Nationwide deploys SAS analytics to improve customer experience

Analytics frontrunner SAS is helping Nationwide, the world’s largest building society, to analyse customer interactions more effectively so it can solve problems earlier.

A successful proof-of-concept (POC) was able to establish significant inefficiencies, as more than half of all email enquiries could be resolved instead by guiding members towards digital channels.

Graeme Reed, senior manager of analytics at Nationwide, said: “Our recent growth has put pressure on our contact centre, which now receives over 800,000 calls every month. We needed to investigate how we could improve other communication channels to reduce call volumes.”

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Analytics relieves pressure

Many members contact the building society via secure emails sent when they are logged into online banking. Nationwide used SAS to understand the types of enquiries it receives via this channel and look for better ways to manage them.

According to announcement, the SAS solutions comprise artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to help companies accurately identify elements of customer communication that could be improved.

“AI applications like text analytics and natural language processing are revolutionising the way companies like Nationwide interact with their customers,” said Charles Senabulya, VP and country manager at SAS UK & Ireland. “SAS’ deployment will help Nationwide tailor its website and contact channels to its customers’ specific needs. Advanced analytics and AI give companies the deep insight needed to ensure customers are delighted by their experience. We look forward to helping Nationwide break further ground and build on its excellent customer service record.”

In the proof-of-concept, the analysts identified the root cause of each email enquiry, whether the query was resolved, and how many emails were exchanged in the process. Sentiment analysis from the SAS solutions helped Nationwide to detect the member’s mood; for instance, unsurprisingly, analysts identified that people’s moods worsen as the number of emails rises.

It established that over half of the emails could have been avoided entirely — 10%  of members who sent a secure email said that their transaction had not been resolved first time around in another channel. Another 19% were not resolved the first time they sent a secure email, and a further 26% of requests concerned transactions that could be moved to an online digital process.

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Building on historical success

An important factor attracting people to Nationwide is its award-winning service; it has a 4.6% lead on the industry’s customer satisfaction index. To build on this success, which was putting extra demands on its contact centre, it set out to investigate why members get in touch and find better ways of resolving their queries.

The partnership with SAS was able to identify a number of different solutions for customers, depending on the precise nature of the request.

“Using SAS text analytics, we established several concrete ways to make our service better,” explained Reed. “For example, many members contact us for proof of the travel insurance gained with the FlexPlus current account. The documents are available on our website – if we make them easier to find, more people will access them on a self-service basis.

“We also found that members often ask for a paper statement, because our online statements did not contain sufficient personal information to function as proof of address. By tweaking the statement format, we can eliminate these requests. And if several members contact us about transactions that cannot be completed online, we can consider building a digital capability to meet their needs.”

Equipped with these business insights, Nationwide is now proactively working to improve other channels to reduce the number of member enquiries.

“By guiding members towards digital channels and avoiding unnecessary enquiries, we eliminated significant inefficiencies from secure emails alone. We can now reinvest those savings in other products and services to improve customer service across the business,” said Reed. “We are currently deploying SAS Viya to take our analytics capabilities to the next level, completing straightforward tasks much more quickly and automatically interpreting and classifying complaints to free up employee resource.”

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Analytics: ‘a major focus’

“Analytics has become a major focus area within Nationwide. SAS continues to form a key pillar of our analytics landscape. We enjoy working with SAS, and we are excited to see what we can achieve with them in future,” continued Reed.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is the editor for Information Age. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and cyber security.