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4 Predictions About The Future of the Contact Center

With banks’ channel strategies becoming increasingly customer-centric, how is this shaping their call and contact centers? Four experts offer their predictions.

Bank call centers have evolved into true customer contact centers, functioning not only to provide information and resolve problems but also to support sales and marketing activities. In today’s multi-channel service environment, the call center remains a critical channel -- along with mobile, online and branches -- for bank and client interactions. But customer expectations for a consistent, interactive and real-time experience across all channels, including the call center, also are rising. What technologies are improving the reach and effectiveness of banks’ contact centers? How do concerns over privacy and security impact banks’ contact center strategies? What contact center functions can be outsourced, and which should be kept in-house? And with more business being transacted on the mobile platform, what will be the role of the future bank call center?

More Focus On Live Chat And Email Support

Call center technology has already evolved in a way that makes the call center operate much more like the other banking channels. Newer solutions integrate with banks’ existing CRM platforms to present a more complete view of the customer relationship. This allows customer service representatives (CSRs) to resolve issues and promote additional banking products more effectively.

Privacy and security, particularly regarding compliance with regulatory requirements, definitely impact call center strategies. CSRs need to be trained, often with scripts, to make sure they are making appropriate disclosures and collecting the necessary customer information for each interaction. Customer authentication will always be a concern and banks will continue to seek out solutions that allow them to confidently identify their customers in a way that also minimizes the effort required of the customer.

Service providers are capable of delivering very strong outsourced call center solutions, which can be very effective for small banks as well as many credit unions. Large institutions need to weigh efficiency benefits with their need for customization. One popular strategy is to use a third-party vendor for after-hours support so a bank can provide customer service on a 24/7/365 basis.

The call center of the future will have a stronger focus on live chat and email support, which could potentially be delivered within a mobile banking application. Inbound phone calls will always be a priority, but banks are having success resolving many of these interactions with automated systems, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated. There will also likely be an increased emphasis on cross-selling and up-selling. Banks will rely on call centers for revenue generation, not just customer service.

— Michael Misasi, Senior Analyst, Mercator Advisory Group

Biometrics Transform Customer Verification

At Bank of America, we’re making interactions easier for our customers with cutting-edge technology, while maintaining the safety and security of information and data. And a lot of that work is happening in our contact centers.

For instance, rather than navigate multiple menus, our Interactive Voice Response system (IVR) now allows customers to speak naturally to describe what they need using simple, everyday terms. This IVR functionality provides better response by quickly getting callers to the right option, and also funnels them to a contact center agent when needed. And information passed from the IVR to an agent reduces the need for customers to repeat themselves.

Today, integration across channels is critical for customers who want to choose when and where they do business with us. New technology has made that simple. The two channels which have the most integration points are mobile and contact centers. So, for example, if a customer is on their mobile device, yet needs to access our expertise, they can now transition from mobile banking to speaking with a contact center agent quickly and fully authenticated.

And these innovations are just the beginning. Currently, our contact center employees spend 25%nof their time just verifying customers. Voice biometrics will change all that. This will allow us to identify customers based on their voice characteristics, offering protection and convenience in one solution.

These continued improvements provide more seamless customer interactions, while the safety and security of our customers’ information remain our number one priority.

— Steve Beasty, Customer Banking Technology executive, Bank of America

Access To A Live Person Remains Essential

Financial institutions must continue to offer mobile customer service solutions. While all customers appreciate mobile accessibility, SDCCU understands that sometimes there is no substitute to talking to a live person.

Most recently, SDCCU launched SDCCU Easy Balance Transfer, where SDCCU Visa cardholders can easily perform a balance transfer by taking a picture of their other high-rate credit card payment stubs, and the balance is automatically sent to their low-rate SDCCU Visa.

In October 2012, SDCCU added Mobile Live Chat services for customers using smartphones, making SDCCU one of two U.S.-based companies, at the time, to offer live chat capabilities for both iPhone and Android mobile devices. Consumers who carry mobile devices can connect in real-time to a SDCCU representative via a secure instant message.

Additionally, SDCCU was the first local financial institution to launch SDCCU Mobile Deposit in December 2011.

— Teresa Halleck, President/CEO, San Diego County Credit Union

[Innovation in Banking: What does the Future Hold?]

Analytics Facilitate Better Service

The financial services industry is a trendsetter in leveraging technology to provide better customer service, and is thus well positioned to overcome the growing gap in power between consumers and enterprises. Consumers are empowered with multiple communication channels and increased access to information, and banks must be prepared to assist customers who now choose the timing and outlet for their contact.

In a recent survey, consumers indicated that they use an average of six different channels to contact service providers. To address this reality, organizations must leverage technology to provide outstanding customer service in an efficient manner. Solutions that apply both interactional and transactional analytics across all channels allow institutions to understand the unique journey of every customer. This understanding enables companies to predict their customers’ needs and either guide them to the most appropriate channel, proactively engage with them, or simply be ready with the right service and information.

The survey also showed that use of mobile apps and texting is on the rise, with the strongest growth in financial services institutions, at 46%. As helpful as today’s mobile apps are, they will be truly mature when they are able to seamlessly convey all of the customer’s information when transitioning from self-service to assisted service with an agent. In short, the contact center will continue to play a critical role in customer service as it handles more complex service issues, or when self-service channels fail.

— Tamar Sharir, Director, Solution Marketing Interaction Optimization, NICE Systems

[New Report: Consumers Say Security No. 1 Concern in Mobile Banking]


Peggy Bresnick Kendler has been a writer for 30 years. She has worked as an editor, publicist and school district technology coordinator. During the past decade, Bresnick Kendler has worked for UBM TechWeb on special financialservices technology-centered ... View Full Bio

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