Credit Card Companies Are Not Driving Self-Service

According to a new Forrester report, "How To Right-Channel Credit Card Customers," most card providers have yet to succeed at channeling customers to the Web to cut operations costs. Forrester surveyed 4,500 U.S. consumers about their online credit card behaviors and attitudes. Although 78 percent of respondents have access to the Internet, only 36 percent have enrolled for online credit card account access. Additionally, a weighty 81 percent of those who do not access their accounts online say that they never plan to do so. "Clearly those who said they had no plans to go online saw no clear benefit to doing so," says Catherine Graeber, principal analyst at Forrester. "Just as in the early days of online banking, companies can't expect consumers to get it right off the bat. But through proper education, customers will start to see the number of benefits involved." Graeber adds that credit card companies need to use their call center agents to get the word out about self-service functions. Credit card providers' success in right-channeling their customers varies widely. Forrester looked at 15 providers to determine which have the greatest right-channeling success. Wells Fargo took the top spot-- 20 percent of its online card customers conduct self-service transactions, which is double the average of all other card issuers. Wells and other top-scoring firms use offline human assistance (through the branch and call center), to drive their credit card customers online. American Express and Providian also scored well. American Express has the highest percentage of card customers paying their bills online at 22 percent, and Providian's card customers used email channels for customer service at almost double the average of other card issuers. BankOne and MBNA--two of the largest Visa/MasterCard issuers--landed in the bottom third of Forrester's ranking. Compared with other firms, BankOne had 26 percent fewer customers viewing balances online, while MBNA had 24 percent fewer using its site to self-serve. Graeber says one of the biggest barriers apart from educating customers is security. "Companies really have to be up front with a zero-liability fraud-protection policy to help set customers' minds at ease," she says. Graeber also says that one sure way to increase the amount of customers opting to use self-service features is to use financial incentives: "The minute you dangle out even the smallest financial incentives to using self-service, the number of people willing to do so can easily double."
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