With only a few clicks on his desktop, 90-year-old John Howse took a giant step into the world of video banking. He was “face to face” for the first time with Wells Fargo banker Ruby Crumpler, chatting just like old friends, he recalls.
“She is the best,” says the retired detective from the Los Angeles area. “She is the epitome of professionalism — always courteous, knowledgeable, and helpful. I can’t say enough good things about her.”
That experience came six months after John initially spoke on the phone with Ruby, a personal video banker in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Ruby is pictured at the top of the page.) It was part of an ongoing technology pilot known as Video Call, which began in May for existing and potential customers of home equity lines of credit. Consumer Lending expects to continue offering Video Call to home equity customers into 2017, and is considering rolling it out to other customers as well.
(Note: To reach a banker through Video Call, visit wellsfargo.com, scroll down to “Video Call with a Consultant,” and click on “Video Call Us.” The service is available between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern time.)
Ruby says the work is fascinating, leading to conversations with people across the U.S. and around the world.
“Phone bankers talk to customers all day long,” she says. “But the Video Call takes our conversations to another level. Customers see a team member’s face on the other end, and then we’re much more than just a voice.”
Being an early adopter
After years in development, online video banking is finally gaining widespread acceptance from the increasingly internet-savvy general public, says Jeffry Pilcher, CEO, founder, and publisher of The Financial Brand, a digital publication focused on marketing and strategy issues in the financial sector.
As consumers have grown accustomed to banking online and on their mobile devices, video banking is seen as the next step in this evolution, he says. And financial institutions are coming to terms with the growing demand, especially Wells Fargo, which is considered one of the early adopters, Jeffry says.
“Video Call gives customers another choice in how to bank with us.”
“While other large institutions have dabbled with beta tests and limited trials, we expect the Wells Fargo rollout to be the most significant in the North American banking market and among the largest deployments in the world thus far,” he says. “It should send a clear signal to the rest of the industry: This is a viable delivery channel with real potential.”
Interactive video technology has shown itself to be effective both internally for team member collaboration and externally in helping the company win new business, says Doug Okun, head of Enterprise Digitization for Wells Fargo’s Innovation Group, which funded the home-equity video call pilot.
“Our long-term strategy is to explore the latest tools in order to provide team members and customers more options for communicating with each other,” he says.
Customer feedback about Video Call has been so positive that the company expects an expansion of the technology across many lines of business in the next few years, says Jim Smith, head of Wells Fargo Virtual Channels, which collaborated on the home equity pilot with the company’s Home Lending group.
“This is a great example of giving customers a digital solution that carries with it the powerful, personal touch our bankers deliver,” he says. “Video Call gives customers another choice in how to bank with us, and it gives us a chance to humanize digital technology.”
An immediate rapport
That human touch was clearly evident in Ruby’s relationship with her customer, John. Cultivated for months by phone, there was an immediate rapport when they saw each other on the video screen, Ruby says. John felt at ease to talk to her about everything from his banking and family to his career in law enforcement decades ago.
“It was just a delight for both of us to see each other for the first time,” she says. “He was able to show me pictures of himself during his younger years as a police officer. We talked a lot about his career as a police officer and detective. This virtual experience also brought more depth to our banking relationship. It’s been a memorable event.”
John says he’s always curious about new technology. “Yes, I am interested in computers, gadgets, and gizmos, that sort of thing. As I like to say, I’m computer friendly, even if not so computer savvy. But I do like to try new things and learn how they help us get things done.”
Ruby says connecting through Video Call with John other customers has strengthened her bond with them.
She adds: “Getting to know Mr. Howse has been a privilege, and it is an example of our goal to build lasting relationships with our customers. Having them share in this virtual experience by way of video makes it that much more meaningful.”