How Financial Institutions Can Overcome Today’s Toughest Customer Service Challenges

By Tony Iero

Across every industry, customer expectations are soaring. Thanks in large part to advancements in technology, consumers have become accustomed to instantaneous, personalized service and will choose the businesses that are able to provide it. For financial institutions, the challenge of keeping up with customer demands has reached critical level. With greater competition than ever before and the media reporting on improper business dealings by yet another industry leader, customer loyalty is waning while customer churn continues to increase.

To meet today’s necessary service levels and sustain market share, financial institutions must overcome a variety of customer service challenges.

Siloed Channels
A decade ago, banks and other financial institutions had service agents answering only phones and email. Today, web chat, social media, messaging and more are making customer engagement more complex and difficult to track. The challenge is most service organizations don’t have the infrastructure to support multi-channel journeys. Outdated voice-centric contact center systems are a tremendous source of customer service issues for several very important reasons. Customers are prevented from shifting channels during interactions while service representatives don’t have access to their complete journeys. This leads to customer frustrations, service inefficiencies and lost opportunities to cross-sell and upsell.

The solution is deploying updated infrastructure that supports both digital and voice channels. As customers continue to rely on multiple channels to get the help they need from their financial service providers, the more important an “omnichannel” solution is to provide seamless engagement and insights into end-to-end customer journeys.

Interaction Peaks and Lulls
In today’s 24/7 world, it has become more difficult to predict when customers are likely to strike up an interaction. Traditionally, the hours between nine and noon have been primetime for financial institution contact centers. However, customers are more likely now to reach out via digital channels at the end of their work day or even before it starts. This creates a big challenge that can lead to extended hold times, dropped calls and customers shifting to competitors.

A workforce management solution that provides clear analytics, based on interaction data can help with workforce planning. By identifying trends and patterns, you can gain a better picture of how to staff your team. Of course, not every peak can be predicted. This is why a solution like call back software can be particularly beneficial. By offering customers an option for a call from a representative when it is convenient for them, much of the frustration and hassle of extended hold times can be defused.

Lack of Personalization
Customers want to feel special, and they don’t like being thought of as just an account number. Many financial service providers discover this the hard way when they lose customers by shifting call centers overseas or by overusing IVR self-service systems. While these cost-cutting strategies can initially save money, they eventually become penny-wise and pound-foolish mistakes as customers choose to work with providers that have a higher level of personalized service.

Yes, there is still a place for self-service in this age of heightened customer expectations. However, it requires greater personalization of the entire customer experience. This entails leveraging a combination of improved analytics, routing and staff training. While greater personalization costs more than having a generic IVR system and queue-based routing directing customers to the next available agent, it’s necessary for meeting today’s customer expectations.

Social Media Rants
It only takes one disgruntled customer to broadcast their complaint on Facebook and get the attention of hundreds, if not thousands of others. Social media has taken customer gripes to new levels and is creating public relations nightmares for those companies that don’t proactively manage their social channels. While you can’t prevent every customer from getting angry on a public forum, you can monitor social channels and reach out to unhappy customers before their irritation reaches fever pitch. Better yet, you can use interaction analytics to identify these customers before they take to social media and provide the service they need to keep them satisfied.

Too Many Systems and Solutions
Are your representatives bogged down by processes, systems, logins, and dashboards? With critically-important front-end employees juggling multi-step processes to manage even one aspect of an interaction, slow-downs, mistakes and frustrations are inevitable. To provide consistent, personalized, contextual customer engagement across channels, representatives and knowledge workers must have a single desktop they can work from. This requires integration with CRM, billing, shipping and other solutions.

Interestingly, these customer service challenges can be greatly minimized with updated infrastructure. Trying to cobble outdated solutions or offer an omnichannel customer experience without channel integration, a workforce management solution and a social media monitoring tool is akin to trying to keep track of customer balances using an abacus. It just can’t be accomplished.

Overcoming customer service challenges for financial institutions starts with making a commitment to omnichannel engagement that supports both digital and voice channels and considers the service that customers now want and expect. By moving beyond outdated service models and investing in the necessary technology to support today’s customers, challenges can be tackled head on and real improvements can be made that will ultimately drive increased profits.