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Banks' First-Call Resolution Rates Are in the 70s, But CoreFirst's Are In the 90s

During a relatively quiet year for the financial industry, 62% of banks saw an increase in customer service inquiries and first-call resolution rates are around 72%. But at CoreFirst, a new system enables IT to support employees with first-call resolution rates in the 90s.

Most financial services firms (62%) experienced more customer service incidents in 2009 then they did the year before, according to HDI research released today by Bomgar, a provider of remote support technology and sponsor of the study. Almost half the bank members of HDI (47%) chalk this increase up to infrastructure or product changes including mergers and acquisitions, 23% attribute the increased incidents to expanded service offerings by the support center, and 19% say it's because their customer base grew.

The study also looked at first-call resolution rates (the percentage of calls where the customer's questions or complaints are completely answered or fixed within the call). "First-call resolution rates, more than any other single metric, gets pointed to as a measure of overall performance," notes Nathan McNeill, founder and VP of product strategy at Bomgar. "From the user's perspective, if your call is not resolved in the first instance, you are not happy." Banks lead the pack in this area: they target a 74.7% first-call resolution rate and achieve a 71.2% rate on average, according to this study. Companies across the board try to achieve a 68.6% rate and attain that rate 64.1% of the time.

However, McNeill says that on an absolute basis these numbers are all relatively low. "If you're a user calling in and one out of three of your calls doesn't get resolved, that's low," he says. Companies should really be targeting 80-90% rates, he says. "90% to 94% rates are not unattainable for companies if they restructure processes and improve collaboration," he says.

At rapidly growing CoreFirst Bank & Trust, Topeka, Kansas, which in the last two years has opened 19 branches (12 in the Denver area, four in the Kansas City area, one in Manhattan, Kansas, and two additional branches in Topeka) the IT department's first-call resolution rate hovers in the low 90s. "If there is a need for a call back, the person who needs to follow up picks up the phone right away," notes Justin Sharples, IT security officer, who spoke with us in a recent interview. The bank uses Bomgar's remote support appliance to enable IT people to assist branch employees in faraway states with their technology problems. The user doesn't even need to know his computer name or IP address and the IT staff can take full control of the user's computer when necessary, so there's no need for any problem to go unresolved.

The costs of customer service by different channels haven't changed much in the past few years, McNeill says. For financial institutions, the median cost of a customer support phone call is $14 (versus $18 for companies of all kinds) and the median cost for responding to a customer's email is $12 ($15 for all companies). In financial services firms, 28% of email inquiries escalate to a phone call. McNeill notes that this raises a couple of questions for banks' customer support operations: "Is email the right way to resolve an incident or just open it?" he says. "If it's a two-step process, can you eliminate the first step?" Banks should also consider using lower-cost customer service channels like chat tools, McNeill advises.

At CoreFirst, the logical next step vis a vis customer support technology is to provide the remote support system to online banking users. An internet banking department handles support calls from customers, and this system could help them see what the customer sees when he's having trouble with online banking.

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