We look at the pressures facing contact centre teams in the financial services industry and explore the role of technology in improving productivity
In what are increasingly saturated, price-sensitive markets, taking a customer-centric approach to product delivery is essential for today's financial services firms, especially if they want to stay competitive. For example, the fact that it is now easier than ever to switch bank accounts increases the likelihood that even the most loyal customers will go elsewhere to get a better deal or if they feel they haven't been treated fairly.
Unexpected events such as negative publicity can also cause headaches, particularly if organisations don't have the right resources and skilled agents in place to deal with high customer demand.
Similarly, man-made events aren't the only cause of pressure on financial services agents: according to the Association of British Insurers, bad weather between December 2013 and February 2014 generated a massive 18,700 flood claims and 448,300 storm claims, stretching insurers' contact centre teams and claims handlers to the fullest.
As with other industries, financial services companies also need to react quickly to successful sales and marketing campaigns. Often, this also means interacting with customers on multiple channels. Failing to deal with new accounts quickly and get a fast resolution to any complaints or queries can lead to wide-scale dissatisfaction, turning what should be a positive experience into a negative one.
One way to prevent a slow or missed response from souring a relationship or losing business is to generate a single view of customer data for the contact centre, transforming customer engagement and increasing satisfaction by improving response times and reducing customer effort. Used in conjunction with dedicated workforce management tools, enterprises can accurately forecast demand, identify shift patterns and match staff to specific requirements.
One particular challenge financial services organisations face is the requirement to train and deploy agents with specialist knowledge of complex financial portfolios comprising different products such as risk management, savings, mortgages and investments. Delivering customer satisfaction means they must also ensure a highly-tailored customer experience.
However, the fact that large consumer and business-to-business organisations often have staff based in different locations in the UK and overseas can make managing shift patterns and demand very difficult.
Introducing a common technology platform across different sites can go a long way to help managers allocate resources to meet the demands of a large and complex business, while also accommodating the work/life balance requirements of the firm's valuable customer service staff.
Using known data to predict demand means shift patterns can be optimised accordingly. Likewise, it also becomes possible to monitor the impact of any change on day-to-day operations and quantify any improvement in service, response times and productivity based on pre-determined metrics.
In addition to using contact centre technology to transform workforce and capacity planning, financial services companies can use it to support agents and help them improve customer experience. This is achieved using the combination of technology tools such as queue management, call routing and secure self-service automation of processes, such as payments or direct debits. Calls are easier for agents to manage and customers spend less time on hold – making them more satisfied and less inclined to switch providers.
Increasingly, contact centres with a financial service remit are also using technology to forecast and plan for expected responses to marketing campaigns. Forging a closer alignment with the business also brings the opportunity to increase agent understanding, generating better outcomes and better results for the business as a whole.
From an internal perspective, this more collaborative approach is extremely valuable when it comes to communication between the contact centre, department heads, senior directors and finance teams. Managers have access to quantifiable data and can use it to put together robust business cases to secure additional budget and headcount whenever and wherever it is most needed, ensuring their organisations have the right people, in the right place, at the right time, to meet demand.
By Richard Farrell, CTO at Netcall.
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