PNC puts the customer experience at the center of PNC Pay

20. December 2017.

The late Yogi Berra, who enjoyed a Hall of Fame baseball career with the New York Yankees, had a way with words that often confused people even though his statements were drenched with humor and wisdom.

One particular “Yogi-ism” comes to mind when examining today’s mobile wallet market: you can observe a lot by watching.

Most of the giant financial institutions sat back and watched when Apple Pay debuted in the U.S. three years ago. They were content with making their cards eligible for Apple Pay, even if it meant sharing part of the transaction fee from such payments with Apple.

But as the banks watched things play out, some observed that they could have a say with mobile payments and wallets on Android, and maybe even make their offering more valuable than the current Pays.

That’s the idea behind the latest entrant into the market, PNC Pay. And Tom Trebilcock, senior vice president of digital for the bank, believes that PNC adding a payments feature to its mobile banking app comes at just the right time.

“Now is a good time to get plugged in and be prepared for a shift in customer behavior,” Trebilcock told Mobile Payments Today in an interview. “If you can make the user experience compelling enough, you’ll attract more users and other [customers] will follow.”

At the center of PNC’s approach is the ability for customers to keep track of their finances before and after a purchase.

“We’re just getting started, but we think from a customer experience perspective, additional information about your financial state is handy to have at the point of sale,” Trebilcock said.

PNC customers can also use the app as a projection tool of sorts and determine what their available balance will be based on upcoming payments. Additional features include an on/off switch for credit and debit cards stored with PNC Pay as well as the ability to review rewards.

“It gives customers more control and more visibility to their financial state at that moment, unlike some other alternatives that are just there for the payment and not necessarily much else,” Trebilcock said.

And those alternatives are the major Pays, which have had varying degrees of success since they debuted over the past three years. Consumer adoption, however, remains stagnant depending on which metric is used. The boon with mobile wallet use hasn’t happened yet, but Trebilcock believes that could change if a system can offer consistent value.

“Given the capabilities that we have and the need for our customers to be plugged into their financial state, we think we’ve arrived at the right time and that adoption is going to swing in our favor,” he said. “As it does, we’ll be prepared to make the case to have a better overall user experience.”

Of course, PNC is not the first major bank to walk this path.

BBVA, Capital One and U.S. Bank were among the first FIs in the U.S. to test and launch NFC-based mobile payments through their Android banking apps thanks to Google’s introduction of host card emulation in November 2013.

Since then, additional banks have followed that model while Citi and Chase introduced separate mobile-payment apps.

Trebilcock said PNC never considered a separate app.

“We never considered [it] because we wanted to offer more capabilities and have everything easy to get to in one place,” he said. “I’ve seen others with the separate mobile wallet app and frankly wondered why was that their approach. We have other card capabilities we want to remind people about and want to round out the payment experience.”

Those capabilities are not just limited to the Android app.

PNC last week updated its iOS app with the same financial management tools to help those users keep track of their finances. There’s even a shortcut within the app to bring a customer to Apple’s Wallet app to use Apple Pay.

Meantime, Trebilcock said PNC will continue to push PNC Pay in subtle ways to its customers. The bank didn’t make a huge proclamation when it launched the feature, but has peppered customers with emails and alerts from within the mobile banking app to make them aware of the service.

“We’re not doing a hard sell right now, but we’re trying to educate customers who are interested,” he said. “We’re marketing to those consumers who are maybe inclined to be early adopters.”

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