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04:22 PM
Paul Logan, Contact Solutions
Paul Logan, Contact Solutions

Is Your Automation Rate as Good as it’s Going to Get? Think Again…

Most banks set up a contact center strategy and then leave it be, when they should be constantly looking to improve it. Here are 10 steps banks can take to optimize their customer experience with the contact center.

Most banks set up a contact center strategy and then leave it be, when they should be constantly looking to improve it. Here are 10 steps banks can take to optimize their customer experience with the contact center.

Paul Logan
Paul Logan, Contact Solutions

Your customer puzzle is likely missing pieces and it’s those missing pieces that could be the difference between delivering customer service that is only passable, and that which is absolutely exceptional.

Integral to the success of every financial institution is knowing how to properly mine and utilize customer interaction data; however, a key part of data collection and interpretation is making sure information from all channels (web chat, email, phone, website, social media, etc.) is captured and utilized. If any channel is ignored, the enterprise misses major pieces of the puzzle determining customer experience and customer service benchmarks.

One channel too often disregarded is phone self-service – or more specifically – Interactive Voice Response (IVR). IVR remains a high-use service channel for consumers wanting their financial information quickly and as an important first touch on the way to an agent. But, many financial institutions overlook the improvement potential of their IVR programs. IVR is crucial to great customer service; plus, it can save banks a considerable amount of money when it is engaged instead of live agents. In fact, a side-by-side cost comparison shows that calls engaging live agents cost 10 times as much as similar, automated interactions.

Customers hate bad IVR, but contrary to popular belief, increased automation does not always lead to lower customer satisfaction. Actually, research demonstrates that consumers prefer the IVR if it gets them what they need more quickly and easily. This topic of improving automation is particularly relevant to banks, which are known for having outdated technology, including their IVR systems.

So if you know IVR saves money and your system is outdated, you are probably thinking, “How can I improve?” Following are simple steps that can get financial institutions on the right track for improving automation rates while saving money and increasing customer experience:

1. Research: Before you can begin improving automation, you must have a plan in place to mine data from your IVR and identify where customers are spending the most time. Once you have this information, you can take the action needed to make interactions quicker and easier for the consumer. For example, if 85 percent of your customers are calling in to check balances, you need to make that primary call to action easily handled via IVR.

2. Personalize: Another important use of customer data is tied to personalization. If you are properly tracking each customer interaction, you can blend that with what you know about each customer to personalize future communications with customers in the IVR. This leads to an increase in the customer’s preference for automation, which in turn leads to higher automation rates, increased customer satisfaction, and an overall better experience.

3. Ensure channel consistency: Linking the IVR to other service channels can make the service experience more cohesive. For example, if a customer is using web chat to resolve a problem, and then calls customer service, the IVR should recognize that at the beginning of the call. Immediately, that customer should hear a message acknowledging the issue and the stage of resolution, as well as any next steps that the customer can take. It is also imperative that all channels remain consistent. If a customer checks a balance online and then via the phone, ensure those numbers are the same; consumer information must be updated across organizational systems simultaneously. If not, the customer will likely call to speak with an agent, generating a high inquiry cost to your enterprise.

4. Anticipate needs: To enhance the likelihood that a customer is going to self-serve, you must anticipate caller needs. For example, if a customer frequently calls to transfer money, you should prioritize that option to streamline their interaction, allowing them to get in and get out quickly and painlessly.

5. Remove the fluff: It is important to have a clutter-free IVR system in place. It is crucial that the caller is able to quickly hear and consider resolution options. If an option in your IVR system is never used, confusing, or time consuming, remove it. If the IVR is too cluttered, uses jargon that’s not understood, or wastes a customer’s time, they will seek an agent.

6. Don’t make the “0” so obvious: Give consumers some credit – they aren’t naive. They know they are talking to a machine, and by now, most of them know that they can press ‘0’ at any time to reach a live agent. Don’t remind them too many times of that fact, or they might decide not to try to self-serve. Callers pressing zero don’t help themselves as much as they think. By making a selection, they greatly improve the enterprise’s chances of getting to an agent that can resolve their issue first.

7. Treat your IVR like an automated agent: Do not hold your IVR to a higher standard than your agents. For example, if customers have to authenticate with at least three pieces of information in the IVR, but only one piece of information with the agent, you are training them to opt-out for a live agent. Decide on standards and make them consistent across all channels.

8. Make authentication simple: Fear has made many enterprises over-authenticate callers. Without sacrificing security, make authentication as simple and as quick as possible. One way to do this is to use intrinsic information wherever possible.

9. Set an automation target: The best approach is to set a realistic improvement goal. The last thing you want to do is force too much automation too fast and have your customer experience suffer as a result. This continuous improvement approach is important so that you don’t dissuade your customers from increasing their self-service usage, frustrate them, and send them to higher costs channels. Slow and steady wins this race.

10. Don’t automate everything: A successful contact center is comprised of a number of channels, none of which would survive on its own. Neither your IVR, nor your agents can handle everything, so it's important to understand the strengths of each channel. If a process is too complicated, automation may not be the best channel to give the customers a positive experience.

Once you’ve decided to follow these steps to improve automation, you should put in place a system to continuously monitor and analyze the success of this channel. Too many banks set their customer contact strategy and then forget it, but the constant changes in consumer technologies and expectations, as well as the banking industry itself, make it imperative to have a sound customer service strategy that continuously improves. An effective, fully optimized IVR balances your costs via self-service with your customer experience goals and increases customer retention, loyalty, and brand value.

Paul Logan is CEO of Contact Solutions, a customer service solutions provider.

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