Telephone Banking was the great banking idea of the 1980s, bringing the opportunity for individuals to transact with their bank without having to leave the comfort of their home. This remote banking model was quickly adopted by all the major banks and grew into a major distribution channel, alongside the still popular branch banking model. By the mid 1990s, however, there was a new kid on the block, namely Internet Banking, which took the concept of banking self service to another level. As a consequence there has been a fall off in usage of Telephone Banking but it does remain an important banking choice for many people.
One of the principal reasons why Telephone Banking remains the preferred choice for some people is that it is seen as a mid point between branch banking and Internet banking. Most of us get frustrated by the fact that branches are only open for limited hours and by the possibility that we may need to queue to do even the most simple transactions. On the other hand, the ability to speak to an another human being is still greatly appreciated. Internet Banking may offer the ability to transfer money between accounts or make a payment to another person but it’s less good when someone wants guidance or advice. Reading an online help page, for example, is no substitute for speaking to a well trained qualified bank official.
Telephone Banking also serves the needs of those who either don’t have a computer or smartphone, or who remain wary about conducting their financial affairs through such devices. It offers many of the same benefits as Internet banking, such as the ability to interact with your bank 24 hours per day, and you don’t need anything more sophisticated than a phone to be able to use it.
Another area where Telephone Banking may score highly is where someone suffers from visual impairment. Internet Banking services may have to comply with DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) guidelines but are inherently designed to be a visual customer experience. The ability to phone and speak to a bank official may therefore be much easier.
Research shows that usage of Telephone Banking has declined since Internet banking was introduced, which is understandable. However, what’s quite interesting is that the profile of the remaining Telephone Banking customers is skewed quite heavily towards female users. Maybe this reflects a basic difference where men like to play with gadgets and women like to talk, or maybe it’s accounted for by differences in lifestyle?
Another trend that we’re starting to see is a slight blurring of Internet Banking and Telephone Banking. Increasingly, banks are operating Internet Banking services that incorporate the ability to “click to call” if a person gets so far through a banking process and then wants to switch to speak to a bank official. That seems like a very powerful combination and may help to ensure that the benefits Telephone Banking offers continue to be relevant well into the 21st century.