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The Need for Blended Call Centers in a Multi-Channel World

Today’s customers want choice and control over how, when, and where they conduct banking transactions. The proliferation of accessible channels has created preference differences across generations of banking customers, with many preferring to use multiple channels based on what they need at the moment and which device is close at hand. The challenge for line of business managers at financial institutions is to determine the best way to incorporate the various channels to manage customer lifecycle needs and to more successfully cross and up-sell their products to offset the cost of each channel.

Unfortunately, for many banks this is easier said than done. The quality of multi-channel banking interactions appears to remain more of an abstract idea, than a consistent and seamless customer experience. However the importance of establishing just that is becoming critical for customer longevity. Brett King, author of Bank 2.0 sums it up nicely, stating;

“[Banking] is now contextual and measured in terms of utility—how easily someone can use bank products or services to accomplish a task like shopping, traveling, or buying a car or home.”

For a business, the correlation may be the purchase of equipment or financing a new branch location. Line of business managers for financial institutions must never forget that their products and services are a means to an end for their customers, not the end in itself. In an effort to connect the dots, it’s imperative to empower your call center agents with the customer activity and response information they need as their duties expand beyond voice interactions to incorporate email, online and social channels.

Consider this scenario that might occur for a customer of deposits products:

A customer visits online bill-pay and mistakenly pays $1000.00, instead of $100.00—even though prompted to confirm the amount. Within a few hours, the customer receives a “low balance in checking account” alert on her cellphone. She uses her tablet to check her account, sees her mistake, notes the payments are already in process, and dials the 1-800 # for help. The IVR provides a clear choice to reach a human and the call center agent she reaches quickly analyzes the transaction and patiently explains the issue and the steps that need to be taken to solve it. The agent also offers to get the adjustment completed and applied to the customer’s account within the next business day, at no extra cost.
The customer is relieved and happy the issue has been handled so quickly and is receptive when the agent offers overdraft protection. The customer is late for a meeting, but agrees for the agent to email to her the link to a web page that will allow her to sign-up for the service. The next day, the customer receives a text message confirming that the requested adjustment has been made. She clicks the link in her email to sign up for the overdraft protection, determined that she won’t have to panic again if she makes an error, but finds the form confusing. A customer service agent—alerted that the time spent on the form web page has exceeded what it should—initiates a live chat session and helps the customer complete her transaction, quickly and easily.

In this scenario, the customer used three devices and numerous communication channels to resolve her issue. If this scenario was played out at your bank, would the customer be as satisfied? Would the up-sell have happened?

As inbound and outbound activities merge to create a blended call center
environment driven by channel proliferation, new processes must be put in place to ensure a more holistic customer experience while maintaining—or even improving—agent productivity. One of the biggest adjustments with the evolution of a blended call center is the realization that two-way communication will become the norm.

Although there are challenges to developing processes and making time and effort to conduct related training, there are many benefits to be found, including offering agents the variety of experiences that can increase their enthusiasm and engagement quality with customers and stave off burnout and attrition.

This being said, executives at financial institutions are having difficulty in reaching a consensus on blending in the call center. Some of the obstacles to be overcome include:

• More than one third of executives surveyed by ICMI don’t perceive the value in blending.
• Inbound calls are considered more important than the community perception of the availability of service.
• A lack of understanding of the experience and processes when a transaction involved multiple touches.

However, bank call centers that are finding success with blending are making some changes in their approach to training, coaching and monitoring, including:

• Setting expectations that make the agent a stakeholder in the strategic outcome.
• Applying quality monitoring to training effectiveness for faster iterations.
• Incorporating agent feedback about what might be negatively impacting performance in the work they’re doing.

As customer expectations change and more channels are put into play, bank call centers that are prepared to respond in a consistent and seamless fashion—regardless of channel—will find a direct correlation to reaching business objectives. Their call centers will play an integral role in extending customer lifecycles and growing share of wallet with well-orchestrated offers that not only address the context of the customers’ experience, but help them to achieve the end results they desire without undue effort or frustration.