Going for gold: what fintechs can learn from text

Press release – March 28, 2018

By Oisin Lunny for FinTech Futures

One evening recently, I was at Euston Station with just over an hour before my train was due to leave. Sitting on the terrace above the concourse, I watched passengers below as they came and went in cyclical fashion. I couldn’t help but draw certain parallels to the 100m final at the Olympics.

Passengers gather on the concourse making last minute preparations before their cue. Once a platform number flashes up on the departure board, the swift amongst them are quick off the mark, making their way along the platform to the finishing line – the train. However, there regularly appears to be some canny early adopters, discreet groups of passengers who elegantly jump the gun. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that those I’m observing are, in fact, older and less mobile Virgin Trains customers who have just received a text message notifying them about their platform number. A few minutes later, other Virgin passengers receive similar advance boarding messages. These individuals calmly make their way to the train, leaving the rest behind.

This is an empathetic interaction.

Why empathetic connections matter in a digital age

As consumers, we do almost everything on our phones – we’ve become phono sapiens. In this “Age of the Customer”, corporate empathy has never been more important.

And there are lessons here for fintech businesses. From train commuters to banking customers, our phono sapiens species is looking for simplicity and ease. Text messages can offer better customer experiences by providing impactful, direct communications in real time. This helps to bridge any corporate “empathy gaps” between what the modern consumer expects and what companies are actually offering them.

SMS gives financial services companies countless opportunities to surprise, impress and help customers in precise moments by giving them information, alerts, experiences and engagements that they will be thankful for. The rise of popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger has led to exaggerated claims about the death of SMS. However, this could not be further from the truth. Over 4.8 billion people use SMS; more than the number of people on social media (2.2 billion) and people with email addresses (2.6 billion) combined, even surpassing the number of people with access to a TV (4.4 billion).

SMS just got smarter

Empathetic interactions are already happening in financial services. It’s the text message you get from your bank asking whether you’ve just made a transaction to book the holiday of a lifetime, or the immediate confirmation you get on your phone to say you’ve added a new payee on your account. Cybersecurity is becoming less of a hassle as SMS two-factor authentication is fast-becoming the norm – gone are the days of locating your number-generating device to make bank transactions or log-in online.

Now imagine these optimised customer experience scenarios, but with a more intuitive, more useful interface, providing better information to customers and making it easier for them to respond. The important message from a bank could offer a one-click confirmation with no need to text back a response; or a meeting with a mortgage broker, arranged in seconds; or a sign-up confirmation text including a quick video tutorial to get up and running. Enter the next evolution of mobile messaging: rich communications services (RCS) business messaging.

Smart companies are already taking advantage of the fact that 90% of texts are read within three minutes. Now, thanks to RCS business messaging, consumers can enjoy many of the slick features that smartphones enable today. RCS is an evolutionary leap; there is no need for customers to install an app to use them. These advanced features happen directly in the SMS inbox.

With the impact of PSD2 in the UK and connected markets, RCS is empowering fintech brands to differentiate and to become smarter, more trustworthy and more empathetic in a time when consumer expectations have never been higher.

By Oisin Lunny, chief evangelist at OpenMarket