As recognition of the importance of customer service continues to grow in the financial services (FS) sector, today’s consumers are in the fortunate position of having more ways to get in touch with organizations than ever before. Although the industry is still way off from "online only" for all inbound customer enquiries, recent research conducted by knowledge solutions vendor Transversal demonstrates a clear shift in focus towards the digital world. But in looking at the state of customer service in financial services, it's clear that decision-makers need to take a more holistic apporach to customer service management.
In-store vs. online investment
We recently conducted a piece of research with Vanson Bourne, interviewing 50 decision-makers from customer service departments throughout the FS sector. When analyzing the results we were surprised to find a disconnect between organizational investment in online and offline customer service agents. On average, agents in the contact center (or the digital customer service team) were revealed to receive training four times a year, while in-branch employees only received half that amount.
Furthermore, although a high percentage (86%) of the customer service managers involved in the study acknowledged that all agents in their organizations need to undergo more complex training than in other industries, fewer than three in ten (28%) said that their customer service teams are trained to the same level across the board.
A fragmented approach to customer service
Given the huge shift towards e-commerce in recent years, this difference is perhaps only to be expected, but should FS firms necessarily be investing more time in training online staff?
The simple answer is no. While it’s refreshing that customer service teams in the FS sector have actively started investing more time and money in training its digital agents, it’s important that decision makers in the industry start viewing customer service -- whether online or offline -- as a single output of the business. By training customer service agents to a different level according to the channel in which they operate, FS organizations risk creating a disjointed experience for customers.
With the research finding an average of four different customer contact methods per organization, the need for a consistent approach, including answers and levels of service, across all customer touch points cannot be underestimated, and this cannot be achieved if levels of training differ from one department to the next.
Holistic customer service
If you’re unsure how to go about creating a holistic approach to customer service then our top tips for the FS sector are a good place to start:
Select the right channels. Nowadays customers can contact your organization 24 hours a day, seven days a week on multiple communication channels. While it’s difficult to ensure you are actively monitoring all of these, it’s important that you identify those most relevant to your customers and train your agents to manage these.
Make it consistent. As I have already stated, it’s important that your customers receive the same level of service whatever communications channel they use. Make sure all your agents are trained to a similar level and, more importantly, that they are singing off the same hymn sheet. A centralized knowledge base is a great way to achieve this.
Make it relevant. Ensure that the answers your agents receive are the right answers by providing intelligent search facilities that understand the context as well as the meaning of the words used.
Offer related information. Don’t just answer the initial customer query, be one step ahead and anticipate the next question(s). Provide related answers before the agent has to search for them to reduce the interaction time needed to resolve the query. This can also help reduce the need for additional follow-up queries.
By delivering consistent, accurate, and relevant information across all your chosen channels, you can begin to build trust with your customers. Trust can result in a step-change in customer thinking and behavior, which naturally delivers confidence in the service levels your business provides.
Stephen Sinclair's team of Business Development Managers continues Transversal's successful delivery of consistent decision support and customer experience initiatives for organizations wanting to provide superb service in an ever changing omnichannel environment. His ... View Full Bio