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The Value & Challenges of CX Through the Contact Center

Good morning. Sharing via this post some of the latest thoughts and insights related to delivering exception service through the Contact Center. However, many companies are still struggling to meet the customer expectation through an omni-channel approach while balancing the right mix of automation and human touch.

We go deep into some of the key aspects and recent industry research to shed a light on key strategies and practices that are aimed to help Contact Center Heads deliver stronger CX and service in these challenging times.

In the realm of customer experiences with contact centers in financial services, a troubling trend has emerged. Supported by recent J. Power's research, customers are expressing dissatisfaction with the quality of service provided.

In this story, we meet Sarah, a hardworking professional who recently encountered a frustrating experience. Seeking assistance with a credit card issue, she dialed the contact center number provided by her financial institution. To her dismay, Sarah found herself caught in an endless loop of automated options, struggling to reach an actual human representative.

After several attempts, Sarah finally connected with a customer service agent, only to be met with a lack of knowledge and empathy. The agent seemed unfamiliar with Sarah's specific issue and provided generic responses that failed to address her concerns. Frustrated, Sarah had to repeat her story multiple times as she was transferred from one department to another, wasting valuable time and energy.

Furthermore, Sarah discovered that the contact center lacked effective communication channels. Emails went unanswered, and live chat support was unresponsive or offline. This left her feeling abandoned and unheard, exacerbating her frustration.

J. Power's research highlights that Sarah's experience is not an isolated incident. Many customers are encountering similar challenges, leading to declining satisfaction rates across the financial services industry. The research identifies key issues such as long wait times, untrained agents, and ineffective communication channels as significant contributors to poor customer experiences.

Recognizing the urgency to address these concerns, financial institutions are now reevaluating their contact center operations. They are investing in advanced technologies such as AI-powered chat-bots and virtual assistants to streamline customer interactions and provide faster, more accurate resolutions. Additionally, rigorous training programs are being implemented to equip agents with the necessary knowledge and empathy to handle diverse customer needs.

While the road to improvement may be long, financial institutions are committed to enhancing the customer experience within their contact centers. By taking proactive measures, they aim to rebuild trust, restore customer satisfaction, and ensure that every interaction becomes a positive and meaningful one.

Let's now shed some light on key trends in financial services, especially consumer lending. Following are some key findings of their (JD Power Consumer Lending 2023 study):

  • Fintechs gain ground on legacy lending brands: Overall customer satisfaction scores for fintech brands evaluated in the study rise 16 points (on a 1,000-point scale) year over year. That compares with a 12-point increase in customer satisfaction across all non-fintech brands in the study. The gains made by fintechs have been driven by several key factors that include meeting the customer’s borrowing needs; managing loans once closed; and keeping customers informed during the process. Problem avoidance is also a strength for fintechs, as 83% of customers indicate never having a problem with their loan compared with 74% for non-fintech borrowers.

  • Role of all digital vs. human interaction: Just 31% of applicants said they interacted with someone during the process. Of that group, 70% said it was necessary to obtain approval. Even though the market is digitally dominated, there is no difference in satisfaction when humans are involved. This reinforces the key idea regarding satisfaction that meeting the customer needs is more important than the way it is achieved.

  • Younger and well-qualified buyers are informed: Younger customers, specifically those from Gen Z1, and prime credit borrowers are diligently gathering information about lenders and their products. More than half (51%) of respondents from Gen Z “strongly agree” that a borrower should gather as much info as possible before taking a loan compared with 39% of Pre-Boomers/Boomers and 40% of Gen X respondents. Half of customers with a credit score of 740 or higher “strongly agree” about gathering as much information as possible compared with 35% of customers with a score of less than 670.

  • Fintech brand awareness gets big bump: Fintech brand awareness increases by as much as 15 percentage points in this year’s study. This increased awareness has resulted in multiple fintech brands breaking the milestone of 50% of respondents having heard of them.

Running a successful contact center in the financial services industry requires careful attention to people, process, and technology. Delivering exceptional customer service, ensuring regulatory compliance, and optimizing operational efficiency are essential for achieving desired outcomes. Let's explore the top ten priorities for running a contact center in financial services, along with a detailed audit checklist covering people, process, and technology. Priority 1: Customer Experience Excellence 1. Ensure agents possess excellent communication and problem-solving skills. 2. Implement effective training programs to enhance product knowledge and customer service skills. 3. Conduct regular customer satisfaction surveys and analyze feedback to identify areas for improvement. Priority 2: Compliance and Security 4. Establish robust security measures to protect customer data and comply with relevant regulations. 5. Implement call recording and monitoring systems to ensure compliance with industry standards. 6. Regularly review and update internal policies and procedures to align with changing regulations. Priority 3: Operational Efficiency 7. Implement an efficient call routing system for quick and accurate customer inquiries resolution. 8. Optimize workforce management to match agent availability with customer demand. 9. Utilize analytics tools to identify operational bottlenecks and streamline processes. Priority 4: Omni-Channel Support 10. Offer seamless customer support across multiple channels, including phone, email, chat, and social media. 11. Implement a unified communication platform to ensure consistent and personalized experiences. Priority 5: Knowledge Management 12. Establish a comprehensive knowledge base to equip agents with accurate and up-to-date information. 13. Implement a robust search functionality to enable quick access to relevant information. Priority 6: Performance Management 14. Set clear performance goals and regularly monitor agent performance. 15. Offer coaching and development opportunities to improve agent productivity and job satisfaction. 16. Implement quality assurance programs to assess and improve service quality. Priority 7: Continuous Improvement 17. Encourage agents to provide feedback on processes and identify areas for improvement. 18. Regularly review customer feedback and implement necessary changes to enhance the customer experience. Priority 8: Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity 19. Develop and test a comprehensive disaster recovery plan to ensure uninterrupted service delivery. 20. Implement redundant systems and backup protocols to mitigate the impact of potential disruptions. Priority 9: Collaboration and Integration 21. Foster collaboration between different departments to ensure a unified customer experience. 22. Integrate contact center systems with other relevant platforms to streamline workflows. Priority 10: Monitoring and Reporting 23. Implement real-time monitoring to identify service gaps and proactively address issues. 24. Generate comprehensive reports to analyze contact center performance and make data-driven decisions. Running a contact center in the financial services industry requires a holistic approach that focuses on delivering exceptional customer experiences, ensuring compliance, and optimizing operational efficiency. By prioritizing these ten areas, financial services organizations can establish a solid foundation for success. Regular auditing based on the checklist provided will help identify strengths and areas for improvement, leading to continuous growth and improvement in contact center operations.

These questions are designed to gather relevant information and insights to help the solution provider understand the organization's needs and develop an effective contact management strategy: 1. What are your primary business objectives for the contact center, and how do they align with your overall organizational goals? 2. What key challenges are you currently facing in your contact center operations? 3. Can you provide details about your current contact center infrastructure, including the technology stack, software platforms, and integration capabilities? 4. How do you measure and track customer satisfaction within your contact center? 5. What are your specific requirements for multi-channel support, such as voice, email, chat, social media, and self-service options? 6. How do you currently handle workforce management and scheduling to meet customer demand effectively? 7. What are the key performance metrics and KPIs you use to evaluate contact center performance? 8. Are there any compliance or security considerations unique to your industry or organization that need to be addressed? 9. How do you currently handle knowledge management and ensure consistent and accurate information for your agents? 10. What are your expectations for reporting and analytics capabilities within your contact center? Creating Your Balanced Scorecard When using a balanced scorecard approach for a contact center head in the financial services industry, it's important to consider a range of key metrics that cover various aspects of performance. Here are six key metrics that can provide a balanced view: 1. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): Measure customer satisfaction levels through surveys or feedback mechanisms to gauge the quality of service provided by the contact center. 2. First Contact Resolution (FCR): Track the percentage of customer inquiries or issues resolved during the initial customer contact, indicating the efficiency and effectiveness of the contact center. 3. Average Handle Time (AHT): Monitor the average time taken by agents to handle customer interactions, considering both talk time and any related after-call work. A lower AHT generally indicates greater efficiency. 4. Service Level Agreement (SLA) Compliance: Measure the percentage of customer interactions that are handled within the defined service level targets, ensuring timely and satisfactory resolution. 5. Agent Productivity: Evaluate agent productivity by tracking metrics such as the number of interactions handled per hour or per day, providing insights into individual and team performance. 6. Quality Assurance (QA) Scores: Conduct regular evaluations of agent performance based on predefined quality criteria. QA scores reflect adherence to script guidelines, compliance, accuracy, and overall service quality. These metrics provide a holistic view of the contact center's performance, encompassing customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, and agent effectiveness. Remember, the specific metrics and targets may vary based on the organization's goals, industry regulations, and customer expectations. Regularly reviewing and analyzing these metrics will help identify areas for improvement and drive continuous enhancement of the contact center's performance. The Transition Transitioning into a new role as a contact center head requires careful planning and execution. Here is a detailed 100-day transition plan to help you effectively navigate your new position and make a positive impact on the contact center: Days 1-10: Assess and Understand 1. Familiarize yourself with the organization's vision, mission, and contact center goals. 2. Meet with key stakeholders, including senior management, team leaders, and agents, to understand their perspectives and expectations. 3. Review existing documentation, reports, and performance metrics to gain insights into the current state of the contact center. 4. Identify immediate challenges, pain points, and opportunities for improvement within the contact center. 5. Conduct one-on-one meetings with each team member to introduce yourself, learn about their roles, and gather feedback. Days 11-30: Evaluate and Strategize 1. Analyze performance metrics, customer feedback, and operational data to identify areas for improvement. 2. Assess the contact center's technology infrastructure, systems, and tools to identify any gaps or opportunities for optimization. 3. Review existing processes, workflows, and policies to identify areas that require streamlining or enhancement. 4. Develop a clear vision and strategy for the contact center, aligning it with the overall organizational goals. 5. Define key performance indicators (KPIs) and goals that align with the contact center's objectives. Days 31-60: Build Relationships and Engage 1. Foster relationships with team leaders, agents, and support staff to build trust and establish open lines of communication. 2. Conduct team meetings to share your vision, set expectations, and gather input from team members. 3. Implement regular feedback mechanisms, such as suggestion boxes or surveys, to gather insights and ideas from contact center staff. 4. Identify high-potential employees for leadership development opportunities and create plans for their growth. 5. Initiate cross-functional collaboration with other departments to strengthen alignment and enhance the customer experience. Days 61-90: Implement Improvements 1. Prioritize improvement initiatives based on identified pain points and opportunities. 2. Develop action plans for each improvement initiative, including timelines, responsible parties, and resource requirements. 3. Implement necessary changes to processes, workflows, and policies to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. 4. Roll out training programs to address skill gaps and enhance agent capabilities. 5. Monitor progress and adjust strategies as needed, keeping a focus on continuous improvement. Days 91-100: Evaluate Progress and Plan Ahead 1. Evaluate the impact of the implemented changes by reviewing performance metrics, customer feedback, and employee satisfaction. 2. Conduct a comprehensive review of the transition process, identifying successes and lessons learned. 3. Communicate progress and achievements to senior management and key stakeholders. 4. Develop a roadmap for future initiatives, outlining long-term goals and strategies to sustain improvements. 5. Celebrate achievements and recognize the efforts of the contact center team. Remember, this transition plan is adaptable to your specific organizational context and goals. Adjust the timeline and activities based on the unique needs of the contact center and the organization. Regular communication, collaboration, and a focus on continuous improvement will help you establish a solid foundation and drive success in your new role as a contact center head. Tech Investment As a contact center head, investing in the right technologies can significantly enhance operational efficiency, improve customer experiences, and drive success. Here are ten essential technologies that contact center heads should consider, along with some key suppliers in the market: 1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems: CRM systems help manage customer interactions, track customer data, and provide a 360-degree view of customers. Key suppliers: Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Oracle CX. 2. Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) Systems: ACD systems efficiently route incoming customer calls to the most appropriate agents or departments. Key suppliers: Genesys, Cisco, Avaya. 3. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Systems: IVR systems enable self-service options, allowing customers to navigate through menus and access information without agent assistance. Key suppliers: Twilio, Genesys, Aspect. 4. Computer Telephony Integration (CTI): CTI integrates telephony systems with computer systems, enabling agents to access customer information and call controls within a single interface. Key suppliers: Genesys, Avaya, Cisco. 5. Workforce Management (WFM) Systems: WFM systems help optimize agent scheduling, forecast customer demand, and track agent performance. Key suppliers: Verint, NICE inContact, Aspect. 6. Quality Management and Analytics: These systems monitor and analyze customer interactions to ensure quality and provide insights for improvement. Key suppliers: Calabrio, Verint, NICE inContact. 7. Speech Analytics: Speech analytics solutions analyze audio interactions to identify trends, sentiment, and areas for improvement. Key suppliers: CallMiner, NICE inContact, Verint. 8. Omni-channel Customer Engagement Platforms: These platforms enable seamless customer interactions across multiple channels, such as voice, email, chat, and social media. Key suppliers: Genesys, Salesforce, Twilio Flex. 9. Knowledge Management Systems: These systems provide agents with access to a centralized knowledge base, enabling accurate and consistent information delivery. Key suppliers: Salesforce, Oracle Knowledge, Zendesk. 10. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Chatbots: AI-powered chatbots assist with customer inquiries, automate routine tasks, and provide real-time guidance to agents. Key suppliers: IBM Watson, Google Cloud Dialogflow, Genesys. It's important to thoroughly evaluate suppliers based on your specific requirements, integration capabilities, scalability, pricing, and support. Consider engaging with industry analysts, attending conferences, and seeking recommendations from peers to make informed decisions. Additionally, keep in mind that the technology landscape is dynamic, and new solutions may emerge while existing ones evolve, so staying updated is crucial. Managing Risk Contact center heads face various risks that can impact the performance and effectiveness of their operations. Here are the top five risks and key mitigation actions to consider: 1. Operational Disruptions: Risk: Technical failures, power outages, or network disruptions can result in service interruptions, impacting customer experiences and productivity. Mitigation Actions: - Implement redundant systems and backup infrastructure to minimize the impact of technical failures. - Regularly test and maintain critical systems to ensure their reliability. - Develop a comprehensive business continuity plan to address potential disruptions and quickly restore operations. 2. Data Security Breaches: Risk: Contact centers store and handle sensitive customer data, making them potential targets for cyberattacks and data breaches. Mitigation Actions: - Implement robust security measures, including firewalls, encryption, and intrusion detection systems. - Train employees on data security best practices and establish strict access controls. - Regularly assess and update security protocols to address emerging threats. - Comply with data protection and privacy regulations, such as GDPR or CCPA. 3. Employee Attrition and Retention: Risk: High employee turnover can lead to decreased productivity, increased training costs, and a negative impact on customer experiences. Mitigation Actions: - Develop a comprehensive talent management strategy, including effective recruitment, onboarding, and retention programs. - Offer competitive compensation and benefits packages to attract and retain top talent. - Provide ongoing training and development opportunities to enhance employee skills and job satisfaction. - Foster a positive work culture and maintain open lines of communication to address employee concerns. 4. Compliance and Regulatory Risks: Risk: Contact centers must comply with various industry regulations and legal requirements when handling customer data and interactions. Mitigation Actions: - Stay updated on relevant regulations and ensure compliance through robust policies and procedures. - Conduct regular training sessions to educate employees on compliance requirements and best practices. - Implement monitoring and auditing processes to identify and address any compliance gaps. - Establish relationships with legal advisors or consultants to seek guidance on regulatory matters. 5. Reputational Damage: Risk: Negative customer experiences, poor service quality, or publicized incidents can damage the contact center's reputation. Mitigation Actions: - Implement quality assurance programs to monitor and improve service quality. - Actively seek and address customer feedback to identify areas for improvement. - Establish a strong customer-centric culture throughout the contact center. - Respond promptly and effectively to customer complaints or issues to mitigate potential reputation damage. - Regularly communicate with customers, stakeholders, and the public to build trust and transparency. By proactively identifying and addressing these risks, contact center heads can minimize their impact and ensure smooth operations while providing exceptional customer experiences. Regular monitoring, continuous improvement, and a focus on risk management will help mitigate potential challenges and enhance overall performance.

Added Bonus: Following are some key findings of the 2023 Credit Card and Banking studies:

  • Basic transactional tools consistently perform better than more advanced features: Banks and credit card mobile apps and websites are producing significantly higher overall satisfaction scores for basic transactional tools, such as account transfer, bill pay, mobile check deposit and peer-to-peer (P2P) lending. When it comes to more advanced personal financial management tools, such as spending analysis and budgeting tools, many providers struggle to connect with customers.

  • Personal financial management tools drive satisfaction—when they are used: When banking app customers actively engage with three or more personal financial management tools, such as credit score monitoring, spending analysis and budgeting tools, overall satisfaction scores rise 127 points vs. when these tools are not offered. The first hurdle to lifting satisfaction with these tools is garnering wider tool use.

  • Virtual assistants do heavy lifting on adoption: Customers who use a virtual assistant provided on their banking app are four times more likely to use personal financial management tools.

  • Regional banks struggle to compete: Among banking apps, national banks perform considerably higher in customer satisfaction than regional banks. Regional banks also show a significantly wider range of performance between top- and bottom-ranked providers.

Study Rankings

Bank of America ranks highest in banking mobile app satisfaction among national banks, with a score of 710 (on a 1,000-point scale). Capital One (691) ranks second and Chase (690) ranks third.

Capital One ranks highest in online banking satisfaction among national banks for a second consecutive year, with a score of 669. TD Bank (655) ranks second, while Chase (652) and PNC (652) rank third in a tie.

Bank of America ranks highest in credit card mobile app satisfaction, with a score of 706. American Express (699) ranks second and Capital One (696) ranks third.

Discover ranks highest in online credit card satisfaction for a second consecutive year, with a score of 676. Chase (667) ranks second and Capital One (666) ranks third.

Huntington ranks highest in banking mobile app satisfaction among regional banks for a fifth consecutive year, with a score of 651. Santander (645) ranks second and KeyBank (635) ranks third.

KeyBank ranks highest in online banking satisfaction among regional banks, with a score of 658. Bank of the West (651) ranks second and Regions Bank (650) ranks third.

I hope you found the insights helpful and if you have interest in connecting, my contact information is below:

Matt Slonaker

Founder & CEO of M. Allen

(M) 972.740.4300

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