Drive through any town in the US, whether large or small, and you will undoubtedly see striking edifices occupied by branches of banks. They are part of our American heritage, symbols of confidence and stability. But changes in consumer preferences, banking regulations and new technologies are slowly dissolving the brick and mortar of these venerable icons. In an increasingly virtual world, if you blink, you may be looking at the bank’s contact center. Consider how these two unlikely companions seem to be converging.
There’s no ignoring the fact that we are becoming a more tech-savvy and tech-dependent society. With Millennial-age consumers who have grown up with the internet and mobile phones soon becoming the dominant buying segment of our culture, this inexorable wave of demand for technology is headed to banks and contact centers near you. With the availability of sophisticated self-service apps on mobile devices and browser-based self-service on the web, traditional customer service traffic has been diverted away from both bank branches and from bank contact centers. Novantas research indicates that on-line banking rose from 25% in 2012 to 39% in 2014 as the preferred banking method. This astronomical growth is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.
Restrictions on fee income, low return on lending due to low interest rates and the high cost of compliance with new bank regulations, are forcing retail banks to be more expense-conscious than ever before. This increasing austerity is showing itself in efforts to drive costs out of bank branches at a time when traffic in branches is down. Some banks are using “universal bankers”, i.e., highly trained branch staff that can perform any of the branch office tasks, virtually eliminating any division of labor, so fewer branch staff need be employed. Contact centers have been operating for decades in an environment that is highly expense-conscious, and now banks are adopting many of the same workforce optimization techniques that have been so successful in contact centers. Workforce management tools for staff scheduling, vacation planning and shift bidding are now recognized as essential to ensuring that the right number and appropriately-skilled bank employees are available at all times of the work day.
Both the branch and the contact center are under increasing pressure to deliver the best possible customer experience. The advent of social media has created the constant threat of a bad customer experience going viral, and the barriers to switching to a competing institution are lower than ever, so the customer’s perception of good service is vital to a bank’s survival. There are a number of workforce optimization tools already used to ensure quality customer engagement in the contact center that can be applied equally well in the branch.
- Quality management tools used in conjunction with a well-considered quality management process can increase Net Promoter Score significantly.
- Performance management, another important contact center WFO tool that will bring immediate gains in the branch. How can you take effective action if you don’t have an authoritative source of information about your branch’s operation? Performance management provides a “single source of truth” by collecting data from multiple bank systems, synthesizing and analyzing that data, and presenting it in an aggregated form that gives you rich and actionable insights.
These WFO technologies have been used successfully in contact centers for quite some time. In part two, I’ll look at how banks can use contact center best practices to increase sales.