The COVID pandemic has accelerated the shift of consumers away from branches into call centres and web/mobile channels to meet their banking needs. At the same time, in trying to keep their employees safe and enforce social distancing rules, banks have also had to convert a large percentage of their office staff to work from home. This sudden and unprecedented shift has created a huge burden on banks, with some reporting up to a 400% increase in call centre volumes and up to 2 hours waiting time for customers to talk to bank representatives. A challenging and unpleasant experience for all parties involved.
Now, as the world begins to recover from this crisis, it is hard to imagine both customers and employees switching back to their old ways of working. The big imperative and challenge for banks is how to effectively support their customers and employees in this new service paradigm where branches are no longer the main point of customer interaction, without dropping NPS and customer satisfaction scores and all the while, still meeting their business objectives.
Digital needs to play a huge role in enabling this transformation and there are a few key focus areas that banks will need to address in order to make this transition effectively.
Data as a foundation for a true omni-channel experience:
We’ve seen how companies like Uber and Netflix have successfully used customer data to understand user needs and create new propositions to match those needs. In the absence of branches and less face to face communication, banks will need to aggregate relevant transactional and behavioural data to make decisions on when and how to interact with consumers. Examples where this can help are:
- Pre-empting queries: We know that a lot of call centre enquiries are status related – “what is the status of my application”, “is my pay check in my account yet”, “has my money been transferred”? Analysing customer behaviour to understand the timing and nature of these queries and then taking proactive steps to push the relevant status information to customers in advance of the query can dramatically reduce call centre volumes and increase customer satisfaction by presenting the right data to them at the right time.
- Informed Debt Management: Historical signals of predicting defaults and/or understanding the creditworthiness of customers are no longer valid as COVID has had an unprecedented impact on jobs and the economy, impacting more people than ever before. Here again, banks can leverage historical behavioural and transaction data to create different responses to helping people depending on how the recovery might impact their specific circumstance.
- Targeting new propositions: With the right consents, presenting personalised and timely offers around car loans or mortgages based on individual needs can increase customer acquisition rates.
Investing in robust Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) to inform actions is a key first step and will provide a useful guiding light on how best to help customers, and which channel to direct them to.
Technology to drive more personalised collaboration and automation:
Technology applications like MS Teams, Zoom, WhatsApp Video and Facetime have revolutionised how people are communicating and collaborating. These VC based tools have made it easier for bank employees and customers to interact in a more personalised way. Yet these technologies are not common in most call centres. The rollout of these tools to provide customer service, whilst clearly addressing privacy concerns needs to be an immediate focus.
However, tools alone won’t drive personalisation. They need to be complemented by an ambitious programme of automation where all tasks that don’t need human intervention are done via self-service. This would involve enhancing mobile/web channels to enable basic services like account opening, application for simple loans etc. automatically, and only push more complex user needs to bank representatives to solve via phone/VC, freeing up resource.
Be led by the customer
As we enter unchartered waters, it will be essential to monitor how user behaviour changes as they adapt to life post COVID-19. It will be important that banks not only invest in education programmes and campaigns to communicate how they are changing their service model but also, put in place a strong feedback loop that allows them to better understand user preferences and adoption of new services and channels. Best practices like creating a Model Office to test functionality with a small set of friendly users before rolling out to a wider population, building cross-disciplinary delivery teams across business/IT organised around customer journeys, increasing speed of delivery by automating development and testing lifecycle can help facilitate this.
Today, the technology and digital infrastructure that will make it possible for enterprises to shift to this new paradigm of servicing customers exists. Using customer data to target where these technologies are used and introducing a quick feedback loop to continuously optimise can serve as the foundation blocks to make this transition successfully. Banks that can adopt these new working practices by introducing the right culture and incentives, have a huge opportunity to create a new and more fulfilling service model for their customers.