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Issuers and Cardholders Shift Focus to Digital During COVID-19

(London, UK) Issuers are building out digital offerings as COVID-19 continues to curtail opportunity for in-person servicing. Auriemma Group’s latest issue of Cardbeat UK found that 42% of those who interacted with a bank branch since November 2019 haven’t used the channel again since the pandemic began. While cardholders are leaning more heavily on digital solutions, many still expect a diversity of options. Are issuers meeting their cardholders’ needs, and what would improve the customer service experience today?

Auriemma’s research found that sustained channel usage through the pandemic is most prominent for digital options. Just under nine-in-ten cardholders who used mobile apps (87%) or online portals (86%) to interact with their issuers prior to COVID-19 say they continued to use that channel since the outbreak began, while phone (74%) and bank branches (58%) saw lesser continued use.

While many issuers have numerous communication options available to their cardholders, this shift in channel usage has propelled them to reassess operational needs. Auriemma’s roundtables discussed how digital servicing has become a top priority since the pandemic began, noting that the cost of delivery, training, and staffing considerations inform which measures are taken.

“Overall, issuers are doing what they can to reorient their strategies to meet the changing needs of their cardholders, and they’ve been largely successful” says Jaclyn Holmes, Director at Auriemma Group. “Three-quarters of cardholders who interacted with an issuer both before and since COVID-19 say the customer service experience is about the same, and those who feel it has improved most often point to the strength of the human element—problems are solved more easily, solutions are flexible, and agents appear more empathetic.”

Notably, 17% of this group do say that the customer experience has gotten worse, with longer wait times (71%) most often to blame. However, these cardholders also say there are fewer options for contacting their issuer (38%) and that getting answers or solutions to their questions has become more difficult (32%).

“Ensuring customers have a variety of communication channels to choose from is clearly important, however not at the cost of speed to resolution,” says Holmes. “Issuers deciding how to allocate their resources are tasked with providing diverse options, while staffing them with an eye towards contact patterns and traffic expectations.”

One way that firms are trying to meet customer need without overburdening their resources is through self-servicing options. Auriemma’s roundtables found that many issuers have promoted the use of digitised forms for disputes, complaints and payment holidays. These options yield high customer use and provide issuers with efficiency gains.

And cardholders broadly react positively to these types of options. Auriemma’s research found that the vast majority of cardholders are comfortable completing financial actions via digital channels. This is particularly true of more common tasks like checking account balances (90%), making a payment (89%), updating contact information (88%), transferring funds (86%) and requesting new cards (85%).

“Providing self-service options has a two-fold benefit—cardholders have quick access to solutions for common questions and issuer resources become more readily available for more complex customer needs,” says Holmes. “Looking forward, providing the right allocation of resources towards self-service, chat bots, and live representatives, either in chat or on the phone, will be key to cardholders continued satisfaction with issuers channel offerings.”

Survey Methodology

Cardbeat UK

This Auriemma Group study was conducted online within the UK by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma in November 2020, among 845 adult credit cardholders. The number of interviews completed on a monthly basis is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing between sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ± 5%, unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the research was not disclosed nor did the respondents know the criteria for qualification. The average interview length was 21 minutes.

About Auriemma Group

For more than 30 years, Auriemma’s mission has been to empower clients with authoritative data and actionable insights. Our team comprises recognised experts in four primary areas: operational effectiveness, consumer research, co-brand partnerships, and corporate finance. Our business intelligence and advisory services give clients access to the data, expertise and tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex environment and maximise their performance. Auriemma serves the consumer financial services ecosystem from our offices in London and New York City. For more information, call Jaclyn Holmes at +44 (0) 207 629 0075.

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