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Banks Are Missing an Opportunity to Double-Down on Data

At my day job, I’ve always tried to hammer home to community banks and credit unions that data is the key to customer service. Specifically, utilizing customer engagement data points across all channels, financial institutions can better serve and protect customers by identifying cross-channel fraudulent behavior.

What I didn’t realize was that it’s not only fraudsters that can cause harm to consumers. By using outdated, non-integrated systems to power account management, payments and loans, the banking industry is doing a disservice to consumers.

This is my story about how this technology deficiency impacted me today, firsthand.

My family has a primary banking relationship with one bank for our checking/savings and mortgage accounts, and we also have a secondary relationship with another bank for an auto loan, which was arranged by the auto dealer at the time of purchase.

I’ll call our primary bank “Home Bank”, simply because it’s where we do most of our business. Home Bank is quite large, around $100B in assets. I’ll call the secondary bank “Car Bank,” because the one auto loan is all we have with them (I never moved the loan, because the rate was really good). Car Bank is what I’d consider a large, regional community bank with just over $15B in assets.

I mention the size of these banks to point out that they are not constrained by the budgets that most community banks work with every year. And if banks of this size are having the issues I’m about to describe, then there is a lot of work to be done for all institutions to modernize services in order to compete with the Amazons and Googles of the world.

So, back to my story…

We use Home Bank’s bill pay system extensively – set it and forget it. Car Bank does not accept direct, digital payments, so sending a paper check is the only option. As such, I set up my car payment to go out several days before the due date every month, so there wouldn’t be any issues with it being on time.

Simple enough? Not really.

This morning, I logged into my online account with Car Bank to look up my auto loan payoff, and there it was: PAST DUE. And adding insult to injury, a late fee was listed. Looking further, it showed the last payment that was processed was over two months ago!

I called Car Bank, which was closed with no customer support on a bank holiday. Next, I called Home Bank to chase down the issue. Bingo, Home Bank’s customer service team was working.

Already being annoyed with the situation, I didn’t react well when the Home Bank customer service rep Kelly asked me for my account number that I’d already punched into the phone 10 seconds earlier as soon as we started chatting. In the 15 minutes Kelly and I spent together on the phone, we discovered that there was no issue with Home Bank’s bill pay system. The payments went out as scheduled. Kelly even gave me the check numbers for the payments. We also confirmed that, no, the checks haven’t cleared – so, Car Bank hasn’t processed them yet.

So, here’s a breakdown of the issues (read: huge customer service gaps).

Issues with Car Bank:

  • No notification of non-receipt of payment from Car Bank in a timely fashion. This was a missed opportunity for Car Bank to communicate with me and to help avoid a late payment due to something unbeknownst to me. But note: Car Bank didn’t miss the opportunity to charge me a late fee, again with no notice. In all likelihood, this blunder alone has cost Car Bank my business. Even if I have to pay a higher interest rate elsewhere.
  • No holiday/off-hours customer support at Car Bank. Today’s world is 24/7. Time to get with it.

Issue with Home Bank:

You might think that Home Bank went above and beyond, but you’d be wrong. Yes, Kelly the CSR did everything within his power to help, but Home Bank fell short. They fell short with their bill pay system and customer service technology.

  • I’ve made years of payments through Home Bank’s bill pay system. There’s plenty of history there for Home Bank to recognize two checks were sent to another institution that were not processed within a normal period of time. Home Bank could have notified me of the first check not being processed once it passed the typical processing period. But instead, they sent another check for the next payment when the previous payment hadn’t even been processed from 30 days earlier.

Now, my time is being drained, my account balance is not up to date, and I’m rushing to untangle a web of communication failures before my credit report is negatively impacted.

The industry needs to get better at pragmatic problem-solving to help consumers avoid situations like this one. Through data integration, financial institutions can improve communication and close customer service gaps. The need is obvious, and the technology is here. It’s time to put systems in place that enable more security and accountability with the help of technologies like AI and machine learning.

Today, I’m the one who needs an advocate for better customer service – from my own bank.

Stacey Zuniga is Vice President of Financial Services at ENACOMM (www.enacomm.net), a fintech company that empowers banks, credit unions and credit card companies with affordable, intelligent solutions for improving the customer experience (CX), fighting financial fraud, and increasing operational efficiency.

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