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THE BANKING CALL CENTRE: EVOLVING TO MEET CONSUMERS’ EXPECTATIONS

Ewen Fleming

Ewen Fleming, Partner, Financial Services Advisory (Banking), Grant Thornton UK LLP

The ‘digital revolution’ is truly beginning to take shape in the world of banking. We have seen a number of major banks suggest that customers are moving their engagements to online and mobile channels, using this as justification for closing more and more branches. Those branches which remain will begin to become more personal and engaging, and seek to leverage all of the advantages of face-to-face contact, whilst using digital channels to make simple transactions easier and more convenient for customers (and cheaper to process for the service provider). In between these two mediums, the telephony channel has itself seen significant changes in recent years. To date the changes in call centres have, in the main, been tactical with regard to staffing, processes, performance measurement and functionality, yet changes in customer behaviour – enforced or not – call for a fundamental strategic overhaul of banking call centres.

Our own recent research suggests that less than 2% of customers prefer call centres as their primary  channel for servicing their banking needs, and  even less express telephony as a their preferred channel for purchasing a product1. Therefore, the key questions are:

  1. What purpose does telephony serve in modern day banking?
  2. What functionality and culture are required to meet customer demands?

What does this mean for banking call centres?

In the UK, we have almost 5,700 call centres, employing 1.1m people. This equates to around 4% employment across the UK as a whole2. Significantly, we have in the last few years seen a trend to bring call centres back ‘on-shore’ following high levels of customer feedback suggesting they’d rather speak to local people, particularly when the query or need is complex and/or sensitive. Price advantages for ‘off-shoring’ have also been eroded, and as a consequence we’ve seen a growth in new UK call centre operations. For example, Aegis recently opened a second call centre operation in Glasgow.

Ewen Fleming, Partner, Financial Services Advisory (Banking), Grant Thornton UK LLP

Ewen Fleming, Partner, Financial Services Advisory (Banking), Grant Thornton UK LLP

However, when we begin to scratch the surface of the call centre as a relevant channel, we begin to see the challenges being faced now and in future. The Mortgage Market Review (MMR) arrived on 26th April, and this has already seen a shift to increased levels of face-to-face mortgage advice (although some lenders such as Virgin Money have chosen to conduct all direct mortgage sales through their call centre). Preceding this, the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) began the process by shifting investment products towards face-to-face and the ‘execution only’ digital channel. Additionally, technological improvements in online functionality have led to general transactions –  such as making payments, funds transfers and balance checks – being migrated to online channels which customers can access wherever and whenever they chose to do so.

In many regards, call centres remain a relevant and required function to act as an effective bridge between channels – indeed, 89% of customers get frustrated at having to repeat their issue to multiple people in different channels3. However, a separate piece of research has suggested that up to 45% of customers will abandon their online transactions, switching to call centres where their queries or concerns have not been addressed quickly enough4. This emphasises the need to develop an effective strategy to deliver on their importance to both customers and providers of financial services.

The path to evolution for the call centre

Given the important, but continually changing, role of telephony, how should companies evolve to ensure this vital bridge is both efficient and effective?

Jaime Scott, MD of Evaluagent suggests some interesting moves for distribution and operations directors to optimise their telephony challenge, all of which are inexpensive to implement:

  • Define the expected standard of service you want to offer customers in terms of agent behaviours and skills
  • Engage all members of the contact centre by giving everyone access to their own real-time performance data and enable them to play an active and self-reflective role in their own performance improvement
  • Create a culture where coaching and feedback is an integral part of your operational culture – regular coaching, feedback and encouraging 3600 surveys will soon become the norm and improve both morale and results
  • Measure customer satisfaction and first contact resolution at agent-level and integrate and fully embed these metrics into your coaching and performance management frameworks
  • Capture true customer insight – ask customers to tell you what they think of the service!
  • Use analytics and sentiment analysis to really understand your contact drivers and failure points and redesign your customer experience based on their feedback

Dave Howard CEO of InsightNow goes a step further, explaining that ‘ forcing customers to channel switch and making that journey time-consuming and complex is the most significant driver of negative customer experience and sentiment’. Therefore, the call centre ‘must provide an easy support option to rescue customers, either by a Chat or Call-Me buttons, which support instant access which bypasses the IVR route providing an agent within seconds’. Howard then adds ‘much is talked about the multi or omni-channel experience, but I think our industry is a long way from this, with the basics causing the problems – ie fragile functionality and cluttered websites and no ‘rescue’ option for customers – essentially, customers are demanding a joined up multi-channel experience.’

With the useful insights above, it does in the end come back to a mixture of strategy, vision and ambition to leverage existing strengths and integrate these with technology ‘enablers’:

  • Systems Solutions: technology can enhance the customer experience significantly and improve the outcome for customers and financial services firms. For example:

o   vScreen (by Vizolution) – this is software based, and delivers key documentation to customers via a secure website which the customer has a ‘session code’ to access. Distribution of KFIs (mortgage quotes), credit agreements, terms and conditions etc

o   Video Conferencing (eg Cisco’s Remote Expert) – this is hardware dominant, by deploying VOIP technology allowing agents to have a meaningful and interactive face-to-face meeting over a camera set-up, with an additional ‘touch-screen’ allowing key documents to be shared, revised and accepted

  • People: it is important to revisit role descriptions and responsibilities and with these, processes agents will follow. Core competencies for agents are likely to require covering handling complaints and complex transactions/queries. In addition, management practices and coaching processes to discourage and develop soft-skills should be revised. After all, different skills are required as customer engagement becomes more than simple sales and service, through enhanced education of customers aimed at reducing failure demand and enhancing service
  • Measurement: Often agents are measured by KPIs such as the number of calls handled, AHT and not-ready times. Yet, measurement is much more complex than this, and opportunities to assess customer experience and outcomes should be included to ensure effectiveness as well as efficiency is measured and managed

Optimise to remain relevant – or be doomed to irrelevance!

The million dollar question is ‘can call centres be optimised to remain relevant to the customer experience in the digital age, and how?’

Yes, is the simple answer.

Focus on the customer and their behaviours and demands: they want simplicity, speed and efficiency of service, but with that a sense of being able to reach their bank at a time and place of their choosing. Technology has developed significantly in the last decade and it’s becoming an enabler, allowing the call centre to truly become part of a multi-channel solution for customers.

The key to success and remaining relevant is to root out your failure points, enhance standards, redevelop processes, train agents, deploy the right technology and get the customer experience right! But also plan for managing those customers who choose not to use other channels and/or aren’t able to have their queries resolved through that channel. Only then can you realise the on-going potential of the call centre to provide a joined up and seamless customer experience.

Banking

How new trends are creating the perfect recipe for rapid digital transformation throughout the world’s oldest institutions

How new trends are creating the perfect recipe for rapid digital transformation throughout the world's oldest institutions 1

By Wayne Johnson, CEO, Encompass

Digital banking has drastically changed the landscape of financial transactions over the last few years. Technologies used to be limited when it came to banking, however, now they cover every step of banking or investment services, from behind the scenes due diligence checks to customer facing channels. Embracing this change through emerging technologies is the future for the financial industry.

In recent years, financial technology (FinTech) has developed to facilitate online payments, instant banking, trading, lending, and more.

This new era of digital transformation has been driven by technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), APIs, blockchain, process automation, and internet of things (IoT) technologies, which have provided vital upgrades to the outdated legacy IT systems institutions historically relied on. The aforementioned technologies streamline and enhance processes, consequently generating a much more reliable and pleasant customer experience. These technological advancements have transformed modern banking operations, changing how the banking industry operates today.

Every new advancement in technology in the finance sector, like expanding a financial service offering to business customers, brings with it new risks and compliance obligations, but the latest trends are creating the perfect recipe for rapid digital transformation throughout the world’s oldest institutions.

The acceptance of new-age technologies

Technology is already driving massive changes in the banking landscape as we know it, and it will be an influential contributor to shaping the industry of the future.

Focus on improving customer experience

One of the areas that banks are increasingly trying to improve through digital banking is customer

experience. Customer expectations for online services are constantly being influenced by the experience provided by big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook. With their influence, everyone is looking for a similar experience from their own providers. While digitally savvy Millennials are mainly responsible for the rise in expectations across the board, the wide-spread use of digital technologies in most industries has meant that it is more important than ever for banks to be on top of their delivery at all times.

Wayne Johnson

Wayne Johnson

Interactive banking channels

There has been a huge decline in branch visits in recent years, with some re-evaluating their very role, and an increasing shift from just providing transactional services to allowing for a practical banking experience. This was initially done by moving banks to key locations in town centres, investing in video chat services and offering self-service points – all of which has only been possible through the use of digital technologies. Financial institutions have realised that customers, with their busy and demanding lifestyles, like to have a choice and rely on a full range of channels, online access and 24/7 availability.

The rise of open banking

The increased popularity of open banking and rise in API usage is set to drastically change the industry with the flexibility offered by APIs allowing financial institutions and FinTech’s to put innovation at the heart of their service, resulting in improved customer service and enhanced convenience.

The importance of organisational structure transformation

In order to achieve true digital transformation, financial services institutions need to change their organisation functions from the inside out. To reap the greatest rewards, they must promote a “digital first” strategy internally. Only then will they see a positive change and truly release the benefits of digital transformation and the solutions available today.

The  market is constantly evolving , and adapting, and whilst the survival of traditional institutions is not under immediate threat, key players are going to have to modernise their processes and ways of working to keep up with developing requirements and customer needs.

Financial institutions are now starting to recognise the importance of digitalisation, which many other businesses realised was a priority years ago. This is demonstrated by the emerging trends mentioned, which indicate a rapid altering of the operating environment, from increased customer expectations and improved processes, back-end technology and newer operating models to organisational priorities shifting with the times. Digital transformation can no longer be ignored, and financial services organisations will have to embrace it if they want to remain competitive

 

This is a Sponsored Feature.

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Banking

Standard Chartered Bank partners with Microsoft to become a cloud-first bank

Standard Chartered Bank partners with Microsoft to become a cloud-first bank 2

Standard Chartered Bank and Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday announced a three-year strategic partnership to accelerate the bank’s digital transformation through a cloud-first strategy. This partnership marks a significant milestone for Standard Chartered in making its vision for virtual banking, next-generation payments, open banking and banking-as-a-service a reality. Leveraging Azure as a preferred cloud platform, the companies will also co-innovate in open banking and real-time payments to help the bank unlock new banking experiences for clients.

Standard Chartered Bank partners with Microsoft to become a cloud-first bank 3

Embarking on a cloud-first strategy

As part of its digital transformation, Standard Chartered will adopt a multicloud approach, where significant applications, including its core banking and trading systems and new digital ventures such as virtual banking and banking as-a-service, will be cloud-based by 2025, subject to regulatory approvals. The bank will also adopt a cloud-first principle for all new software developments and major enhancements.

As technology reshapes the banking industry, Standard Chartered recognizes that a cloud-first strategy is critical to the bank’s ambition to make banking simpler, faster and more convenient. By being digital-first, the bank will be able to meet the demand for seamless banking virtually anytime, anywhere, and make banking more accessible to people across its network.

Michael Gorriz, Group Chief Information Officer of Standard Chartered, said, “Cloud is a cornerstone of Standard Chartered’s strategy to meet the present and future banking needs of our clients. Cloud providers have invested massively in the reliability and automation of infrastructure and platforms. Using cloud services improves our ability to be agile and innovative, while increasing our operational efficiency and resilience. As disruption in the financial industry continues, we can focus on client benefits by deploying our solutions quicker and allowing for faster integration of new business models and partners. To realize our digital ambitions, Standard Chartered has chosen Microsoft as a strategic partner and this partnership marks a major milestone for the bank in adopting a cloud-first approach.”

Bhupendra Warathe, Chief Technology Officer, Cloud Transformation at Standard Chartered, added that “The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the need for businesses and banks to be resilient from a risk mitigation, cost and security perspective. With the increasing trend of an always-on digital economy, commercial and consumer clients are looking for applications and services that empower them to do online banking from anywhere, flexibly and efficiently. The speed and scale of continuous innovation offered by Azure allows us to innovate with the latest AI services to meet evolving client needs. We can pilot new apps in one market and scale them rapidly across others. This is especially important for a bank with a footprint as broad and diverse as ours.”

Standard Chartered will adopt Microsoft Azure as a preferred cloud platform to meet the bank’s need for resilient data centers and cloud services and addressing customers’ security, privacy and compliance requirements across the bank’s global footprint.

The first set of capabilities to move to Microsoft Azure will be Standard Chartered’s trade finance systems, allowing for seamless cross-border trade for the bank’s corporate and institutional clients.

The partnership will also advance the bank’s digital workplace transformation with Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams providing modern productivity and collaboration tools to Standard Chartered’s 84,000 employees across its 60 markets.

Co-innovating the future of banking

Standard Chartered will also use Microsoft Azure artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics capabilities to enhance and automate banking processes as well as deliver hyper personalization of its client products and experiences. Co-innovation in open banking application programming interface (API) and Internet-of-Things-based, real-time payments will also help the bank unlock new banking experiences for clients.

Bill Borden, Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Financial Services at Microsoft said, “Cloud computing is an enabler for financial institutions to modernize their infrastructure and systems, to gain the agility they need to respond to competitive pressures, regulatory environments and customer demand. We are committed to helping Standard Chartered Bank in its ongoing digital transformation journey as it strives to address evolving customer needs and build the next generation of banking experiences.”

Addressing the social needs of communities in the emerging markets

Standard Chartered strives to understand the evolving needs of its communities and be an enabler for change. As a part of the strategic partnership, the bank and Microsoft will explore sustainable finance and business initiatives to expand sustainability across the industry.

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Banking

What does the future hold for accessing earnings? Introducing the world’s first Earnings on Demand payment and debit card

What does the future hold for accessing earnings? Introducing the world’s first Earnings on Demand payment and debit card 4

By James Herbert, CEO & founder, Hastee

Let’s begin by looking at how our brains are wired. Think about the hunter-gatherer mindset: when we expend effort, we expect an immediate reward.

It’s therefore no surprise that over time, different areas in society have adapted to our nature as humans. Almost everything we want, we can get on-demand. Whether it’s instantly streaming movies on Netflix, online shopping from Amazon, or fast-food delivery from the likes of Just Eat. And, because of such technological innovations our expectations have accelerated when it comes to the pace of delivery. This isn’t individual to us as consumers in our day-to-day lives, it’s also reflected in the workplace. We ultimately want work to work for us.

Part of this of course comes down to accessing wages. Workers should be able to access a portion of their earned wages whenever they need it, in advance of the monthly pay cycle – whether to help during challenging times or in day-to-day life. We solved this solutionBut, to take this up a level, ready for the future, we introduced the world’s first Earnings on Demand contactless debit card, powered by Visa – giving users access to their accrued earnings in real-time, with the card’s balance dynamically increasing every day they work.

So what is the card, and how will it change how we access earnings in the future?

The basis is very much the concept of Earnings on Demand. At university I set up a company called Brightsparks to connect students with work opportunities so they could earn money. Yet I noticed a common trend. With students often having to wait for the monthly pay cycle to get their earnings, many were having to turn down work simply because they couldn’t afford the travel day-by-day. It became very apparent that not having £20 today could stop them earning £200 tomorrow.

It struck me that payday itself doesn’t have to be a rigid construct that people have to wait for. But this isn’t specific to students. Liquidity is a widespread issue faced by people in all industries and of all ages, and according to our most recent Workplace Wellbeing Study, 82 per cent of people turn to high-cost methods of financing to tide them over when needed.

The Hastee Card effectively makes wages directly accessible: it simply lets people spend a portion of  what they’ve already earned.

Some people might wonder why they’d want to step away from the standard monthly pay cycle. But consider this: the monthly payroll (via a cheque) only came about in the 1960s as an Act of Parliament. Before this, most people were paid weekly in cash. The first major firm that shifted to monthly payments did it for cost-cutting. It worked for the employer more than the employee. In fact, that firm’s employees had rejected their employer’s change of payment type when it was first trialled a decade before (look up ‘Pye Radio’). So the way that workers and organisations interact around pay is not set in stone – it changes as technology and society shifts.

The way we perceive and use money keeps evolving. Apple Pay, Monzo, and PayPal have completely changed the way payments can happen, yet payroll still remains largely unchanged. It’s only a matter of time before disruption becomes more widespread.

Looking at it from the employer side, it has its benefits too. Before the climate changed, businesses were accommodating enhanced workplace benefits such as no-desk policies, flexible or remote working. In all cases by businesses offering more, they tend to see a more engaged, happier and less financially stressed workforce – leading to increased productivity.

Earnings on Demand is ultimately a perk that presents an ethical alternative to high-cost credit options such as payday loans, credit cards and overdrafts. And existing solutions offer zero impact on payroll processes, zero impact on the cashflow of the business and are designed for quick, simple integration.

The Hastee Card is an evolution of this all – preparing for the future. It builds upon and enhances the user experience by reducing friction and offering immediate spending power as well as a path to greater benefits such as cashback and rewards in the not-to-distant future.

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