In an increasingly online and connected world, financial service clients have been quick to accept apps as a remote banking option, writes By James Bayhack, Sub-Saharan Africa Director at

However, as the sector is reimagined with digital communications, mobile messaging is fast becoming the most critical channel for banks to communicate with their clients. Mobile messaging opens doors to strengthen and future-proof relationships with clients – especially when visiting bank branches often means long wait times and frustrated consumers.

Let’s look at how financial institutions can use mobile messaging, artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, and other digital technologies to create exceptional customer experiences, improve operational efficiencies, and build long-lasting client relationships.

Building automated, intelligent experiences

Many banks are moving towards an API-based communications approach that allows them to customise and personalise consumer experience on a large scale. Combined with vast amounts of customer data, interactions can be programmed in any way imaginable using communications APIs. This helps financial institutions deliver the right information to the right customer at precisely the right moment.

Digitising the customer journey and improving communication

Consumers have hundreds of alternatives when it comes to choosing who will look after their money, and today’s financial institutions are competing for their attention and business by offering cheaper fees, bigger returns, and new digital services. Therefore, standing out with a unique offering or elevated experience is crucial.

From innovative onboarding and applications to time-sensitive notifications and always-on customer support, banks can now digitise their clients’ complete financial experience – from start to finish. For example, digital contract signing enables quick and seamless onboarding of new clients while keeping sensitive documents secure.

Customer engagement on multiple communication channels is important too – this supports financial institutions to effectively communicate with, inform, and educate clients as well as promote new products or services and resolve issues. However, these need to be channels that financial customers actually use and are the most convenient for them. Banks must meet their clients where they are, not expect them to change their channels of choice.

Standard Bank is one local example of a traditional financial institution that’s making strides in customer experience by digitising its offering. After 160 years of service in South Africa, Sim Tshabalala, the bank’s group CEO recently reported that 99% of its transactions are now cashless and electronic, with many of its customers having switched to digital banking options.

But despite South African banks digitising customer journeys, incumbents need to stay on their toes to thrive in the local digital banking landscape. Local players have to compete with new digital banks, diverse digital payment methods, online aggregation platforms, and even cryptocurrencies.

According to FCSA’s Digital Banking Research Document 2021, five disruptive digital banking entities are shaking up the industry, some of which are yet to arrive on our shores. These are challenger banks (fintechs with banking licences), including the digitally smart TymeBank and digital mutual Bank Zero; neobanks (completely digital banks with no physical presence); beta banks (joint ventures or subsidiaries of banks); non-banks (platforms that offer financial services without banking licences); and digitised incumbents (incumbent banks pursuing total digital transformation).

Undoubtedly, with these new business models will come innovation in the customer experience space, so existing financial services providers need to be on the lookout for ways to stay on top.

Scaling conversations and enhancing interactions with AI-enabled chatbots and voicebots

Some banks send notifications to clients when they miss loan payments or their bank accounts are running low. This communication presents a prime opportunity for them to employ chatbots and voicebots to deliver more personalised notifications. By doing this, financial services companies can also determine whether the missed payment is part of a larger problem, when the client might be able to pay, and even set up a repayment schedule.

Chatbots and voicebots can also recommend customised financial products that can help these clients get back on their feet as part of the interaction. More so, a chatbot can offer quick-fire answers and solutions to FAQs and basic banking questions on messaging channels, saving clients the trouble of having to use their mobile banking app or log in on a computer to find what they’re looking for.

Delivering personalised financial advice and promotional offers

Messaging channels like WhatsApp can be used to provide financial customers with monthly spending trends, real-time spending updates, and advice on better managing their money. There’s no reason why clients should only be able to access these valuable insights on banking apps or users’ dashboards.

Provided that valid opt-ins are in place, mobile messaging offers an ideal platform for financial institutions to inform, educate, and support clients, helping to develop and nurture stronger relationships in the long run.

Furthermore, a mobile marketing platform enables banks to send clients personalised offers based on their previous actions. For example, a customer who has a cheque account with a specific bank could be offered a specific type of savings account or overdraft protection when the balance drops too low. Alternatively, the platform can send out promotional messages to clients who have added new family members or items to their existing insurance policy.

Whether you specialise in banking, insurance, or asset management, success in the financial services sector is all about offering a unique client experience that feels personalised and effortless. Digital technology can take care of more of the heavy lifting, allowing your employees to focus on more complicated and value-added tasks. I anticipate financial services companies will start paying greater attention to how people and digital tools can work together more efficiently to transform customer experience for the better.

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