Written by Paul Macildowie, founder of outsourced contact centre company Mpl Contact
There's no doubt that advancements in technology have led to increased customer expectations. We want communication and solutions quicker than ever before and we become impatient and agitated if we can't get through to a business in a 'timely' manner, if we're put on hold for longer than we deem 'necessary', or are passed on to another member of staff. The increase in agile and flexible working, in conjunction with longer working days, also means we're often unable to contact companies within the typical 9-5 weekday office hours.
In order to provide the best customer service possible and maintain a competitive advantage, companies have no choice but to address this change. Amazon, for example, is tackling this head on by introducing same-day, evening deliveries in certain areas. It's also recently filed a patent for a delivery drone that responds when you call or wave at it. Though these are great ideas, businesses should start by reviewing their in-house customer service processes, how calls are taken during the day, and after hours if needed. Here are some key considerations:
Depending on the type of financial institution you run, you will have an idea of when you are the most and least busy (this could be a certain time of day, day of the week or season). But sometimes you just can't plan for times of increased demand, which is why it can be useful to outsource overflow calls. This is one way to bring down call-abandon rates, because it stops people from being kept in a queue for too long. As a result, customers will be less frustrated and you'll be able to maintain brand loyalty and retention rates. Companies that specialise in call handling services should integrate seamlessly with your firm so that customers are unaware that their call is being answered by a third-party.
As discussed earlier, more and more customers are contacting companies outside the traditional 9-5 office hours. Lengthening your opening times naturally enable you to take more calls, which could result in more leads, sales and a better customer experience (which should always be a priority for businesses!). It can also prevent losing potential and existing customer to the competition, who may be open longer. You may choose to recruit more staff for this, change your current shift patterns or invest in an external company.
Though the phone remains a popular way for customers to contact companies, they do enjoy having the option to communicate through email, online contact forms and web chat tools. Chats can be live, manned be a real member of staff, or powered by AI. The advantage of having a live chat is that customers get a guaranteed personalised experience due to the human interaction involved. A real amount of empathy can be ingrained into the conversations between advisor and customer, which can lead to them feeling significantly more satisfied. On the flip side, customers can only use the tool during the hours that you pay staff to work.
Chatbots have the ability to deal with a large amount of conversations simultaneously due to their robotic nature, and are available 24/7. Intelligent chat is even more advanced than that, using Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand what people really want through the analysis of sentences and synonyms (not just keywords).
There are scenarios when your business – or dedicated contact centre if you have one – could be impacted by an emergency, such as as floods, fire or technology failure. These failures often come without any warning, and could result in a lot of downtime, excessive wait times and a drop in customer satisfaction. If you don't already have a plan in place to deal with such eventualities, then now is the time to correct that. You should prepare different responses for different circumstances e.g. if it is hardware failure, do you have a backup solution where calls can be re-routed and handled?
When is comes to a disaster recovery plan, putting it together is only a small part of making it successful. It's also important to train staff on the process, provide written instructions of the disaster recovery procedures, and test it out at least 1-2 times a year.
A word to the wise: considerations when outsourcing
If your plan to meet increased customer expectations involves outsourcing, then it's essential to research different providers to find one that's right for you. Check whether they've had any previous experience in the financial sector before, and whether they've got any supportive case studies and testimonials on site. Testimonials/reviews (either on-site or on dedicated review platforms) give an indication as to whether a company has a good track record. In addition, you should always enquire into a business's training programme. You want to feel confident that the company you are spending money with is active in training their agents and are aware of any new or changing financial regulations that may impact the way they work with you.