Digitising customer support
In the immediate response to the crisis, back in March and April, many banks across the UK introduced measures to better support customers.
- Nationwide’s Arti chat bot began fielding mortgage holiday queries back in March, and has been further developed since
- HSBC introduced live chat functionality into their mobile and web platforms – a feat that was in the work for many months
- Starling introduced the “Connected Card” to better support vulnerable customers
Not only did these provide customers with readily available self-service support options at a time when they needed it most, but the solutions also reduced the strain on support teams that were getting to grips with how they could operate effectively in a remote environment.
Now that we are slowly transitioning to a semblance of normality, what’s next for customer support?
Despite the developments that have been made to digitise customer support in recent years, 53% of business leaders that Woodhurst surveyed agreed that digital customer support capabilities need to be improved across the organisation – the introduction of a chat bot alone just won’t cut it.
Woodhurst has considered four areas of focus for banks to create pre-emptive, automated, digitally enabled and analytically-driven support tools.
Predict and Automate
The vast array of customer activity and behavioural data that is collected today (or that can be collected today) can be interpreted to produce signals of customer intent.
These signals, if interpreted correctly, could be used to identify certain warning signs of potential customer distress, or more simply, issues that the customer is about to experience.
Much like with a technical platform, thresholds could be set against specific signals that when breached will trigger an automated resolution response. This could be outreach to a customer with a digital process for arranging an overdraft, or to agree short term finance that will prevent potential distress.
Self-serve anywhere, anytime
Not all issues can predicted, so the customer still needs a mechanism to self-serve and self-resolve, where possible.
These self-service tools should be mobile-first and seamlessly integrated with other support points across the organisation to ensure a consistent experience for the user, but also for the support teams.
Chat bots are a step in the right direction, but often these are little more than a shiny user interface sitting on top of a set of FAQs. A good self-service journey will not just provide information to a problem; it will resolve the issue through automated, intelligent processes.
Of course, some customers will always need to contact support teams directly.
In these instances, the support function needs to be empowered with as much information about the customer as possible, and the digital tools that they need to support resolution.
Backend staff systems traditionally sit on tired, legacy platforms, providing the support agent with only a glimpse of what they need to understand the issue, and there remains a heavy reliance on procedural documentation that needs to be manually searched through.
If not already initiated, banks need to consider how to upgrade support systems to provide the support function with the information that they need, in real-time, and how to use intelligent automation tools to reduce the reliant on manual processes and procedures.
Don’t forget about the branch
The focus on digital transformation often neglects the role of the branch, but this remains an important aspect of the support model, particularly for incumbent banks.
Where possible, common branch processes should be digitised so customers have an alternative resolution route.
Coupled with this, the business model of the branch clearly needs to change.
In recent years Barclays has used their physical presence in certain regions to create an ecosystem for start-ups. The branch then becomes a local hub of activity and isn’t associated solely with banking services.
This is a subtle but impactful shift in the business model; OneBanks, however, is looking to evolve it entirely.
Through a marriage of digital Open Banking solutions, with a set of temporary physical kiosks, OneBanks are able to serve customers across the UK – regardless of their banking provider. The solution is still being piloted, but it could provide a radical alternative to the traditional branch that continues to support those customers that need a physical presence, whilst reducing the overall cost base of incumbent banks.
The digital support journey doesn’t stop here
Digital change teams across the industry need to assess their end-to-end support processes to ensure that they can pre-empt user issues, automate resolution steps, allow the customer to self-serve, empower staff with the information they need, and provide a physical option to those that need it.
Customer service is a key contributor to customer loyalty. As competition increases across the market and products become further homogenised, exceptional support processes will become a differentiator for incumbent and digital banks alike.