By Mike Sloman, SVP of business development at Teleperformance, discusses how financial institutions can overcome poor customer service practices after the recent Financial Ombudsman Service report highlights an increase in complaints.
Over the last few years, the financial services industry has had to embrace advancements in technology to adjust to the ‘new normal’ of increasing online customer interactions. While other industries pulled resources into technology as a customer service solution, financial services – typically reliant on face-to-face interactions – have been slower to follow suit.
Poor customer service is costing businesses £37bn a year, and the latest figures from the Financial Ombudsman Service highlights the need for financial institutions to improve after revealing 118,035 new complaints were lodged over the last six months. By adopting the right technology with the right approaches, financial services can embrace, accommodate, and provide a seamless resolution for customers that will, in turn, improve business.
Identify your customer first
Research suggests that customer satisfaction increases when businesses understand their points of engagement. Therefore, it’s imperative that financial institutions understand their online presence, how and where customers engage with them, and how they can adapt to diverse preferences. In the UK, for example, 86 per cent of mobile bankers say mobile is their primary channel, while 78 per cent of customers would prefer to visit a branch for more complex tasks when applying for new products. These habits and preferences gives financial institutions a unique opportunity to identify, analyse, and support existing consumers by catering to how and when they want to be engaged with.
Agents are responding to today’s ‘new normal,’ providing insightful knowledge and higher-skill sets channelled to meet complex interactions. In banks, workout specialists or remediation managers are working with customers to find better payment solutions and alternatives that can drive results, while also appeasing the immediate strains from credit card, mortgage and loan bills.
Market leaders are starting to realise existing instant access options to information – whether it be self-service or live support – is not enough, and customers need support to with their needs in mind. By having a broader view of a consumer’s life cycle, financial institutions can open a variety of channels necessary to support before, during, and after a service has been delivered. When customers are satisfied, they are more likely to become advocates for the brand and even recommend it to their peers.
The right technology
To facilitate the growing demand for convenient and seamless options, financial institutions will need to undergo a technological revamp to adopt customer-first approaches. Businesses can fall into a trap by assuming innovation will immediately translate into more satisfaction when there is now an expectation to adapt to changing consumer attitudes. Financial institutions in particular, are expected to be more available, responsive, personal, and all-knowing – requiring the right technology to be adopted to meet these challenges.
Automation is providing a lifeline to support operators, by offering virtual solutions in-line with consumer digital preferences. The rise of customer-centric chatbots over the last few years has provided the desired responsive, ever-present, and personable customer interactions by being the first point of call. By drawing upon data such as personal traits, spending habits and previous interactions, chatbots can complete time-consuming tasks such as refunds, payments, or offer financial advice. When combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and emotional recognition technology, chatbots can detect the tone of a user, and address or direct the conversation to a live human for assistance. From there, trained live chat agents will be able to handle the complex or difficult questions using the data obtained from the chatbot to cut out the time spent re-hashing the issue with an agent.
Eight out of ten businesses have already implemented or are planning to adopt AI as a customer service solution this year, making it a mainstream technological investment. By 2020, the aggregate potential cost savings from AI is estimated to save banks £347bn, and is only set to increase.
In a hyper-connected world, the consumers of today are interacting through more mediums of communication, with businesses forced to adjust. By understanding the most efficient and effective touchpoints, financial institutions can engage, retain or appeal to new prospects. Research has found companies with omnichannel engagement strategies retain on average 89 per cent of their customers, an increase of 56 per cent compared to companies with weak engagement. Having excellent customer service can be achieved through a balanced or hybrid approach, combining digital and human input to create successful, meaningful interactions.
Consumers are now being given the option to flexibly choose what channel they are most comfortable with, and many are deciding against selecting traditional methods of customer service. Although voice calls still remain the most used customer service channel, the addition of mobile apps, chat with live agent, and instant messaging are leaving users more satisfied due to the frictionless collaboration between the different digital channels. Understandably, there are still customers that value face-to-face interactions, and over half of bank customers will research banking products online to later use in-branch interactions. When lockdown restrictions are eventually eased, financial institutions will want to make sure they consider all areas of the customer journey, and the companies that encourage positive experiences will be best equipped in the future.
 2017 survey by the Teleperformance Customer Experience Lab (CX Lab)
 Redefining the Customer Experience for a Post-COVID-19 world, 2020