2021 predictions: don’t overlook the phone call
If there’s one thing we can take away from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that communication is a basic human need. Although digital forms of communication like Zoom meetings and Slack chats may have taken the spotlight, forced reductions of in-person interactions have also highlighted the continuing importance of the humble telephone call as an essential link between financial institutions and their customers.
While most customers choose to perform routine transactions via self-service options, surveys continue to indicate that they generally prefer to handle complex or sensitive matters via a phone call to a real person. With that consideration in mind, following are three predictions for the phone channel fintechs need to keep in mind for 2021.
- The consumer phone experience with outbound calls will need to change.
In 2021, fintechs, banks and other financial institutions that use outbound calls to contact customers for pressing matters or for complex financial dealings, will need to optimise their outbound calling to ensure their calls are answered and that the experience lives up to the same quality that consumers have come to expect from digital channels.
Due to the explosion in illegal robocalls, many consumers have simply stopped answering the phone if they don’t recognise the caller’s number. A variety of technology solutions have been introduced in response, including the Secure Telephony Identity Revisited (Stir) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs (Shaken) call authentication framework mandated by the US Congress and Federal Communications Commission for implementation by June 2021. These are expected to help address illegal call spoofing.
In the coming year, we expect to see more than 50% of mobile phones using robocall protection solutions alongside these call authentication technologies. The goal is to protect consumers from bad actors and ensure that legitimate calls get through, but these robocall protection solutions can be overly aggressive and block legitimate calls from businesses.
To address this issue, fintechs and financial institutions will need to work with their telecom providers to ensure that all their business phone numbers are registered in the network, thoroughly vetted and properly signed so they are not mistakenly blocked or flagged as potential spam. Beyond showing an accurate phone number on caller ID, forward-looking companies will want to consider adopting new technologies that allow the creation of a customised, branded caller ID display – delivering logos, images, digital business cards and the reason for a call to customers’ call screens – letting customers know exactly who is calling and why. Without that information, calls may continue to go unanswered.
- The international community will begin to step up to combat illicit calls.
The robocalls and phone scams that have eroded trust in the phone channel will continue to increase in 2021, and the international community will need to take a stronger stand against these illicit calls.
The United States and Canada are already working toward implementation of the above-mentioned Stir/Shaken framework, which requires telecom providers to take certain steps to prevent illegal call spoofing. However, robocalls are not limited by national borders, and more action will be needed on the part of the international business community and countries around the world to make a meaningful impact in the fight against illicit international robocalls. Fintechs with presence in international markets will need to be aware of the country’s policies toward combatting illicit robocalls to ensure important calls are answered.
In 2021, we expect to see early signs of international progress beyond North America, as other countries step up to either create new or adopt established caller identity authentication protocols to help combat illicit robocalls worldwide.
- Organisations will need to use different contact strategies to reach new generations of customers in the way they want to be contacted.
While the phone channel is and will continue to be important, it is obviously not the only way to connect with customers, and rising consumer expectations around personalised service mean fintechs and financial institutions will need to adopt outreach approaches that are customised for every individual customer, especially when it comes to the more demanding members of generations Y and Z.
According to Robert McKay, senior vice president of customer identity and risk solutions at Neustar, in 2021, we will see more and more companies leverage information on how each individual would like to be contacted and through what channel. “Beyond including customers’ preferred means of contact in their customer relationship management systems, organisations should consider incorporating predictive phone behaviour intelligence to fill in the blanks and identify which numbers (mobile versus landline, for example) a given customer is more likely to answer at what times on which days, to further increase right-party contact rates.”
In 2021, fintechs and financial institutions should not overlook the phone call as an old-fashioned form of communication. The coming year will bring technological developments – including enhancements in the customer phone experience, robocall mitigation and improved communication strategies – that will enable voice services to retain their importance, even for tech-forward brands and fintechs. No matter the advances in technology, customers will always want a human connection to their financial institutions, and organisations should take proactive steps now to ensure that they can effectively reach their customers via this long-established but increasingly important engagement channel.