Call Center Vendors Must Humanize the Banking Experience

The top reason consumers leave a financial institution is due to subpar service.

Thirty-seven percent of retail bank customers said so in a 2010 survey conducted by J.D. Power and Associates. This percentage grew to 48 percent in response to a 2011 Ernst & Young survey. Not only is customer attrition a growing issue for banks, but so is gaining an increase in share of wallet. Forrester research found that although consumers on average own nine financial products, they only obtain 2.5 of them from one institution.

Selecting the vendor that will provide outsourced call center services is about more than answering inbound calls and resolving issues. The basics can be done by many vendors, but what elevates on vendor over another is their ability to humanize the experience beyond the robotic reading of scripts. Today’s consumers are pretty savvy. They can detect a script and lack of personalization in an instant.

Humanizing the banking experience is not a nice-to-have, but a must have factor for deriving more business value from the vendor you select. The fact that service improvements help banks repair both perceptions and profitability is borne out by research from Bain & Company that found financial institutions with high loyalty have a 10 percent higher growth rate than those with lower loyalty.

Contributing to this growth rate is the willingness of consumers to spend an average of 9 percent more when they recognize service excellence. The silver lining is that nearly half of banking customers asked say they’ll stick with their current bank, regardless of what may come. But that still leaves the other half that may be swayed to switch and the opportunity to up and cross-sell.

Banks and Customers Don’t See Eye-to-Eye

In order to curtail attrition, 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 advancing attrition—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—by 76 percent of Baby Boomers and 56 percent of Millennials. Humanizing their experience will go a long way toward rejuvenating customer longevity and, potentially, share of wallet.

Choose a Call Center that Contributes to Customer Strategy

Given the challenges presented by changing customer preferences and concerns, a vendor prepared to elevate call center agents to a more strategic role adds value to a service often considered a commodity. Agents must be trained and enabled to educate, communicate, and connect with the qualities that today’s consumers’ value. As banking customers struggle to save, exploit financial opportunities, and gain better control over their own finances, information can become a primary differentiator when provided as a personalized response to their inquiries.

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. Call center agents adept at up sell and cross selling your products in thoughtful ways can improve revenue growth along with satisfaction.

The desire to be heard and receive knowledgeable responses that resolve our situations is common across all consumers. The fact that banking customers rate it as their top priority when bank executives think it’s the brand that carries sway can be more easily overcome with a vendor aligned with customer perspective. Contact center agents are in a primary position to deliver better service, understand customer needs, and provide personalized responses to customer feedback. Armed with those front-line experiences, they can also serve to inform your bank’s customer strategy.

Points of Evaluation for Call Center Vendors

When evaluating outsourced call center vendors, the following points can help you make the right choice when humanizing the banking customer experience is a valued business goal.

  • Ability to Clear the Queue– Ask vendors how they propose to remove the necessity to answer basic and easy questions from clogging the queue. The answer should involve creating self-service FAQs and answers to basic informational queries.
  • Provision of Strategic Agents– Request that they demonstrate how they’ll elevate service delivery to produce a higher return on their involvement.

For the contact center to play a pivotal role in customer strategy and experience, agents must 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.

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. Allow their personalities to shine through based on customer needs and consider the idea that focusing problem resolution and customer satisfaction can produce higher returns than traditional metrics, such as reducing average handle time.

Make the Choice to Serve People, Not Products

By changing the view of the call center from a cost of doing business to an investment in building relationships, your vendor selection can help to transform the customer relationship by working to prove 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.