Years ago, your bank account was something you had for many years, often from an early age. Switching was so much of a hassle, and customers just didn’t have their pick from a large range of services as they do today. As a result, prior to the introduction of the UK Government’s seven-day switching rules in late 2013, the apparent difficulty and effort in switching only saw 11% switching current accounts in the previous 12 months. According to the same research from uSwitch, 42% said that they were more likely to switch current accounts with the new rules in place.
Banks, and financial services as a whole, have often been at the pioneering end of technology, and how they deal with their customers. Companies like First Direct have consistently been lauded year after year for their high customer satisfaction ratings, and much of it is down to how easy customers feel it is to do business with them, and how much they trust the company that their money is in a safe place. Rapid adoption of new technology and contact channels by banks has enhanced the customer experience, and today they’ll often compete on this level as opposed to fees or rates.
Early automation in the form of ATMs did away with needing a bank teller to withdraw smaller amounts, and today we are seeing a significant uplift in the number of people using mobile devices to manage their personal finances. In fact, it was in April 2014 that the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) revealed the sheer rate of growth, as in the period April 2013 to April 2014, 18.6 million bank transactions were performed by customers using a mobile banking application; double the 12 month period before that.
Smart phones and tablets have unquestionably changed the way we communicate, and so customer service has had to adapt. Banks and other financial services providers are not only faced with the challenge of how to manage and integrate multiple contact channels; but also how to bring in self-service into those channels to make it as easy as possible for the customer to resolve their query for themselves, quickly.
Every base covered
‘Omni-channel’ is one such trend that has presented more options for banks for self-service beyond interactive voice response (IVR) in the voice channel, and frequently asked questions (FAQ) databases on websites. Omni-channel is about creating a consistency in the service quality that people experience on each channel, with no breaks. So in theory, a customer should be able to resolve the same query on whatever channel they choose to use, at whatever point in the ‘conversation’ thread. This means that a customer could text a financial services provider, move onto email, before speaking to a contact centre advisor without ever having left the conversation, or repeating any information.
This does create several opportunities and benefits for banks and financial services providers. Firstly, it removes any manual processes from live customer service advisors that are frequent and high volume, saving operational cost. Secondly, instead of having several hundred, basic-skilled advisors working in a contact centre, there is a smaller, more trained, and expert team, armed with the right tools and solutions in order to deal with lower volume complex queries that cannot be resolved with self-service. Finally, the customer is extending as little effort as possible when they have to contact their provider; queries are resolved more quickly and to their satisfaction, in whatever way (i.e. contact channel) that they choose.
But if omni-channel is supposed to deliver a seamless experience for a customer, it’s a challenge for banks to therefore understand how newer channels than voice and email – SMS, mobile web, social media, instant messaging – can be effectively linked together using self-service.
For instance, the very public channel of social media doesn’t seem to fit well with a private issue such as personal finance. But it’s where the customers are. Over the past couple of years, research into consumer habits by Aspect found that the volume of UK consumers aged 16 and over who wanted to engage with their bank/building society over social media, jumped from 3% to 11%. This is over a tenth of a financial services provider’s customer base, looking to speak to and engage with the company.
The self-service future
Social media is just one example, but self-service is coming into its own on mobile channels. Self-service offers an instant response using automation up until a point, in order to gather the necessary information to complete a transaction, resolve a query, or, promote to a skilled live agent for more complex queries.
Newer self-service technologies ensure that the information already captured at the automated stages – whether via SMS, mobile web, instant message, social media, via a mobile application, or a combination of these – is already part of the live agent’s arsenal. Customers may even be pre-verified using secure web forms if required (essential in financial services). They don’t have to repeat themselves and the agent is ready and willing to deliver a great service. Even better is that the customer can even skip the queue with call backs and quick links straight through to direct numbers.
These in-bound self-service tools can generate intelligent responses across mobile channels to make it easy for a customer to do business with the bank or financial services organisation. The more each business develops their use of the technology according to business rules and trends in the contact centre, the more likely that some queries may be resolved completely via mobile channels, without ever having to speak to a live agent.
These developments in mobile self-service are perfectly aimed at a growing number of consumers who are comfortable with automated interaction; in fact, they often prefer it, because it is faster. In return, your organisation experiences cost savings, better skilled staff, high customer satisfaction ratings, and a demonstration that you understand the customer. After all, you’re not asking the customer to learn something new; it’s already a part of their lives. Banks and financial services providers that take the time to understand the chosen channel(s), the most effective pathway through each channel through to the live agent (if required), and significantly reducing the effort for the customer will reap the rewards, and feel the love.
Sourced from Neil Whitaker, UK Sales Director – Finance, at Aspect Software