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Elevate Trust by Humanizing the Banking Experience

The top reason consumers leave a financial institution is due to subpar experiences. Forty-eight percent said so in response to a 2011 Ernst & Young survey. Not only is customer attrition a growing issue for banks, but it’s being fueled by a lack of trust caused by disjointed perspectives between banks and their customers.

A Conflict in Perceptions: Banks vs. Customers

In order to enhance experiences, bank executives and employees need to move beyond their gut assumptions to considering the reality of how customer preferences and expectations have changed. A lack of alignment with these shifts will only continue to contribute to declining trust and credibility—and the gap runs deep.

A comparison of perceptions from a survey conducted by Convergys identified conflicting views in several critical areas:

  • Customer service: 80% of customers say service is worse—92% of executives think it has improved.
  • Understanding needs: 57% of customers say there’s a lack of understanding, but 100% of banking executives think their organization does understand its customers.
  • Response to feedback: 53% of customers say their banks don’t act on feedback, but 100% of banking executives think they do.

The result of these disconnects with customers leads to lower trust and credibility for the financial institution. This being said, there’s a huge opportunity to leverage the call center to repair and reverse these issues. The call center is the most utilized service channel across all customers—from76 percent of Baby Boomers to 56 percent of Millennials. Humanizing their experience will go a long way toward rejuvenating the customer longevity that comes with trust and credibility.

Call Center as a Key Input for Customer Strategy

As banking customers struggle to save, exploit financial opportunities, and gain better control over their own finances, elevating call center agents to a more strategic role allows them to educate, communicate, and connect with the qualities that consumers’ value.

Banking customers have indicated that they’re receptive to information on new products and services that can help them reach their financial goals. In fact, many of them actually remember receiving such information from their banks and 22 percent have taken action in response. However, there are also nine percent that say their banks have not been helpful in this regard.

The desire to be heard and receive knowledgeable responses that resolve our situations is common across all consumers. The fact that banking customers rate this as their top priority when bank executives think it’s the brand that carries sway must be overcome. Not only are contact center agents in a primary position to provide better experiences, they can also serve to inform company strategy based on front-line experiences.

Empower Agents to Humanize the Experience

First, remove the basic and easy questions from clogging the queue by creating self-service answers to FAQs and informational needs. This allows you to elevate the interactions of call center agents to a more strategic role that produces a higher return on their involvement.

Ensure that agents have the appropriate tools and training to represent and explain products and fees in the most understandable manner. Agents who are empowered to resolve issues and who have the necessary supervisory support can have a dramatic impact on customer retention rates and profitability by providing best-in-class service.

With training and coaching in place, you can eliminate the constraints placed on agents that have them come across as robotic and superficial. This doesn’t mean removing processes, but freeing them from scripts and time constraints that add unnecessary stress and pressure to how they do their jobs.

People Power Banking – Inside and Out

Although the goal is to increase the number of products held by each customer, focusing on the products before the person will not accomplish the objective. A terrific example of the success of this approach is presented in an interview with Jim Bush, EVP of World Service at American Express. His belief was that more human engagements created through less-structured conversations would pay off. And it has; “Customer spending is up, attrition is down.”

By changing the view of the call center as a cost of doing business to an investment in people, Bush transformed the customer relationship by proving that higher satisfaction is directly tied to higher spending. Perhaps it’s high time for financial services organizations to start serving customers rather than handling transactions. Trust is based on perceptions and experiences.