Great Customer Experiences Require More than Process

As a primary front-line for financial institutions, contact centers make and lose revenue every day based on the quality of the customer experience. This experience can be compromised if inbound calls are considered to be compartmentalized moments in time. Rather, the experience must be considered the culmination of all of the interactions or touch points a customer has with your institution and the bigger question to ask is; was the experience delivered the one you intended?

A bank’s contact center workflows are often based on standardized processes designed to increase efficiency and eliminate defects that could hamper effective issue resolution. Maintaining control and enforcing regulatory compliance is often at the root of process design in financial services, but processes alone do not create superlative experiences.

Quite often, process design is reflective of internal goals for the contact center, not outcomes the customer wants or expects. One example is Average Handle Time (AHT). A focus on reducing the time spent on calls can make customers feel like they’re getting the “bum’s rush” or that they don’t matter to the organization. This is especially true if the issue is not resolved to the customer’s satisfaction, or if they want more information from an agent who obviously wants to terminate a call once the problem has been solved. With call length getting longer, and the drivers more complex, this activity only intensifies this common practice.

The Nature of Customer Experience

Customer experiences require a combination of art (humanity) and science (process). The challenge with combining people and process in the contact center is that good-enough service has become the norm. Sameness experienced from one financial institution to another does nothing to build loyalty and greater product adoption for customers. However sameness in service is common across the industry.

Sameness can trigger unconscious ambivalence in customers, lowering their loyalty to your brand. In other words, although your processes may be efficient and effective, the failure to provide service that’s emotionally resonant and difficult to duplicate elsewhere can hurt more than help—even if your customers are mostly satisfied. Satisfaction is reflective of a transitory attitude that doesn’t necessarily impact the behavior required for customer loyalty.

This can be a challenge for financial institutions that are traditionally conservative, risk averse, and burdened with institutional legacies. But it’s incredibly important to continuously improve the customer experience and strive to exceed customers’ expectations.

A report from Achieve Global makes the case with its findings from a recent study of consumers’ opinions about their contact center experiences:

• Consumers said that being heard, understood, and respected are more important than having their issue resolved on the first call.
• A customer service agent who doesn’t express concern for the customer’s problem creates a negative emotional experience.
• Only 25 percent of consumers said that employees “make me feel they are on my side.”
• 44 percent identified using scripts and canned responses as bad behavior.
• Over 40 percent become annoyed when an agent tries to cross or upsell during the call because they felt their problem was being ignored.
• 93 percent would defect to another company after three or fewer bad experiences.

That over 40 percent of consumers in the study admitted to posting negative reviews online should be a wakeup call that the power in the customer relationship has shifted and must be addressed.

The Service Provided in the Past Will Not Serve the Customer of the Future

Focusing on safe objectives and continuing to provide the level of service that maintains an industry benchmark will not set your institution apart. Your contact center must focus on designing customer interactions that cannot be easily replicated by your competitors. Instead, redesign experiences based on where your customers assign the highest value.

Creating captivating customer experiences requires financial services organizations to:

Get To Know Your Customers. Get to know what they value and how your brand delivers on its promise to them. Use Voice of the Customer programs to inform process development, as well as the soft skills necessary to enable agents to deliver what’s needed to meet the human and emotional needs of your customers—in addition to resolving their issue. When an organization truly knows its customers and designs processes from the outside in—rather than from an internal focus—they are able to loosen their grip on control and trust their contact center agents to provide the best experience possible, each and every time.
Develop Processes Designed for Human Connection. The more mechanistic your processes become, the more likely they are to contribute to the problem you’re trying to solve—customer defection. Control is a beautiful illusion, but not a great contributor to the personalization your customers expect. For example, rather than scripts—which consumers consider bad behavior –create problem-to-solution guides that include conversational prompts. This will help agents to gain the knowledge they need to solve customers’ problems, but allow them to do so in an empathetic manner that matches the customer’s emotional level while clearly conveying the brand’s promise—yet still keeps them within industry guidelines.

Customer Experience Is Based on Value

Institutions have grown, it’s obvious that the way you’ve always provided service is not the best path to future growth and customer retention. Even though your customers are more empowered by technology, the importance they place on human needs and interactions cannot be underestimated. It’s time for banks to catch up with the Starbucks and Amazons of the world to provide distinctive experiences that embrace both the art and science your customers expect. The best part is that a solid, consistent and differentiated customer experience delivers benefits for both your customers and your organization.