How NAB is conversing with customers in every channel

An exponential rise in customer queries during 2020 saw NAB accelerate its social and digital customer service channels approach with stellar results

More than 80 per cent customer satisfaction scores and 90,000 call deflections are just some of the metrics giving National Australia Bank’s Reveka Katakis confidence in the company’s evolving digital and social customer service approach.

Katakis is head of social media and digital engagement at NAB, one of Australia’s largest banks with 9 million customers and 30,000 staff. Over recent years, she’s witnessed an increase in customers wanting to engage digitally.

Come the onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic and things rapidly scaled up. “The digital acceleration we have seen since the beginning of Covid has been phenomenal,” Katakis told CMO. “We saw a shift in the way Australians want to bank with us. For example, use of mobile banking apps went from 35 per cent in March to 59 per cent by September 2020.”

In response, NAB launched a home loan appointment booking tool last September. Pre-Covid, no meetings were taking place via video. Now, over 25 per cent are conducted via Zoom.

Another shift is in live chat. According to Katakis, more than 3.2 million conversations occurred with NAB’s digital virtual assistant last year, three times those seen in the 12 months prior.

Crunch time really came as the pandemic struck. “We had more calls for help in one week than we get in one year,” Katakis said, adding NAB also saw a 200-fold increase in social connections.

“Doing nothing wasn’t an option. We needed to double down and provide different ways for customers to connect with us in a simple way and via digital channels.”  

In response, NAB accelerated its adoption of asynchronous messaging-based customer service, working with social and community management vendor, Khoros (formerly Spredfast and Lithium). The platform has been powering conversations between NAB customers and employees via Facebook and Twitter for several years.

“We had been in discussions about what the future might hold, how to extend this and what it would look like,” Katakis said. This included rolling out Apple Business chat (iMessage), along with WhatsApp.

“During the first week of lockdown, the rubber hit the road. We went from pilot into full-blown production and use of both these platforms in 10 days,” Katakis said.

Using Apple Business chat, NAB iOS customers can now call the bank via their iPhone or directly via search by clicking to call to be automatically prompted to connect with one of NAB’s bankers.

“WhatsApp was another easy choice, but we did this a little differently. We put automation in for some simple and quick FAQs in a bot, and you could choose to interact with the bot or connect with the banker,” Katakis said. “Thirty per cent of the time consumers would choose to use the bot.”

In November, NAB rolled out Google Business messaging. “We get a lot of volume via Google to connect with our phone or website options. Now we have the option to message as well,” Katakis said.

Driving decision making was commitment to finding both simple and digital solutions to support customers. Also helping NAB achieve speed to market were processes, systems and governance, plus a good relationship with the Khoros team.

The dominant use cases for async messaging are simple servicing and sales enquiries. But Katakis said NAB is building on that foundation.

Related: Why Bupa tapped WhatsApp for new customer messaging channel

Building confidence

It’s clear NAB’s approach has evolved over years. Initially, teams needed to get comfortable engaging customers through messaging and social channels.

“Having training in place for our colleagues around the tools and ways of communicating also provided confidence, as has having governance structures in place to make sure the right access is there and we have gone through correct protocols,” Katakis explained. “They are the foundational layers. Because we had those, it was easier to launch more and more channels [in 2020].

“The beauty of it all was it was all hands on deck – all staff wanted to see us serving customers well with something simple that was digital.” 

Katakis agreed digitisation as a wider approach presents a learning curve for all involved. “When you’re able to demonstrate how easy it is, both as customer and employee, it helps,” she continued. “For example, with Khoros, it doesn’t matter which connection a customer comes through, the experience is the same. They’re able to see where you come in from but then to respond to you, it doesn’t really matter. It’s probably another reason why we’ve been able to keep on adding channels without breaking anything.”

Katakis said conversation channels are opening up a wealth of insights into customer behaviour, trends and needs. NAB has set up an analytics dashboard so staff can see trending topics and types of conversations, volume of calls deflected and more.

“We’re able to interrogate data and provide feedback to the business,” Katakis said. “For example, one thing we see is people providing feedback to us about our app. We can give that back to our mobile engineering team. In some cases, they have then gone back to the community to ask questions, so it’s become a two-way feedback loop.” 

Up next: The impact, plus customer results

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