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03:59 PM
Randy Holl, Contact Solutions
Randy Holl, Contact Solutions

How to Improve Your Call Center Customer Experience Strategy

Banks have a great incentive to improve their customer experience, and tracking and improving call center interactions is key to that improvement.

Just how important is customer experience to a bank’s bottom line? According to Forrester Research, the overall monetary impact of customer experience (CX) on a business, defined by how customers perceive their interaction with your company, is measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Poor customer experiences are a huge source of wasted money for businesses, which can be quantified in terms of tens of millions of dollars for a typical financial company. Combined with spikes in dissatisfaction due to the changing structure of banking fees, failure to implement and modify top-notch customer service solutions will have a devastating consequence. In fact, among all businesses, banks have the highest correlation between customer experience and likelihood of switching businesses.

In past years, newly implemented banking fees and regulations have frustrated and confused customers, setting off a nosedive in customer loyalty and retention. However, as competition to retain customers increases due to the changing structure of banking fees (commonplace for most banks after regulatory changes in the last few years), reports from J.D. Power and Associates shows that banks have the ability to offset dissatisfaction with fees through other areas, namely problem resolution and customer experience. Their annual U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, credits an increase in customer satisfaction as a result of improved communication efforts from big banks. In addition, the 2013 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, found that as banks have helped their customers better understand their fee structures, satisfaction in this area has begun to rebound, and is up by 14 points already this year from 2012. With banks placing more emphasis on preventing problems, the proportion of customers experiencing a problem has lowered by 3 percentage points year over year, to 18 percent in 2013.

By implementing top-notch customer service solutions, the banking industry can create a better overall customer experience. Higher CX scores will translate to long-term loyalty, which supports strategic business objectives like bolstering brand image and building revenue through cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. With these solutions in place, there is also an opportunity to pursue continuous improvement practices, and refine service programs in an ongoing manner to keep them relevant and even more helpful into the future. Ultimately, when done right, execution of a sound customer service strategy pleases customers, resulting in higher loyalty, and it delivers valuable business intelligence that can direct business strategy across many departments.

The opportunity to mine data from customer service interactions is significant. By looking beyond just what customers did, and analyzing their perceptions of every customer service interaction, banking businesses can generate useful data that can be leveraged to drive meaningful business decisions. With regional, midsize, and big banks becoming increasingly competitive amidst changing regulations and fee structuring, acquiring customers is more expensive and retention more critical than ever. Customer interactions are a great place to begin that goal of retention.

If the most recent report on banking satisfaction teaches us anything, it is that attention to customer experience and service channels is vital to counteract current financial services trends resulting from regulatory changes. Bank customers are reporting that their loyalty can by won with exceptional customer service, convenience, and the availability of information regarding ongoing fee and regulation changes via self-service channels.

Are banks doing everything they can to keep customers? Formulating a plan based on self-service best practices has never been more critical to protecting your business and the bottom line. Contact Solutions manages millions of contact center interactions per year. From this breadth of experience, we have put together best practices for banking companies to promote positive customer experience through self-service channels.

Best Practices:

- Answer Every Call Every Time: The IVR channel should never offer busy signals when customers call in to self-serve. This seems obvious, but is often overlooked.

- Voice Talent: Use a professional voice talent at all times and ensure consistency across all areas of the IVR. This includes temporary messages.

- Prompts: Ensure prompts are brief, concise, and use language easily understood by the customer. Lengthy prompts, legal terms, and marketing jargon confuse customers and results in a poor customer experience.

- Be Less Nice: Expressing gratitude for completing a functional task is unnecessary, elongates the amount of customer time required to accomplish a task, and often reduces customer experience. Conversely, offer appreciation when a customer completes a revenue generating transactions, expands their relationship with your brand, or rates their experience high.

- Redundancy: During unexpected emergencies having a redundant solution ensures the IVR channel is always available to serve your customers. Customers are increasingly reliant and expectant of reaching brands on their timetables and have little patience for technological or natural disasters.

- Security: Having a secure solution that helps safe guard customer data is a requirement for all. Ensuring your solution conveys this “sense” of security to the customer is increasingly important.

- Authentication: Offer customers a minimum of two authentication methods. At least one should use intrinsic data (data not dependent on having account/relationship information in front of them).

- Confirmation Messages: Confirmation messages should only be presented when confirming critical entries (such as making a payment, transferring funds or updating account information). This helps increase the ease and efficiency of customer’s completing their transactions with your brand and improves customer experience.

- Number Clarification: When a number is read back to the caller as clarification, confirm the numbers in logical groups (4x4 for 16 digit card numbers, 3-3-4 for phone numbers, etc.). This can remove the feeling of a non-human interaction within the IVR that callers generally do not like, thus improving customer experience.

- Menu Structure: Limit the menu items to five or less options. Concise menus with a minimal number of selections helps customers efficiently and effectively complete their intended goals. Avoid the use of “Return to the main menu” option.

- Temporary Messages: The use of temporary messages is only effective when the information is presented in an urgent and timely manner. These messages have to be clear, to the point, and – most importantly – temporary.

- Messaging and Verbiage: Eliminate the practice of including a “Menu options have changed” message and avoid the use of technical jargon (or other business terms used on the client side) as this often confuses callers.

- Accuracy: Have accurate and up-to-date information available to your callers at all times. When a caller contacts you via phone, they are generally saying they need information now, and have actively selected the channel they believe will get them the most accurate answer the most efficiently for them.

- Business Hours: Provide call center operations hours and option to re-direct callers to self-service when calling after hours.

- Error Handling: Error handling should be presented after a caller makes an error in the IVR. This help customers correct their mistakes by providing specifics on the error and identify the right answer. When applicable implement “Graduated Error Logic” to help customer complete tasks at those trouble spots.

- Limit the No. of Opt-Outs: Do not reward lack of attempting self-service with a transfer to a live agent. It is valuable to both the customer and brand to know the caller’s reason for calling.

- Barge (Key Over): Allow “barge-in” in for most situations. This provides a positive experience for the power users. Conversely disable barge-in when it is crucial customers listen to content (emergency notice; change to terms, etc.).

- CTI (Agent Screen Pop): When a customer puts forth effort and time to leverage your self-service channels and then needs agent assistance, if their effort is not conveyed and their experience continuous, you begin the agent experience with frustration and train your customers to not attempt self-service in the future.

- Intelligently Route Calls: This comes in two parts. 1. Encourage the user to indicate the reason for their call (actively or by their actions) before transferring them. 2. Set up queues in the contact center to route calls to agents who can accomplish the goal indicated pre-transfer.

- Multi-Channel Re-Directs: Whenever possible, complete the customer’s goal in the channel they began in. Only after a successful completion, recommend alternate channels available to accomplish their goal.

- Timer Length: A low level parameter that has a big influence on customer experience. Understand your customers/demographics/goals and ensure you’re allowing enough time for successful entries and reactions.

- Survey: Survey both the customers who reach an agent (very common) and customers who self-serve in the IVR (rare). By only surveying customers who interact with your agents, if you have a solution automating greater than 50% of calls, you’re basing your customer experience on the minority of customers.

- Personalization: Calls should be personalized as quickly as possible to build loyalty and facilitate efficient goal completion. Leverage what you know about the customer (through preference, CRM, and interaction history data) to change their experience (in real time).

Randy Holl is the CIO of Contact Solutions, a contact center solutions provider.

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