Advising customers personally and securely on the web — co-browsing forges ahead An assessment of the current state of the art and its usefulness for advisors in day-to-day work

The latest technological trends are considerably changing the usage behavior of bank customers. At heart, the issue is how banks and insurance companies should focus their advisory and sales services in future. The study Die Bank der Zukunft aus der Sicht der Digital Natives (The bank of tomorrow from the perspective of digital natives) prepared by the University of Hohenheim gives a surprising answer to the much discussed question of how banks should position themselves with regard to customer contacts and advisory services. The generation of 25 to 35-year olds definitely does not want to have pure online banks. They rather expect a perfectly attuned combination of services rendered at branches and in online banking. Getting personal advice, however, is not limited to visits to a branch.

The focus of banking services offered on the internet still is on simple products, such as opening current accounts or making bank transfers. As a rule, more complex products, such as real estate finance, are always offered offline as they still require a higher level of advice. Current advisory services offered on the web, such as chats, hot lines or advisory videos, are only of limited help when questions arise during the purchasing process.

Co-browsing at a glance

Co-browsing is a new approach to providing modern and secure advisory services on the Internet. When questions or problems arise in the sales process, the customer clicks on a button on the web page signaling the need to talk. When co-browsing is used for advising a customer, the customer and the advisor see a shared browser window on their PCs while they talk to each other on the phone. The advisor can respond to problems or questions about the product or credit application in a competent way and accompanies the customer during the purchase process. On the customer’s request, the advisor can also enter selected data into the online form. Banks and savings banks can administer the tool so that sensitive data, such as TANs or account data, are input only by the customers themselves. The final click to sign a contract is also reserved for the customer. This makes sure that the decision to enter into a contract lies with the customer. Moreover, these settings strengthen the basic trustful relationship between advisor and customer.

Protecting personal data without plug-in

This web-based software solution is already widely used for advising customers in numerous countries. According to the current CRM Hype Cycle Report 2013, Gartner’s market experts expect that co-browsing will become the standard collaborative customer interface for online advisory services within the next five to ten years. In contrast to well-known screen-sharing solutions, co-browsing does not provide access to contents outside the browser window. It is the most secure way of cooperating with customers on the web while complying with strict data protection requirements. The technical basis of co-browsing is a script integrated into the website of the financial institution concerned. Customers do not have to install a plug-in or special co-browsing software on their PCs. Moreover, the solution is browser-independent so that different screen resolutions do not affect the discussions. Co-browsing can also be used in mobile settings on a tablet or smart phone. Regardless of their location and device, customers always get advisory services of the same quality.

Functional departments drive IT investment

In Germany, too, higher demand for co-browsing can be observed at present as functional departments, such as sales, are increasingly looking for software-based solutions for modern multichannel banking. As a result, investments in new software solutions are increasingly driven by functional departments because more and more they see IT as a fixed element of modern work processes. They demand flexible solutions with a short time to market and, at the same time, predictable costs. The first point of contact of functional departments is the internal IT department that is responsible for smooth IT operations and, not least, the IT budget. The demands of functional departments for the rapid roll-out, however, are opposed by the framework conditions of quality-assured in-house IT. This applies particularly to enterprises in the financial services and insurance industry. To be able to use an innovative software solution like co-browsing in their IT centers, they have to comply with fundamental regulatory requirements, for example, in the field of data protection. In this context, IT experts have the task to adequately check and certify software which, unfortunately, takes time. Against this background, cloud-based software-as-a-service solutions are a good alternative as they are flexible and can be used rapidly.

Modern solution for several industries

Co-browsing is a modern solution for providing advice to new customers as well as for further advisory discussions in many industries. In addition to improving customer satisfaction and loyalty, the Internet’s role as a sales channel is strengthened significantly. Co-browsing already enables future-oriented financial institutions today to offer their customers suitable advice on complex products on the web. Thus, they can establish tailored advisory services for their customers regardless of where they are within the framework of their multichannel strategy.

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Dirk Emminger

Sales Manager Finanz Informatik Technologie Service

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