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3 ways financial institutions should adapt to improve customer experience in challenging times

3 ways financial institutions should adapt to improve customer experience in challenging times

By Leigh Hopwood, CEO of CCMA (Call Centre Management Association of the UK) and Mike Orlic, Vice President for EMEA at TTEC

See and Hear Leigh and Mike discuss Why brands should focus on CX in challenging times | TTEC EMEA

It’s no secret the challenges facing financial institutions today in many countries in Europe. With soaring inflation and skyrocketing energy prices, the cost-of-living crisis is wreaking havoc for many individuals and families, upending household budgets. As homeowners are increasingly in danger of falling behind on their mortgages, and borrowers are doing everything they can to stave off defaulting on their loans, financial institution contact centres are being flooded with enquiries.

How can banks, insurers, and other financial organisations adapt to meet this exponential growth demand without sacrificing customer experience (CX)? All these mounting pressures are coming to a head in the contact centre, a place where the financial institution and the customer meet daily, the frontline of any brand, and the place where you can win or lose customers within seconds.

Banks are being inundated with enquiries from panicked customers who need help, pressure is immense for contact centre advisers – and the deluge shows no signs of slowing as this crisis continues to swell.

At the same time, many contact centres struggle to retain employees. A CCMA (Call Centre Management Association) survey of UK frontline advisors in October 2021 found 30% planned to switch jobs in the following 12 months; 39% said they use “too many” systems and applications; and top reasons they sought to switch jobs were low pay, too much supervision or scrutiny, and dislike of company culture.

It’s a lot for organisations to grapple with, but there’s no time for hesitation. They must adapt now to the situation if they want to protect their brand, drive loyalty and not lose customers because of a bad customer experience. In this article the CCMA, the UK’s premier association of contact centre management professionals, and TTEC, one of the world’s largest providers of CX including consulting, services, people and technology for over 40 years, discuss several CX best practices that can help companies navigate this tumultuous new landscape.

With the right mix of people and technology, institutions can weather this storm and set their brand apart from their competition.

  1. Make sure customer support is empathetic and authentic

The crisis happening throughout Europe, and particularly in the U K, has added an emotionally charged layer to what has typically been a rather transactional industry. Now, financial institutions are experiencing significant contact volume increases from customers worrying about how they will keep their lights on, how they will feed their families and keep their homes, looking for help in affording their mortgage or rent payments, reducing insurance costs and getting financial help. The stakes have become exponentially higher for customers and interactions are more emotionally charged.

What does this mean for the contact centre’s staff and leaders as they try to grow brand loyalty and customer satisfaction? Associates must deliver customer experiences that are empathetic and authentic. A business-as-usual approach won’t work in these extraordinary times. It’s never been more important for financial institutions to make every customer experience frictionless and personalised, especially considering many consumers will leave a brand after experiencing poor customer service. According to CCMA research almost two-thirds of consumers (63%) report they’ve switched providers at least once because of poor customer experience..

Empathetic support is needed during these challenging times, but many financial institutions are finding it difficult to recruit and retain frontline colleagues. Some may find it beneficial to work with a CX outsourcing partner that offers highly trained and experienced staff (often speaking multiple languages) while reducing costs significantly along the way.

Consider this: the size of the contact centre outsourcing market in Europe is expected to accelerate at a CAGR of 3.13% between 2021 and 2025, one industry analyst predicts, with the UK accounting for 33% of that growth.

  1. Respond to customer needs quickly – A checklist of To Dos

A. It’s no longer enough to merely tell your customers, ‘we’re here for you.’ Companies need to show it, by providing solutions that alleviate the problems consumers face right now.

Barclays, a UK-based bank, for instance, recently started offering its customers tools to help them with household budgeting. The move shows that Barclays knows its customers and what they’re going through; customers are worried about paying their bills as costs rise, and Barclays provides tools to help.

This is what it means to be proactive in our new reality: not just talking the talk, but giving your customers tools and solutions they need – before they even realise they need them. By doing this brand loyalty can only strengthen.

B. Institutions also need to be proactive when it comes to removing any friction from their customer journeys. Too often, there is confusion somewhere in the customer journey, whether it’s at the bank branch, the contact centre, a mobile app, or elsewhere. Now’s the time to eliminate these friction points wherever you find them because any added confusion will only heighten customers’ anxiety.

A CCMA poll found 30% of people in the UK believe customer service is getting worse, compared with 28% which think customer service is getting better. The issue is more acute among people aged 55+; among that group, 42% believe service is declining and only 19% think it’s improving.

C. It’s also crucial to remain agile. Fintechs and challenger brands are, by design, built to be more adaptable, but even the largest legacy institutions need to embrace new technology and ways of thinking if they want to thrive.

Customer intents need to be a key piece of this puzzle, and banks that aren’t paying attention to their top intents need to start. Intents refer to the reasons customers contact a company and get to the heart of what they want to accomplish in each interaction. Only when you know your customers’ intent can you send them the right message, at the right time and in the right channel, to meet their need quickly.

Financial organisations armed with intents can predict why customers are contacting them – before those customers ever pick up the phone or stop in a bank branch – and be ready with the answers and solutions they need.

Those that can’t proactively anticipate how to help customers will lose out to those that can, but for many financial institutions becoming more proactive and agile marks a major shift. Because it can be difficult, some organisations turn to third parties, such as a CX and services partner, to help them on their journey with the consulting, process knowledge and technology prowess needed to drive outcomes. Doing so lets them tap into expert guidance, cost saving avenues and a wealth of best practices along the way.

  1. Focus on employee engagement, too . EQ=EX=CX

Frontline colleagues are being tasked with more than ever delivering seamless, personalised, and empathic interactions that resolve customers’ increasingly complex enquiries quickly. But don’t forget, your employees need empathy too. Organisations that recognise the importance of understanding their employees emotional intelligence will foster a better employee experience, which leads to better CX. EQ=EX=CX.

Contact centre workers are facing the same struggles your customers are. They’re putting their own concerns about how they’ll make ends meet on hold to help your customers in their time of need. And just like your customers, they deserve an empathetic and authentic experience with your organisation.

Now is a good time to re-evaluate your frontline colleague training programs. Are you giving them the tools they need to do their jobs well in this challenging environment? Are you incorporating cutting-edge tools, like AI-powered role playing and gamified options, into your training to set them up for success?  Some employees, especially working in an environment of verifying online content, have to be provided with highly individualised training and support programs to maximise their wellbeing.

Investing in employee engagement is vital to retaining top talent in this challenging labour market. These people are the front line of your brand, and they’re more likely to stay with an employer who is listening to them. The Covid-19 pandemic taught us much about how to support employees in the contact centre. Employers can show they value their frontline workers by listening and empathising, giving them the skills and tools they need to do their job effectively, and recognising a job well done.

There’s no doubt it’s a scary time for many consumers, and a challenging one for financial institutions. But amid all the uncertainty, there are opportunities for brands to become more empathetic, proactive, agile and drive increased brand loyalty. There are still opportunities to delight customers, even under the most difficult circumstances, and the contact centre is where that is possible

Brands that want to adapt quickly should be reviewing their customer journey and thinking about how the contact centre plays into it. Devoting the time and resources now to focus on customer and employee experience will pay dividends, not only throughout this current crisis but well into the future.



Interested to hear more on this topic? TTEC EMEA’s Mike Orlic and the CCMA CEO Leigh Hopwood will be presenting a LinkedinLive discussing how the Banking, Financial Services and Insurance industry can Adapt Now to reduce costs and improve customer experience at a time of great challenge.

Join us LIVE !

OR sign up in the link above to be sent access to the recording post event.


Adapt Now Solutions From TTEC

Adapt Now | TTEC EMEA

Global Banking & Finance Review


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