Customer experience means never having to repeat yourself

Bank of America experiments with real-time video and chat in online, in-person and mobile channels to improve customer service

At Bank of America, there's a simple metric for measuring customer experience: how well a customer's interaction compares to his expectations. But simple doesn't mean easy. Consumers assess their experience against all kinds of companies, not just other banks, says Hari Gopalkrishnan, Bank of America's managing director of ecommerce, architecture and consumer segments technology. "They're comparing us to Apple and Amazon and the premium customer-service organizations." That's pressure.

For the past two years, the bank has been rolling out new customer-facing features and rethinking back-end systems to improve customer experience across channels.

Last April, the $84.2 billion company introduced ATMs with Teller Assist, which makes tasks like cashing a check--which would usually have to happen during banker's hours because they require a physical exchange with a teller--available to customers anytime they want.

If they need help during the transaction, they can summon a video teller. In banking, there are self-service channels, such as mobile or online banking, and assisted channels, like a contact center or an in-person teller, says Steve Beasty, a consumer banking technology executive at the bank. "This brings the two together."

Today's banking customers expect to complete via digital channels transactions that traditionally required a phone call or branch visit, says customer service consultant Micah Solomon. "Banks are wise to recognize this." Banks must invest in high-touch customer service, benchmarking themselves against the best players in hospitality, says Solomon.

At Bank of America, hybrid technology underpins its teller-less "express centers," the first of which opened in Manhattan in August. But they were a challenge. "You take for granted how much a teller actually does during a transaction," says Beasty. Adding video was tricky. When you send data over a network, if something goes wrong, you resend. But resending distorts live video, he says. "It's a complex coordination."

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