Dave Tidwell, Head of Technical Pre-sales, DigitalWell
The pandemic has, without doubt, moved the goalposts when it comes to banks and how they interact with their customers.
With branches closed overnight amid nationwide lockdowns, the demand being placed on contact centres managing alternative channels such as social media, email, SMS and phone calls, rocketed exponentially.
Long waiting times, unfortunately, became the norm as customers were greeted in hold queues with automated messages stating their call centres were ‘busier than normal’.
Tellingly, that message is often still the norm. Now the worst of the pandemic and lockdowns are behind us, the standard of bank-to-customer contact should be starting to recover. The fact that it has not will eventually lead customers to switch to alternative financial services providers that offer a more efficient and seamless experience.
Have banks been running before they can walk?
It is a problem that banks can ill afford to ignore.
During the height of the covid crisis, they innovated and implemented digital solutions and communications capabilities that belied their notorious reputation for being slow to embrace new technologies. Indeed, banking was a leading digital adopter during this time.
However, while many banking IT professionals can talk confidently about innovation and digital transformation, the pandemic forced banks to make quickfire decisions and investments that normally would have taken them two or three years to adopt. This means that they could have been implementing new internal systems that, in reality, are not executed well for the long term or entirely fit for purpose.
In terms of communications, there is a clear execution gap, meaning that decisions of the past have proven to have a myriad of impacts on brand, reputation, loyalty and revenue.
This is compounded in the so-called post-covid ‘new normal’, as customer expectations around service and experience are once again recalibrating. While automation using AI and bots allowed banks to handle high volumes of enquiries, consumers have made it clear that they need to revert back to delivering an omnichannel customer experience that incorporates more people-to-people communication approach and does not solely rely on bots and self-service. In fact, a recent report highlighted that poor customer service throughout the financial services industry costs over $10billion a year in lost revenue.
This is especially the case given the current cost of living crisis. As customers come under greater pressure to sustainably manage their finances, the value of access to human financial expertise has grown – if this expertise is unreachable, banks risk damaging their customer relationships and loyalty.
Breaking down communication silos
Being able to synergise technology and human elements of customer service is therefore paramount.
Indeed, banks need to find ways to connect front, middle and back-office teams to ensure the customer experience is seamless, helpful and workable for both their business and their customers. Banks needs to understand that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work as various demographics utilize different modes of communication. For example, over 65s overwhelmingly prefer to use the phone as their primary form of customer communications, whereas under 25s take to social media and bots more comfortably.
Effective information sharing through, for example, robust CRM systems, is absolutely critical to show customers that your team know and understand who they are, their history of interactions with you, and that you genuinely care about their circumstances.
This starts with the onboarding process. What we have typically seen is the front office will take an application request, that then gets absorbed in the system. Huge amounts of resources are spent collecting data and performing manual, error prone, and costly KYC (Know Your Customer) reviews. It reportedly can take up to 240 days to process a high-risk client.
In the meantime, challenger banks like Starling, Monzo, and Revolut have disrupted the market of the bricks and mortar financial institutions because they have streamlined processes and digitally transformed the customer experience. They provide a more flexible service that is quick to adapt to user needs. They deploy a more personal and intuitive approach than traditional banks, by adopting the latest technology available. Traditional banks, meanwhile, are typically slower to respond to market demands and keep up-to-date with technological developments. Beyond onboarding, banks need to make appropriate use of automation technologies that complement human expertise and interaction throughout the customer journey.
Leveraged smartly, automated systems can help to engage customers and even upsell financial products and services, all while freeing up human resources to concentrate on more nuanced and value-add enquiries.
For instance, platform workflows can trigger system events such as automated notifications of a receipt of credit. Here, a customer may have set up a rule whereby they are notified when a credit of a certain amount enters their account – by proactively notifying them, banks can more effectively engage with their customers and may even encourage them to invest some of that credit.
Automated technologies can also be leveraged to more effectively handle peaks and troughs in demand for customer support. For example, to avoid leaving customers hanging in queues, banks could use solutions that enable call-bank services.
A new approach to workforce management
Maximising the performance and potential of human assets will also be key to breaking down communications silos and offering a superior experience.
This can be achieved by supporting your team to become more efficient and more engaged via a shift in approach from workforce management to workforce engagement management.
A part of this shift could be the exploration of gamification strategies. Here, teams could be placed into game-style scenarios whereby those at the top of metric- or KPI-driven leader boards – are rewarded.
What we have found is that gamification, if done well and instigated positively, can improve the working baselines of employees. We’ve enjoyed some very recent success at significant scale with international and global businesses with this – it’s about being more efficient, more effective and finding ways to achieve more with less.
Keeping up with customer expectations has not been easy in recent years as one crisis is replaced by another. Priorities continue to change, and with that comes a need for banks to be flexible, fast and empathetic in how they respond to their customers – leveraging the best of technological and human capability to break down communications silos will be key to making this happen.