Customer Service Excellence in the Banking Industry

Banking is at a tipping point. After two years of buckling down for resilience and immediate survival, the industry is now moving into what has been dubbed the divergence era.

The next few years will mark a time where some banks will become thriving new outliers while others simply fade away.

Tomorrow’s top performers are already futureproofing with measures that include updating their offerings, attracting fresh internal talent, and creating more sustainable economic models.

But the customer is still the linchpin.

As always, growth and profitability in the banking industry are tied to the level of customer service excellence.

The Importance of Customer Service in Banking Today

The rapid shift to digital service and remote work wreaked absolute havoc on the banking industry’s customer service.

Wait times for live contact center representatives skyrocketed. J.D. Power’s analysts ran a survey in which 25% of respondents reported waiting 10 minutes or longer to speak with an agent.

But on social media, customers self-report waiting for at least three to four hours. That’s if they don’t get repeatedly disconnected. And The Washington Post  ran a story backing that figure up.

This is not good news. A conservative estimate has average wait times dropping the bank’s customer satisfaction score by a third.

What does this statistic actually represent?

  • It’s the senior citizen who forgets their online banking password and can’t get a live agent to help them regain account access.
  • It’s the already frustrated parent who has to keep calling and waiting to get through hours-long queues, only to be repeatedly disconnected.
  • It’s the digitally comfortable millennial who’s disappointed with their mobile banking’s chat help, then considers switching to a FinTech service provider.

People are reasonable. Banking clients were willing to give their service providers some grace, in light of the circumstances. But everyone has their limit and most banking customers have hit theirs.

Phrases like “we are currently experiencing higher than normal call volumes” and “expect extremely long wait times”  are starting to induce rage.

The grace period is over.

McKinsey makes this clear in their latest  Global Banking Annual Review. They noted a brief window of opportunity opening up for banks to digitally innovate, adapt, and upgrade. And McKinsey estimated a two-year period for banks to adjust and rise to the top.

During this time banks must become deeply embedded in the customer’s life to provide personalized, memorable, and engaging service.

And this requires creating an entirely new foundation for customer service.

Revisiting the Essentials of Customer Service Excellence in the Banking Industry.

Banking contact centers are under stress. They require new capabilities to deal with high call loads along with remote or hybrid working environments.

And digital heavy banking requires robust new service channels.

Banks must invest in new foundational infrastructure for providing customer service. This need was reflected in J.D. Power’s 2020 National Banking Satisfaction Study.

Key satisfaction drivers during that time included fundamental elements like great people, digital channels (both website and mobile), and being able to effectively resolve their problems and complaints.

The ability to meet these basic service needs separated top performers from failures. These top performers were able to do three simple things:

  • provide their clients with effective digital channels,
  • provide reasonably fast access to live service representatives,
  • quickly and effectively resolve the issues.

Banking call centers have been overwhelmed by service requests. One factor at play here is that more customers need higher-quality assistance in order to navigate financial changes and stressors.

And a direct phone call is often the first thing on their minds. Many of these calls need to be redirected to other channels. But the live representative contact center is still at the heart of providing good banking customer service.

Improving the Live Representative Banking Customer Service Experience

It isn’t all up to your service representatives. It takes technological assistance, strategy, and analytics to meet today’s needs.

And the process begins with a more intelligent reception.

Banks must first eliminate the frustration of repeated cycles of extended queuing, disconnecting, and queuing again. This can be achieved by implementing a few failsafe measures:

  • automatic callback scheduling
  • and automatic missed call messages.

Haphazard inbound call reception is another recipe for disaster. Particularly when customers are in distress, highly agitated, have niche account needs or are dealing with unresolved issues.

Smart banking contact centers integrate customer segmentation into the contact center routing system. This lets them:

  • flag calls that need to be pushed to the front of the line
  • direct certain callers to more experienced agents
  • let representatives develop relationships with customers who have more complex service needs.

Agents need to have as much relevant customer information as possible. This is critical to provide higher quality service, but personal information sharing is inhibited by privacy regulations.

One way to comply is to use data and information to generate insights. This creates a data-driven and scientific banking contact center. One that is able to work with both broad and narrow customer analytics.

Digital Cohesion

Anywhere and at any time. This is what defines exceptional banking customer service today. It’s connecting with the client on their preferred channel while delivering the same level of service.

To do this, banks must offer a robust digital experience with all the warmth and friendliness of personal attention.

The bank’s website, mobile site, and mobile app should be capable of serving the full span of regular banking needs.

And these channels to be seamlessly integrated with each other and the rest of the service operations.

Banking customers like to go back and forth between channels. Even die-hard mobile app users may want to switch to their website to complete an interaction or get input from a service representative on an activity.

The key is creating a fluid digitalized ecosystem. Your service department doesn’t live in one place. It’s dispersed across centers and devices. But it still has to function as one unit.

Also, pay attention to online accessibility. Digital bank assets require thoughtful design to make them suitable for different ages, cognition levels, physical impairments, and devices.

Another measure that improves everyone’s banking customer experience is having excellent in-app or on-site assistance from live agents or an AI tool. These smart chat tools offer a bridge to a more personalized digital experience.

Ways to Deliver Excellent Banking Customer Service

Standards and expectations are high. But it can be far easier to deliver exceptional banking service than many presume.

It takes a mix of digital infrastructure, technology, and tools, most of which are based on automation, artificial intelligence, and interoperability. This stack will empower any bank.

1. End-to-End Integration

The words “seamless” and “omnichannel” get thrown around a lot. What this really means is that information and digital instructions must freely pass throughout the entire system.

This is what enables consistency, personalization, and automation. It unifies digital channels, allowing your bank to tap into new service models and value generators.

Secure digital infrastructure enables customer engagement tools like self-service chatbots, text messaging, and mobile notifications.

But cohesion centered within a single platform is even more critical for service representatives. This is what gives them a comprehensive view of the customer’s relevant information and prior service interactions.

2. Smarter Automated Phone Service

How natural is your bank’s automated interactive phone menu? What kind of first impression does it give banking customers?

The interactive voice response system is on the frontlines of customer service. Yet, it’s often treated as an afterthought.

Banks that expect customers to put up with a poor IVR are in for trouble. It should be held to the same standard as a living receptionist.

Give customers an experience that’s as close to speaking with another human being as possible. One step is to avoid IVRs that rely on dial pad input or ones that can only recognize stilted “yes” or “no” voice answers.

Look for one that incorporates artificial intelligence with sentiment analysis.  This IVR will understand what the customer says and means, then respond in a human-like way. It’s an easy and effective way to improve customer service in banks.

3. Call Automation

Smart banking auto-dialers are essential for efficient outbound customer service. It will analyze the customer’s profile, match them with the right representative, and automatically dial them.

While that’s happening, banking representatives can start filling themselves in on the customer’s details. And they should have this at their fingertips. It can be pulled from the banking CRM system or referenced from the calling software’s contextual contact information tool.

Auto dialers should also be used to deliver automated bank messages, notifications, authentication notices, and account information.

4. AI Assistance

Offer customers assistance from artificial intelligence on as many touchpoints as possible. It’s a practical method for lowering representatives’ workloads and necessary for guiding customers through new digital experiences.

The first point of contact rarely needs to be a live representative. A self-service chatbot with conversational AI can serve as a customer guide and virtual information center, delivering answers to FAQ, account information, and service updates.

These bring strong advantages over relying solely on agents. Beyond increasing efficiency, an AI chat representative works off a growing knowledge library built from its interactions with your customers.

It’s ready for data analytics and will deliver business insights with compounding value.

5. Sentiment Awareness

Exceptional banking customer service is done with a sensitive touch. And software has advanced enough to understand human sentiment.

Countless customers have been put off by a cold, unfeeling automated bank service. One that forces them through a long sequence during a time-sensitive crisis. Or responds to increasing frustration with the same script and a rage-inducing chipper tone.

Software isn’t truly aware. But it can detect things like speech rate fluctuations, voice tone, speech volume, red flag keywords, and even breathing patterns. And it can interpret the meaning behind these factors.

For excellent banking customer service, integrate  sentiment analytics throughout the system. It will refine automated service and provide agents with improved customer clarity.

The Digitalized Human Touch

No matter how digital or AI-based customer service gets, everything must be oriented towards providing a very human experience. This is the final element needed for customer service excellence in the banking industry.

Customers are seeking human connection in service. This is a deep-seated need that’s driven by pandemic anxieties and frustrations. And their financial matters are a particularly sensitive area that needs to be handled right.

Many customers are still stressed out, experiencing financial fluctuations, and working their way back from financial hits. And even customers who are doing okay are experiencing higher stress levels.

Banking services are now close at hand. It could be a phone call, desktop message, or mobile notification away. And this gives banking customer relations the potential to be far more disruptive than ever before.

On the other hand, banks can assume new responsibilities for ensuring good customer service with sensitivity.

For example, potentially unpleasant debt collection calls can now be swapped out for less confrontational AI voice bots who can negotiate payment plans without embarrassment or pressure.

The bank that takes this approach will win out over one that barrages customers in their inbox, phone, and social media profiles.

Tomorrow’s leading banks are the ones who use this time to build trust and actively cultivate relationships while implementing creative new service models and stronger digital infrastructure.

Conclusion

Exceptional customer service today is intuitive, fast, and frictionless. It’s digital yet personal and dispersed yet centralized. It’s an emotionally connected mobile app experience that transitions into a great conversation with an informed representative.

Is this easy for banks to pull off? It is when they’re running on Ozonetel.

Ozonetel’s banking contact center solution delivers everything you need to provide excellent customer service in a digitally fractured environment.

Banking service needs and customer expectations are high. Discover how you can meet them today with a  free Ozonetel trial account.

Sources:

How retail banks must rethink their customer relationships | EY – Global

How To Reach Bank Customer Service Quickly | Bankrate

Why customers service waits are so long and how to get help faster – The Washington Post

(20) Rob Carrick on Twitter: “What companies have you tried to call lately and been put on hold for ages? Names, wait times appreciated.” / Twitter

Reinventing the contact center | IBM

McKinsey’s Global Banking Annual Review | McKinsey

Satisfaction ‘Cheat Sheet’: How the Best Banks Earn High Scores (thefinancialbrand.com)

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