Consumers in South Africa prefer a digital-first approach to resolving their basic banking issues, only talking to a human being if they have to, according to a new survey from Avaya. Out of nine countries surveyed, South Africans were the most likely to say they preferred to use a mobile banking app to access their banking services – and they are also most likely to lodge a formal complaint about bad customer service.
The Customer Experience in Banking Survey, conducted with YouGov, queried more than 10,000 banking customers in two waves – the first covering the UK, UAE, India and Australia, and the second South Africa, France, Germany, Italy, and Saudi Arabia. Given the choice, the most popular method for South Africa customers to contact their bank was via a mobile app, selected by 30% of respondents, compared with 26% in India, 24% in the UAE, and just 10% in France and 8% in Germany. Online banking was the second-most preferred channel for South Africans, at 26%, with just 18% preferring to visit their branch.
Getting the customer experience right is vital to South African banks as 67% of respondents would lodge a formal complaint with their bank about bad customer service – again the highest out of all nine countries, with just 37% in Saudi Arabia saying they would complain. South Africans are also second only to Indians in complaining about bad customer service to people they know, with 41% saying they would tell friends and acquaintances. More pleasingly for banks, only 28% of South Africans would change banks because of bad service, the lowest out of all countries, while South African respondents reported the second-highest satisfaction levels, at 89%, below only India’s 93%.
The biggest frustrations South African respondents experience when calling their bank include being kept waiting for a long time, their call being transferred between customer service agents with the problem not being resolved, and being asked to visit the branch to solve their request. When asked about proactive communication from their bank, only 26% of customers in South Africa want to receive information on a new launch or service by the bank whereas 69% of respondents want to be alerted to possible fraud or problematic transactions and 56% want to be informed when their credit card or banking service is up for renewal.
Regardless of how they choose to contact their bank, 68% of South African customers cited getting the same level of experience and service across all channels as a priority. Following that, customers want their problem to be resolved on the first point of contact, with speaking directly with a customer service agent seen as least important.
Virtual financial advisors (VFAs) – representatives from the bank who engage customers through virtual means and service them remotely with online tools – seem to be an ideal solution based on the preferences of South African respondents. According to the survey, the most valued benefit of having a VFA to South African customers is being able to get faster resolutions on their banking enquiries, followed by notifications for issues such as being overdrawn, problematic or suspicious transactions, and credit card renewal.
“South African customers are likely to be very vocal about bad customer services, so to deliver a superior customer experience requires South African banks to be able to coordinate across all customer touchpoints – whether online or offline,” said Danny Drew, Managing Director, Avaya South Africa. “Mobile is becoming an increasingly popular channel to interact with banks here, as technologies like voice and video move digital. Yet while we may reach customer support through a mobile app, I think South African customers will always want to have the option to speak to a person if needed. That is where new technologies can really make a difference in helping customers do what they want to do as fast and effectively as possible, through whichever channel they want to use.”