example, buying a house online is common place? Is it even realistic to expect someone to make an expensive purchase without talking to someone or at least having some human interaction? Is there even an appetite there from consumers to be able to do it?

Depending on the product or service, the complexity of consumer concerns differ, for example, when buying car insurance, our studies show that the top drivers for choosing a provider at final preference are price and (provider) familiarity (1). However, buying a home is one of the biggest purchases we will make during our life so, more complex questions need addressing such as:

  • How do I get a mortgage and how do I know if I qualify?
  • What type of mortgage is best for me?
  • Which product offers the best interest rate?
  • What do my monthly repayments look like?
  • How much deposit do I have to put down?
  • How long will the application take?

Making buying a home a truly end-to-end process brings with it a wide variety of challenges for providers. In 1981, 22% of home buyers read newspaper ads to find a home and eight percent used friends as an information source. In 2016, 44% looked for properties online first (2). So what about the mortgage application process itself?

A Global Reviews study undertaken in Q3 2016 identified that 26% of participants (N=250) want an end-to-end online mortgage application form service (figure 1), however completing one feels more appropriate at certain stages in their purchase journey and varies depending on their status e.g. a first-time buyer vs a second-time buyer (figure 2).

Figure 1: Please rate how important the following elements would be on a website when deciding on selecting a home loan

Figure 2: When would consumers interact with a home loan provider’s website?

When reviewing the mindset of consumers around online mortgage applications a further study (3) revealed:

  • Most consumers believe that completing an application form online will give conditional approval (with full approval pending confirmation of details of sale and financial details), not full approval. With most expecting to receive an email more so than any other form of communication
  • First home buyers are more likely to use the website to understand their borrowing power rather and seek conditional approval, pending financial and purchase details, however human interaction at some point remains important
  • Having an online application form is not enough of an incentive to encourage consumers to choose a provider, offering discounts on fees and charges makes applying online more appealing for first and second home buyers

So while the home loan providers website has a place, there are still many who want to speak to someone at some stage, regardless of age.

When testing the online application form itself, the highest drop-off for completing an online mortgage application, happens at product selection section, where participants are asked to choose their mortgage. Other issues reported were around duration, terminology, security, and support. With providers looking to cut costs and increase market-share at every stage, if they want to move more complex transaction online, like buying a house, key concerns need to be addressed, such as:

  • Reassuring prospects that the product they have picked is right for them – our study showed that the key moment within the application journey where participants drop-off was at the product selection stage, where participants are asked to choose their product
  • Setting expectations upfront:
    – what are the qualification criteria for applying online – only existing customers?
    – how long can they expect the application to take?
    – what information do they need to have to complete it?
    – how will they be informed of application approval and how long will this take?
  • Providing the appropriate level of help and support at the different stages of the process bearing in mind that first-time buyers may need more hand-holding
  • Being transparent and providing information such as the cool-off period
  • Making them feel their information is safe and secure

But having an online application form is not enough of an incentive for consumers to choose a home loan with that bank – monetary incentives, such as discounts and special rates are more likely to motivate consumers.

What’s likely to influence customers to use an online application form?

So, while some financial institutions are already enabling customers to buy their house online consumers current (and correct) perception (and their expectation) is that most application forms are conditional approval rather than full approval. With many challenges that still need to be overcome providers have some way to go before consumers embrace a fully online end-to-end service from mortgage research, to application, to approval. Totally ‘replacing’ human interaction is not currently realistic. New design patterns are emerging that look at supporting the decision-making process and providing that human-interaction in an online context, but more on that in my next blog…

(1) Global Reviews Fruition Motor Insurance IE October 2017 N=201
(2) Nar Real estate in a Digital Age 2017 Report
(3) Global Reviews Home Loans Application Form AUS March 2017 N=103

Download our free report and view our recent mortgages webinar for more insights into industry trends and how consumers are interacting with provider websites.

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