As interest rates continue to stagnate and banks continue to face consumer outrage over fees, banks’ best path to growth may be through innovative forms of customer service — like letting customers send texts to a live representative.

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A recent study from research and analytics firm comScore found that new online features and services are driving customer engagement. Among the features listed were credit score monitoring, personal finance management tools (i.e. and identity-theft services. While all very helpful, such interactions are only  one-way communication.

What’s missing, it seems to us, are innovative forms of two-way communication.

As you can see by reading the thousands of bank reviews published on, people have the strongest reaction to poor customer service. It’s easy to understand why. Ever tried to call your bank to reach a live representative? It’s  both annoying and difficult. This is probably why large institutions such as Bank of America® and Chase offer 24/7 dedicated service advisors (no voice recording) as a perk for high balances and premium credit cards.

Customer Service Grows Through Mobile Innovation

We at see text chat with a customer representative on a mobile device as a highly valuable feature for all levels of consumers.

Today’s largest banks now offer online chat and instant messaging through with a representative (CSR) on their website. comScore found that while consumers rarely use these types of services (only 7% indicated usage), interest was very high at 21 percent. It is important to point out that the reason for low usage was that many banks still lack this feature.

So if we know that the ability to chat with a CSR is important to customers and is more efficient for banks than speaking to a live representative, why not move the feature to mobile?

As banks target Gen Y, it is important to look at how this generation interacts with their devices. And studies of the demographic  show a continuous decline in voice conversation usage and the exact opposite for test messaging.

Interestingly, we already see banks using this type of mobile customer service through Twitter. The next obvious step is to bring such text-based communication into existing mobile banking experiences.

The power of a smartphone and its many apps is the ability to generate instant gratification while allowing for multi-tasking. Being able to text a bank representative and know they are working to answer your questions while you continue to do other things makes   engagement simple.

Mobile Users Are Banks’ Main Target Audience

Still the argument may be that Gen Y users lack the income or deposits in banking terms to invest in such a feature. But that mindset will hurt  banks in the long term. The reality is that, on average, mobile-banking customers age 18-34 are twice as likely as non-users to have household incomes exceeding $100,000 a year.

This is exactly the type of consumer that banks seek. It is also the type of audience that is willing to pay a fee for instant gratification. As banks look for new forms of profits, perhaps  an instant text feature to connect with a bank representative be worth a $2 a month during months when the feature is used.

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