Legacy banks aren’t known for their innovative digital products. We’ve said it before: despite their billion-dollar annual IT budgets, banks’ biggest recent innovation has been building smartphone apps that put limited ATM capabilities on your phone. You can check your balances and transfer money, but you can’t see a consolidated picture of all of your financial accounts, plan for upcoming goals or expenses, or get advice tailored to your situation. These phone ATMs have been fine for the most part — people visited a branch or picked up the phone when they needed additional services. As a result, legacy banks have comfortably punted thinking seriously about automation, customer experience, and functionality within their apps.
All of this changed when COVID-19 reached pandemic status and banks were forced to close retail branches across the country. Suddenly, robust digital financial services went from being an emerging consumer preference to an immediate consumer need. The pandemic revealed just how unprepared banks are to meet the growing demand for digital service. Banks lag far behind fintech companies on automation and customer experience, and it’s been jarring to see it in action.
Legacy customer service models crumbled
Automation has been a key product principle at Wealthfront from day one. If we can’t automate a service, we won’t build it. When a client needs to email or call us, we consider that a failure in our product and work to build an automated solution. Our customer service representatives are all licensed professionals, but we refer to them as Product Specialists, not financial advisors. They don’t just field client questions — they help improve our products and services by using an extensive client feedback tagging system to track those questions. This information is reported to our product teams and helps us understand where the product can be improved and what to build as a result. Using this system, we’ve been able to scale to nearly 400,000 clients with only 12 Product Specialists. That’s over 30,000 clients per each specialist.