Jan 29 2020

The Modern Contact Center Is Changing for Banks

Many customers still prefer contact center connections. How do banks leverage new technologies to maximize call center efficiency and enhance client engagement?

While 86 percent of consumers now list email as their top contact channel, 65 percent still say phone calls are one of their preferred methods of connection. In fact, recent research from McKinsey found that contact center call volumes are on the rise despite efforts to streamline service and support.

The disconnect has to do with customer engagement. While 78 percent of customers want personalized advice from their banks, just 28 percent say their financial institutions provide this benefit. In what seems like a counterintuitive consumer approach thanks to advanced technology options, 65 percent of clients still want direct access to local branches — even as banks shutter physical locations at a record pace.

With email lacking immediacy and text messages short on detail, consumers are turning to contact centers for personal attention, specific advice and active engagement. As call volumes increase, client expectations expand and delivery methods diversify, how do financial service firms build out modern call centers that both meet digital demands and facilitate authentic engagement?

Banks Make Greater Use of Chatbots

Increasing call center volumes create a paradox: Clients want direct engagement but have limited patience for waiting. Recent data suggests that 50 percent of customers will hang up after 45 to 95 seconds of being on hold.

Here, chatbots provide a way to bridge the gap and deliver instant, introductory interaction that keeps customers on the line. Survey data shows that 99 percent of consumers have interacted with chatbots and 65 percent are satisfied enough with the experience that they’d prefer to deal with chatbots immediately rather than wait for service agents.

For financial institutions, chatbots in contact centers can help sort and streamline calls by responding to simple customer questions. Bots can identify what clients are looking for — from specific advice about banking or investments to more general questions about bank products and services. This immediate engagement is often enough to satisfy consumers with straightforward queries and provides a curated queue of clients who require agent escalation.

Banks Are Using AI to Redefine Agent Roles

Call center agents provide critical customer engagement by helping callers deal with specific — and often complex — financial issues. The challenge? More than 50 percent of customers say they need to re-explain issues to agents after using self-service solutions such as chatbots or voice recognition, increasing both call resolution time and caller frustration.

As noted by E-3 Magazine, evolving artificial intelligence solutions offer a way to improve agent efficiency by using machine learning algorithms to predict customer needs and supply agents with relevant information.

For example, AI could be used to listen in on chatbot conversations. Using natural language processing and sentiment recognition tools, AI agents estimate the likely emotional state of callers and assign human help accordingly. If clients are frustrated or angry, they’re matched with well-trained customer retention specialists who can help diffuse difficult situations.

AI tools can also pull relevant data from customer relationship management tools and customer databases to equip agents with both immediate call data and historic service interactions. This eliminates the need for customers to re-explain their issues and allows agents to deliver prioritized, personalized service immediately.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Read how financial institutions can leverage AI with high performance computing.

The Contact Center Should Be Relocated

Outsourced call center investments have rapidly increased as banks look to handle rising call volumes, but this distributed geographic approach can have negative effects on customer engagement. As noted by Forbes, many now recognize “the link between customer service and profit” and are making the shift to hiring local, well-trained call center personnel.

Historically, the biggest challenge to this approach has been cost; personnel and infrastructure were often cheaper outside the United States. Advancements in technologies such as cloud computing and unified collaboration, however, have created a viable market for virtual contact centers. Staffers work remotely from home or in smaller offices with secure access to financial networks and customer histories, allowing them to provide local, on-demand service.

Without the overhead of a traditional contact center, virtual options can help financial firms reduce total spend while also boosting agent productivity: Studies have shown that remote workers are happier, more productive and less likely to miss work. The result? Increased customer engagement that combines digital channels with local connection.

Financial firms must evolve to deliver authentic engagement over digital channels. New solutions such as chatbots, AI and virtual contact center staffing can drive enhanced interaction and deliver sustainable ROI.

This article is part of BizTech's EquITy blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #FinanceTech hashtag.

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