National Customer Service Week is held every year to highlight the importance of customer service within organisations - this year it is being held from Monday 5th through to Friday 9th October. As it approaches, I would like to consider why brilliant customer
service has been so critical for banks this year, as well as how financial institutions can seek to improve their customer service by following this year’s five key Customer Service Week themes listed below.
Over the last six months, face-to-face interactions have fallen dramatically. In banking, with branch closures up and down the country, those meaningful human interactions are more important than ever. At the same time, despite the chaos, consumers continue
to expect a certain level of service (primarily dictated by the nature of the product or service, its price etc.). With all the stresses of COVID added to the mix, when a customer experiences brilliant service now, it can truly make a bank stand out. On the
flip side, poor customer service can prove even more damaging at the moment in terms of increasing the chances of losing valuable customers and harming brand reputation irreparably.
So how can banks make sure they are boosting their customer service to ensure they provide their customers with the tailored and relevant financial products and services they require at this difficult time? The five Customer Service Week focus areas are
a great place to start:
Insight: Knowing your customer and how to deliver to them
During times of abnormality, people want companies to be ‘normal’. So, when banks went into a tailspin trying to cope with the influx of enquiries as the pandemic hit, this was extremely disconcerting for their customers.
Moving forward, banks need to be better prepared for times of rapid change. This can be achieved through implementing technology that enables flexible processes, adaptable technology that can facilitate exceptions and better manage overrides, as well as
setting up staff for success with the right customer engagement tools, so that they can easily get customer insights and translate those into improving their services. Banks also need to prioritise giving staff more time to gather detailed information from
their customers so they can better understand if a policy or product needs changing. By implementing technologies such as targeted robotic process automation (RPA), to automate simpler tasks, employees will have time freed up to dedicate to these interactions.
Capability & Skills: Identifying and nurturing customer service skills in your organisation
What COVID harshly exposed was the large skills and capability gaps within banks to deal with extreme situations. This was then exacerbated by the shift to remote working for all, which significantly hindered training and education programmes. Of course,
for many, remote working is set to stay for at least another six months, therefore, the onus is on managers to help and support their staff to learn remotely and implement the right technology platforms to facilitate that. They must also design processes that
can assist staff in a crisis situation, supported by next-best-action analytics, should there be a potential knowledge gap.
Recognition: Celebrate your customer service heroes
Sadly, as a result of the economic repercussions of the pandemic, many customer service representatives are being furloughed or losing their jobs altogether. With morale at an all-time low, there must be far more recognition of excellent work, combined with
giving employees any positive customer feedback received. For this to be realised, managers need technology that can filter out unnecessary criticism at a time of pressure and automatically flag positive comments to the team member. Recognition in front of
peers also takes on even greater importance when managing virtual teams.
Leadership: Championing customer service in the boardroom
The topic of customer service is still often overlooked in the boardroom – even during COVID where the pressing issues of company revenues, costs and survival are at the forefront of minds. And it’s important to remember that leaders in banks are numbers
people. That’s why the leadership team, and managers in general, need to be presented with the right data so they can have a fact-based, as well as qualitative, discussion about how to improve customer service. Service levels matched against NPS or customer
satisfaction levels become the most important information to assess. With this approach, the c-suite can get a clearer view of overall customer service levels and have conversations about what technology and people-based changes can be made to improve it.
For example, are there any processes that can be automated? Or, how can we operationalise the flexibility needed by staff when they are working from home in a way that can benefit the customer in terms of service demand spikes?
Trust, Ethics & Sustainability: Building brand reputation through your customers
With some companies teetering on the edge of collapse, it can be difficult to think about long-term strategies. However, investment in customer service technology must be made now to hold on to the vital customers banks need to weather this storm. In fact,
in most scenarios, it pays off to put the needs of the customer first to secure the revenue base, by investing in the platforms that best cater to their requirements.
In times of difficulty, building trust is critical for an organisation to survive. Every day, when a customer comes to the bank with a problem it is an opportunity to cultivate that relationship. With every engagement, transparency is crucial, such as a
company being honest about their issues in their service or product teams. On top of that, they must be proactive about communicating those problems. Using the right customer engagement technology, businesses can pre-empt these issues and what their impact
could be on the customer, and then automatically calculate different offers or services to accommodate those problems. By being flexible and treating the customer with empathy, banks can continue to build trust with them.
With any crisis, lessons are there to be learned so organisations can be better prepared for the future. And the lessons we have learned as a result of COVID have only reinforced what we already knew about customer service: that the individual and their
situation comes first. ‘What is going on here?’, is a question many of us would ask about the current environment, but it is never more important than now to bear that in mind when dealing with customer service issues - seek to understand and then help. Reflecting
back on the year so far, and what must be done to achieve the aforementioned customer service focus areas, banks must be prepared to continue to invest in technology that gives their staff the means to adapt to changing customer needs on a case-by-case basis
and communicate with transparency and empathy. If they don’t take this approach, then we may see some banks become casualties of the virus.