Is it time for financial service providers to start thinking about an omnichannel approach for their contact centres?

Topic: Finance & DCAs

The coronavirus has put an enormous strain on call centres, particularly in financial services, as branches have been closed, and fewer staff are available because of difficulties with remote working, people being furloughed, and illness.

Barclaycard was forced to warn customers of longer delays because of coronavirus affecting call centre staff. One bank reported a 400% increase in inbound calls, while the time it takes to connect to customer service agents of another bank has grown to over two hours.

A further impact of the pandemic has been the emergence of a “new and drastically changed customer”; one who is “financially constrained, is more digital savvy and places greater emphasis on their trust in brands.” This presents a challenge for financial institutions who’re typically ranked the lowest industry sector for public trust.

But individual brands can rise above this, and are doing so, with first direct topping the recent Customer Experience Excellence report for the fifth time in 11 years (KPMG). One of the key USPs of first direct is their availability to customers: “We’re the bank that never closes, we’re right here on your mobile.” They set an internal target of answering all calls within 20 seconds (source).

However, if recent Twitter interactions and Trustpilot reviews are anything to go by, even this paragon of customer service is suffering with the recent influx of calls, with customers complaining of 12 minute waiting times, and “long queues and patronising messages”.

What can be done to better connect customers with the services they need, without needing to grow the size of the call centre team, and that doesn’t require a physical call centre? Our suggestion would be to adopt an omnichannel chat platform.

Looking to text-based customer service interactions in the financial sector

When we consider that 64% of consumers now prefer to text a business for customer service (when compared to a voice call), adopting a text-based, mobile-focused approach for customer interactions is a logical first step for financial service providers. Customers can initiate the conversation without needing to wait on hold, and because multiple text-based conversations can be handled by a single agent, they’ll get faster access to the support they need. 

Text-based interactions in the financial sector are also a proven way to increase successful process conversions, with text-based processes having a 32% conversion rate, compared with 11.45% for calls. They’re also non-intrusive, with interactions taking place at a time and place that suits the customer.

But the benefits aren’t just for the customer. Financial service call centre agents are able to handle multiple conversations at the same time with text-based chat – not just one after another like with calls. They’re also cheaper than call based interactions. So, for example, to process a payment over the phone would cost £1.25, compared with 48p via an automated, mobile message. That’s a saving of 61.6%.

A further benefit when we consider Covid-19 is that many text-based chat platforms are available online. This means that contact centre agents can train and use mobile-focused engagements when they’re working from home.

Taking the next step with omnichannel chat

While text-based chat works extremely well, different customers might prefer to have their text-based conversations with financial service providers in different ways. That’s where omnichannel comes into play by offering next-generation chat platforms like WhatsApp, RCS and SMS Landing Pages. 

The great thing about omnichannel chat software is that all of those next-generation messaging apps are available from within a single platform. So regardless of the channel being used, all customer conversations will be visible on the same screen.

What can financial service providers use omnichannel chat for?

Bi-directional chats with customers

52% of financial sector customers now prefer to text for customer service interaction and that 46% of customers now prefer to use their mobile devices to process a payment.

With those statistics in mind it’s easy to see why more providers are turning to text-based customer service for everything from managing customer debt and accepting payments to handling account queries and collecting customer feedback.

Text-based chats are also a great way to deflect simple queries away from your agents. By deploying intelligent chatbots, providers are able to provide automated, self-serve environments for frequently repeated processes like FAQs. Effective chatbots can successfully manage about 70% of the chats coming in – that’s an incredible gift for your agents and your customers alike

Sending richer messages

Using next-generation channels like WhatsApp, RCS, and SMS Landing pages opens up a host of opportunities for financial service contact centres to have richer, branded, more interactive conversations with their customers.

For example, a customer has sent a text to a loan provider to find out when their next payment is due. The loan provider can open their message template library and send a visually rich, branded message. The message would also contain interactive buttons which when selected show when their next payment is due (after an identity verification stage), links to making a payment, and also any other details about their loan.

The next step to saving call centre resource

Esendex have worked with a wide range of financial service providers to help best utilise call centre resources. If you’d like to find out how an omnichannel chat solution could help you, please contact our industry experts today on 0345 356 5758 or email us at [email protected].

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