Banks can’t control inflation, but they can control their customer relationships
By Nick Delis, Senior VP of International and Strategic Business at Five9
In the cost-of-living crisis, every penny counts. With mortgage rates at their highest level in 15 years, and 1.3 million households missing or defaulting on bills last month, banks are facing an unprecedented increase in calls for financial support. However, poor service is causing customers to lose trust in their financial providers – with over a quarter (27%) of Brits believing that the quality of service provided by their bank has fallen short.
Modern consumers hold more power than ever before, and with an increasingly competitive financial marketplace, they are not afraid to move their money elsewhere. When it comes to personal financial decisions, customers are looking for a company they can trust that understands their financial situation, and can support their needs and goals. Yet, 50% of UK bankers claim that their institutions are still over-reliant on legacy technologies, unable to offer the knowledgeable, omnichannel service that customers expect.
Banks are having to adapt – and fast. True service differentiation requires a fully integrated approach across the entire customer journey. Banks can’t control interest rates, but they can control how their service is delivered.
Real-time data powers better customer service
Although adoption of cloud technologies in banking has been slow, things are changing. Investment is growing in the modernisation of apps and services, with access to real-time data, automation and self-service models able to facilitate a faster, improved experience for customers. However, it is a big deal when a customer picks up the phone or starts a live chat with their bank. Most interactions are emotional, with customers looking for empathy and a personal connection, not a self-service quick fix.
Banks can use real-time data and artificial intelligence (AI) to identify the kind of interaction needed. They can prioritise high-emotion, high-stress contacts for human agents and route basic enquiries to intelligent virtual agents (IVAs). During the interaction, agents can leverage data to give real-time insights to consumers, such as how their credit is being used, while giving customers the empathy they deserve.
Banks already hold a wealth of information on their customers and their own offerings, so feeding this data into customer service allows banks and insurers to react quickly in times of crisis like natural disasters, turning real-time data into real-time action.
Proactive communication evolves the role of finance
Equipped with data insights, banks can better assess spend and how credit is being utilised in other areas. This could be a game-changer for banks, able to provide more targeted advice and offerings for customers. Nearly half (47%) of Brits believe banks and financial services firms are doing a poor job of communicating risk, so a full communication programme to guide and retain customers can prove a key differentiator.
When banks work proactively to educate customers on their financial health such as top tips for saving, or highlight different services that could be of benefit to them, they help customers and themselves. For example, the surge in use of buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) offerings is an inevitable result of the economic crisis. However, many customers aren’t aware of the risks involved in using this service.
When banks educate customers on possible future outcomes and provide counsel, they win trust which will pay dividends in the long run. Proactively checking in after a situation has been resolved fuels a better experience and helps to further mitigate risk.
Reach the customer where they are
When customers reach out in an emotional state, delivering the service they need can be difficult. Banks need the right balance of empathy, patience, and technology to solve customer issues. This means delivering a consistent experience across every customer touchpoint and adapting their service and channel depending on each interaction.
Omnichannel consistency will help to close the loop and ensure customers feel satisfied and informed. Having a central platform that can collect data from all applications and channels maintains continuity, ensures that no information is lost and customer service can pick up right where they left off. Breaking down the data siloes between communications channels allows banks to gather real-time data insights and feed this into more intelligent self-service options and informed interactions.
Ultimately, UK banks with the highest levels of customer satisfaction have proved the most successful in gaining or retaining business. When the financial crisis is over, and customer mindsets shift back towards larger purchases, people will lean back on their preferred financial providers for another mortgage or car loan. Real-time data, proactive communications and omnichannel consistency will be vital for banks to provide the service that customers demand now, and nurture relationships for the future.