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Why Capacity and Capability are Banks’ Best Friends Right Now

COVID-19 scattered workforces and business operations virtually overnight. At the same time, the impact of the pandemic has accelerated digital sales and service demand in ways that suggest permanent change.

This trend is confirmed by McKinsey which noted that remote advisory channels may be finally coming of age, potentially meaning that up to 35 percent of customers’ complex needs will be handled remotely.

Some commentators are estimating we have had three years of digital acceleration in the space of the three months of the pandemic lockdown – which can most noticeably be seen with the declining use of cash. Research from the UK’s largest cash machine network Link found 75% of consumers said they are using less cash during lockdown and Accenture predicts that cash usage will decline by around 38 percent in 2020 when compared to the previous year.

Not everyone in banking and finance has fared well during the lockdown. The future doesn’t look particularly rosy either: The World Bank’s latest report, “Pandemic, Recession: The Global Economy in Crisis” highlights that a prolonged recession could negatively affect domestic financial sectors and heighten the risk of financial instability. As a result, banks face some difficult choices and even longer-term negative impacts on their returns.

Throughout this period, it has become clear that those who performed the best are the banks with the ability to flex capacity and capability. This is critical in being able to maintain and improve service levels and NPS, revenue, and efficiency (low cost). Here is why:


Banks need capacity to bring on new members of staff and train them up remotely fast enough to cope with changes in demand linked to customer needs. To understand their capacity, banking leaders need to ask themselves these questions:

  • Do we have the right training and systems in place to deliver great digital and personalised, empathetic customer service?
  • Can we offer proactive or pre-emptive service to anticipate and resolve customer needs before they occur?
  • Can we dynamically change work priorities, case allocation and teams through our customer service applications?

Banks need a technology platform that is truly low or no code and quickly adaptable with an easy user interface that makes is easier to train staff, as well as being more cost effective to run.. One solution is using software that automates a lot of the time-consuming, manual tasks such as sending customer alerts and automatically assigning the best person to help when a complicated customer service query needs escalating to a higher level.

Having a system that not only allows teams to deliver excellent customer service but can also learn from each experience will result in continuous improvement, boosting satisfaction, customer loyalty and sales is key. It’s the step of taking customer service beyond traditional ‘self-service’ or ‘assisted service’ and into the realms of ‘autonomous service’. It becomes oriented on the customer journey and goes beyond that to be customer specific with contextual answers, and dynamic real time information provision. This compares to traditional self-service where static information is provided, applicable to only one element of a customer’s relationship with the bank.

Software integrated with AI can be used to autonomously analyse customer data and provide service agents with suggestions of the next-best action they could take based on each individual context. This allows them to work efficiently while also maximising customer satisfaction with every interaction. The technology uses machine learning to adapt and ensure you are delivering the most intelligent insights with every customer query resolution experience.

One Australian bank using what they call their Customer Engagement Engine is delivering 30 million personalised customer decisions daily, and saw a 500% increase in the part of their app helping customers understand what benefits they can source from the government during COVID-19. These helpful interactions were just one of the ways the technology enabled it to achieve a +12 lead in NPS score ahead of its nearest competitor. Happier customers lead to greater loyalty and revenue.


Banks need the capability to allow teams to work from where they are, whether that be the office or home, so management needs to ask:

  • Does our organisation have the right technology in place to support my distributed operations?
  • Can our customer service applications empower our teams with guided interactions, drive collaboration and monitor and improve productivity?

All customer service leaders strive to maximize team utilisation against optimum service levels. The variables are the skill levels of the team members and the ability to automate or augment their work to maximise the time they have. Of course, the service level itself can, and sometimes has to, flex but ideally this is maintained with an ability to flex staffing productivity and automation levels. Banks need the capability to be able to respond to changing demands robustly and rapidly, for example in their ability to grant mortgage freezes and credit card holidays in response to government edicts we saw this year. Technology powers this capability.

Firstly, bringing all the data needed for teams to perform well in their roles into one information ‘hub’ – this can include not only data the customer has provided to the bank but also records of every interaction different bank representatives have had with that customer. This means there is a single source of truth on information, saving employees unnecessary time tracking the status of a query.

Modern software ensures customer service teams are spending the right amount of time on each customer interaction – avoiding engagements that are rushed and dissatisfy the customer as well as speeding up those that are too long, by enabling automation of tasks and information retrieval and posting.

Superior digitally enabled customer service is the real battleground for retail and commercial banks given the low interest environment we are faced with. Focusing on solutions that allow businesses to realise both capacity and capability is the key to success in customer service and supporting distributed and flexible operations.


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