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BirdsEye View

call center transformation

 Customers look for more from their experiences across all facets of life, and banking is no exception.  Customers want more from their interactions with organizations and their brand:

They expect a connected experience across channels

They compare experiences across various companies, including banks, and numerous products and services they use in their daily lives – regardless of which industry they are interacting with (“The Amazon effect”)

They want brands that are smart, informed and connected as they are

They want to participate, self-serve, and personalize their experiences and products

In this environment, customer experience (CX) is rapidly becoming increasingly important.  Business strategy should be fully coordinated with the CX aspects of the strategy.  For example, if your strategy is to grow profitably and be a leader in your market, your customer strategy might be specific segment targeting (e.g. young emerging affluent, or memory care facilities, or title companies) to whom you will profitably deliver high-perceived value.  These two strategic components are inextricably intertwined with the CX strategy, leveraging the brand identity toward a greater value-add customer experience.

Call centers are at the center of banks’ customer interactions, and are a key driver of positive outcomes to the customer.  They are at the center of the customer experience equation.  Unfortunately, many banks still treat their call centers as a cost center with basic functionality.  They wish to minimize the cost of this service channel by providing basic levels of functionality, as well as minimal support to their phone bankers.

Banks that are more focused on managing their customer experience more effectively integrate the call center with other touchpoints throughout the bank.  It’s a step in the right direction, but often doesn’t go far enough.  An ideal call center will have multi-channel, multi-function capabilities where internal and customer-touch processes are streamlined and optimized. Such call centers are more capable of generating revenues through NEEDS-BASED cross and up-sell activities, as they are geared to optimize the overall customer experience while generating revenues for the bank.

Those banks that are committed to upgrading their call center can set their sights at two levels:

Upgrade current processes (by enhancing service delivery; better managing the current workforce; streamlining operations, and essentially doing what they are doing today more efficiently and effectively).  

OR

Leap forward beyond the efficiency and streamlining moves to exceed customer expectations (by levering predictive analytics; using virtual agents; introducing gamification and improving self-service options).

Many banks are making progress toward identifying and implementing process improvement and upgrades, which yield attractive cost reduction percentages.  Going beyond that to become more competitive rather than achieve parity is expensive, which will take a bite out of some of your cost saves, but is a more promising revenue-generating and customer engagement strategy.

Today’s call centers have several operating model issues:

1. They are not scalable as processes are not uniform across call centers and channels.  Multiple groups also yield inconsistent customer experiences in addition to efficiency challenges.

2. They are not customer-centric which results in customer frustration and a sense of not being understood or recognized by the phone bankers, Call routing also suffers.

3. They do not employ sophisticated workforce management tools which yields over- or under-staffing and lower occupancy rates.  Minimal real-time management practices prevent effective predictability of workforce requirements and create unnecessary stress during crunch times.

4. They do not support robust self-service options, which gives the customer no option but to use a phone banker even if they do not want to or feel the transaction will not receive value-add from human fulfillment.  IVR management is often lacking, yielding inefficiencies and over-burdening phone bankers.

5. Fragmented technology  and legacy solutions increase costs, since they necessitate multiple data entry points and yield fragmented customer views, which interfere with the phone banker’s ability to fully meet the customer needs and provide exceed-expectations service levels.

Simply upgrading the way you’re doing business today can help reduce costs significantly. 

1. Consolidate common support functions, even across business lines, to increase efficiencies and improve consistency of customer experience.

2. Utilize segmentation and appended customer data to better preempt customer need identification.

3. Route calls from customer segments to Subject Matter experts.

4. Improve demand planning and capacity planning to achieve better staffing and utilization rates.

5. Improve self-service options for routine, no-value-add transactions on the IVR.

6. Connect disparate systems (possibly through middleware) to give phone bankers access to customers’ credit card, mortgages and other product ownership.

7. Consider service differentiation based upon customer value (current or potential).

8. Route calls based on complexity of transaction or service need to reduce hand-offs and route calls with greater complexity to the appropriate experts.  Note: improved self-service options will free phone bankers to handle more complex and value-add calls.

One of the mistakes community banks make is to equate in-person or human service with quality service.  Customers have moved from that definition some time ago, utilizing self-service and automation to manage their experience in a more customized fashion.  Community banks need to improve their channel selection offering to optimize the customer experience.

For example:

Make the self-service experience as good or better than the phone banker service option

Match channel offering with transaction complexity (for example, balance inquiry should go first to IVR)

Add to the self-service option more robust functionality that can only be delivered through self-service, e.g. YouTube video demonstrations of product usage

Offer incentives to customers to utilize self-service options

In addition to simple upgrades, technology can be the wind beneath your phone bankers’ wings, making call centers more customer-centric and proactive.  You can increase service hours using technology for simple questions and transactions, or utilize voice biometrics and multi-factor authentication with out-of-wallet questions to speed up authentication and improve fraud detection.  Technology can even tell us today the customer’s to improve the phone banker’s effectiveness in handling each customer individually.

Whether you choose to upgrade your current state toward improved efficiencies and customer experience, or to transform your phone bank operations and experience, the results can be stunningly positive.  No other department handles more customer touches than the phone bank.  It should not be considered a cost center to be minimized and managed.  It is an important customer service, sales and communication channel, and must be managed with that in mind.