In a first for South Africa, select Standard Bank customers have a team of virtual bankers at their disposal 24 hours a day via instant messaging with the launch yesterday of the bank’s Relationship Banking Instant Messaging service.
Standard Bank has developed the new service in conjunction with WeChat.
Sibongiseni Ngundze, head of Retail Banking, says the hassle of having only limited contact with your bank, through physically going into a branch and standing in queues, or calling call centres and sending emails is now truly in the past.
“Traditional methods of communication have their disadvantages, which can inconvenience time-strapped customers,” says Ngundze. “These days most relationships are conducted via instant messaging, so why not your banking relationships? The goal of providing service on WeChat is not only to make banking easier, but also to provide an unmatched level of personal service that enables us to support our customers in all banking circumstances, anytime, anywhere.”
Instant messaging volumes around the world have already surpassed SMS by some distance and are continuing to grow. Within a few years it is believed instant messaging will surpass many of today’s key communication mediums. “We plan to be ahead of the competition,” says Ngundze.
It can take, on average, one day for an email to be returned, 15 minutes for your call to be handled efficiently, and 1.5 hours for a branch visit.
“Things move faster than that these days and relationships are increasingly moving into the digital world,” says Ngundze. “As a bank that is in tune with the trends and demands of our clients, we have therefore moved quickly to make these solutions available.”
He says the new service is “like adding your personal banker to your messaging ‘friend list’ and having them available to you 24/7/365, just like many of your existing personal relationships”.
It is a market worth taking seriously. Research shows there are over 100-million people sending instant messages worldwide, while there are 5-million WeChat users in South Africa.
Standard Bank has introduced a range of digital and social media-based products and services already, helping to integrate banking into customers’ lifestyles and making their use of banking services as personalised, intuitive and ‘connected’ as any of their other device or online-enabled activities. “The latest offering simply adds another level of convenience and ease in customer’s day-to-day dealings with us, and puts them in charge of the way their banking is conducted,” says Ngundze.
Prestige and Private customers need simply phone or email their bankers, or speak to their bankers in-branch and provide their WeChat ID before being taken through a verification process, after which they will be registered on the network and then simply need to log in to WeChat and search “Standard Bank” under “Official Accounts” to have access to chat to the team of virtual bankers anytime, anywhere, with the added benefit of 3Gb of free WiFi, valid for three months, through AlwaysOn in AlwaysOn zones.
“As the first South African financial service provider to offer WeChat as a communication channel of instant messaging to our customers, with its inbuilt customer relationship management capabilities and real time response , we are confident that this latest offering will further move our customers forward,” adds Ngundze. “And we won’t stop here – we will continue to develop products for our customers to suit their needs in lock step with technological advances.”