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Bank of America innovates mobile banking with self-service, accessibility upgrades

Bank of America is innovating the mobile banking application with several new self-service features and easier accessibility to frequently used information.

A recent Forrester Research report ranking the mobile experience of leading banks placed Bank of America in third place while calling out all of the banks for not having enough self-service features and for a lack acquisition strategies. Bank of America’s recent app update addresses many of the issues raised in the report, underscoring how it is making mobile a top priority.

“We listen actively across many channels – social media listening, call centers, page level and in-app feedback – and found oftentimes our customers would contact us to find out common information such as their routing and account number,” said Hari Gopalkrishnan, ecommerce, architecture and segments technology executive at Bank of America, Charlotte.

“Our customers tell us they want the bank to be where they are.”

“In response, we made it easier to attain information in app with the correct level of authentication and security, rather than having to call in,” he said.

Anywhere, anytime
Mobile has quickly become an important channel for banks. No longer an emerging technology, consumers are becoming more comfortable using their mobile devices for a wide range of financial services.

In its 2014 U.S. Mobile Banking Functionality Benchmark, Forrester Research evaluated the five largest retail banks in the U.S., with Chase and U.S. Bank tied for first place overall, with scores of 69 out of 100 respectively, closely trailed by Wells Fargo, 68; Bank of America, 66; and Citi, 64.

Forrester cited that the group performs well in providing account information and transaction options in cross-channel efforts spanning from native apps to mobile Web.

However, improvements need to be made in offering self-service features, money management tools and cross-selling of other products. For example, most banking customers are not able to report fraud cases or dispute transactions in question through mobile.

Bank of America has answered.

As part of a mobile reskinning, developers at Bank of America redesigned the app so that it can be continually improved as customer and client preferences evolve.

Its new self-service capabilities include a clean, intuitive navigation menu that helps customers find functions via multiple access points, and an easy way to report and replace lost or stolen debit and credit cards and order copies of paper checks.

There is also easier access to routing and account numbers, visual tutorials that offer a step-by-step guide that encourages adoption of new and existing features, and an easier way to view available credit, account balance and BankAmeriDeals savings opportunities.

“From a navigational perspective, feedback we received was that it was hard for clients to find things we already had in the app,” Mr. Gopalkrishnan said.

“The reason for the revamped structure is to make it easier for customers to find information they already have access to,” he said.

The app sets appointments at local banking centers with the right financial advisors, while providing reminders, calendar synchronization and a list of documents required. It also lets select customers to “click” to get a call for their banking questions. Finally, it provides enhancements for paying bills and making transfers, allowing users to add a recipient directly from their contact list for seamless P2P payments.

The Forrester report deducted points for all five major banks in terms of lacking consumer acquisition via mobile, and called marketing and sales ‘almost nonexistent,’ as no institution allowed users to apply for products in app.

Recognizing concerns that in-app  marketing for bank products services could hinder  the focus on a streamlined service, Forrester suggested banks should continue to focus on UX instead.

Bank of America thinks it has found a non-intrusive alternative to customer and product acquisition through sending targeted and personalized offers based on customer profiling..

“We don’t want to annoy customers with things they already have. Based on our understanding of you we can send personalized offers and lead you through the acquisition of programs, loans and account opening,” Mr. Gopalkrishnan said.

“Although the screen real estate is somewhat restrictive, we have ability to do more or guide you to a bank if your inquiry is more complex and catered to a specific product in question.”

Navigating on mobile
In today’s digital banking environment, customer needs are rapidly evolving. Bank of America’s upgraded app is making it easy for customers to bank anywhere, anytime they choose, and is providing tailored and seamless solutions that meet their needs.

In the past, Bank of America’s mobile app interface was clunky, with a limited number of features; however the present evolution has pushed forth from a useable app to a mobile mini bank.

In 2013, Bank of America cited that mobile innovation was a major focus, and described its mobile strategy as a “four-legged stool,” which included making improvements in transactional capabilities, service aspects, mobile payments and commerce, and PFM.

Bank of America’s mobile financial services have come full circle and reflect upon the global movement towards a cashless society through online and mobile experiences.

“Being responsive to customer needs is more important than coming in first place, and is less about chasing technology for the sake of technology and more about prioritizing customers wants,” Mr. Gopalkrishnan said.

“Mobile has a far greater relevance in the day to day life of our customers and the upgraded app not only fosters self-service, but relieves the need for us to interfere with their way of completing day-to-day interactions.”

Final Take:
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York