Customer relationships in a multichannel world
The public perception of banks has been battered in recent years, but financial institutions have been working hard to repair the damage. A key tool in their strategy has been to improve customer service in a multichannel environment, writes Joe Doyle of Sitel.
Since the start of the economic downturn in 2008, there has been no let up for banks battling to restore their customers’ faith in their services. Every headline about failed internal controls or the mis-selling of products has added to their burden, but the industry has been fighting back by making efforts to improve its service.
There is an ongoing process of rebuilding trust and some banks and financial services organisations are more proactive than others. It is a painful time for many banks with the credit crunch and the mis-selling of add-on products like PPI still in the very recent memory of their customers. The best way to regain trust, and we are seeing great strides being made here, is in focusing on customer experience. Our clients are ‘beefing up’ their audit processes, looking at every failure point and trying to fix problems.
Best practice is to reduce effort for the customer, so banks now look at KPIs such as customer satisfaction and ‘first contact resolution’ to measure how well they are performing at resolving a customer’s enquiry the first time, and to the satisfaction of that customer. Banks are also trying to provide a consistent experience across all contact channels. We are seeing a much more cohesive approach to areas such as web self-service and mobile banking, and how the experience there matches that at the traditional contact centre or even in branch.
With banks, credit card companies, finance houses, loan companies and others granting credit, companies are increasingly competing with each other; as a result we are now seeing banks looking at providing alternatives to the standard checking accounts and credit products. For example, in some markets, there has been a proliferation of pre-paid cards. These cards tend to have lower fees and are less intrusive for customers who just want money access without the fuss of traditional banking products, thus, they suit many people who need the security of a card without the bigger relationship with a bank.
A comprehensive approach to improving customer service requires banks to look far beyond traditional call centre operations, as much of the interaction with banks is moving away from the telephone and towards digital channels. Nevertheless, call centres remain a priority as they expand to handle other kinds of contact, such as live chat, email and social media. For banks to enable call centres to improve their service levels, they must form closer relationships with their outsourcing partners.
The biggest concern is how to get the outsourcer to deliver brand image and the level of experience that is provided in house. To a degree, this rests in the hands of the clients, as they have to open up and allow customer service providers access to the same information as they use themselves. Culture can be embedded in the outsource centre as long as the client is forthcoming in promoting it. By becoming immersed in a client’s brand, a call centre can provide a seamless service for a bank’s customers.
Embracing social media
Improving customer service means not only setting a consistently high standard for customer interactions, but also extending that consistency across increasingly important digital channels.
The most important element driving these channels is speed.
Our recent Social Media Customer Service Report survey of 1,000 people across Great Britain, aged 16–64, shows that customers increasingly select channels that offer the fastest response; for example, the data showed a year-on-year increase of 6% in customers selecting live chat as their preferred method of communication, with figures for email (-3%) and phone (-1%) falling. Approximately 26% of respondents believe that companies could improve their customer experience if they responded quickly to questions on social media sites like Twitter.
The report shows that social media is especially important for customers under 25, though many age groups are using Facebook, Twitter, blogs and forums to solve problems, voice complaints and search for information.
Traditionally, banks have been slow to adopt new technology, it was seen as very expensive and the industry was less competitive several years ago, but now financial services companies are among the most dynamic and prolific technology users.
In a more complex multichannel environment, banks are increasingly looking to external service providers to help achieve better customer service. When reviewing prospective customer service partners, look for a contact centre provider that can handle enquires across all channels. These should include:
- developing a unified agent queue for text-based interactions through social media, live chat and email
- employing a next-generation social media technology platform focused on delivering a proactive service in the customer’s chosen channel of interaction
- leveraging the unified queue and next-generation technology to provide a secure escalation path to live chat for enquiries involving PCI or PII-sensitive data or compliance
- delivering a net positive solution ROI by maximising first-call resolution and deflecting contacts from more expensive legacy voice channels or less effective legacy channels
- validating customer satisfaction with a permission-based mobile device customer satisfaction survey that works on any device, anywhere.
Repairing the public image of banks should be of the upmost importance to financial institutions of today. Customer relationships are vital in establishing trust between banks and the public. Banks need to position themselves as forward looking institutions going out of their way to reach the customer whatever their desired method of communication. A multichannel strategy embracing digital channels as opposed to the traditional channels embraces a new age of customer service, building trust and establishing a strong customer relationship.