Customer experience in financial services
Delivering the right customer experience has always been vital in banking and financial services. This has intensified as the sector has shifted from face-to-face branch interactions to the phone and through digital channels. As customer service needs change, how are banks responding?
The 2022 ContactBabel UK Contact Centre Vertical Markets: Finance report provides the answers. Sponsored by Enghouse Interactive, it gives in-depth insights into financial customer service today.
The report highlights four key themes:
1. Contact centres continue to grow across the sector
Financial services companies have always been one of the biggest employers in the customer service industry, particularly when it comes to larger (250 seat+) contact centres. After a decline caused by the economic downturn, they are now growing rapidly again. Overall agent numbers are up 20% from 2010, rising to 83,250 people in 2021. The market has also changed. At the larger end big banks have merged contact centres to drive efficiency. At the same time newer entrants have launched with smaller, more focused contact centres with 50-100 seats.
2. Channel shift is driving change
When it comes to channels, financial services companies need to strike a balance in two ways.
Firstly, most serve a wide demographic, so need to offer channels that will appeal to each subset of their customers. For example, 6% of inbound interactions are via letter, a figure that has actually grown since 2010. At the same time digital channels (chat, social media, and email) now make up 20% of interactions.
Secondly, for many important transactions, customers want the reassurance of talking to a human being. This means the telephone remains a vital channel, used for 62% of interactions. Additionally, unlike other industries, outbound calling continues to make up 15% of all agent time, although the purpose of calls has changed. Rather than sales more and more interactions are around building stronger relationships, whether through proactive service calls, account check-ins or consultations.
All of this means that banks must make sure they are active on all the channels that their customers want, depending on their requirements and preferences. Simply switching off traditional channels is not an option.
3. Performance has suffered over the last year
The average length of calls in financial services continues to rise, hitting 419 seconds in 2021. Given the complexity of many transactions this isn’t a surprise – particularly as more and more routine queries (such as ordering new cards or moving money) can be carried out through self-service or banking apps.
What is a concern is a dramatic rise in the time it takes for contact centres to answer calls. The pandemic caused speed to answer times to grow dramatically in every sector. However, at 225 seconds (over three and a half minutes) 2021’s performance for financial services is more than seven times higher than the historical average of around 30 seconds. With customers unwilling to wait and demanding fast service, this drop in performance will negatively impact customer experience.
4. Technology investment is key to improving CX
Traditionally financial services companies have invested heavily in technologies that help them meet regulations, such as interaction recording. At the same time, they’re currently behind other sectors in areas such as AI and web chat. Respondents to the survey expect this to change. For example:
- 65% plan to use AI in 2025, against just 11% now
- 89% say they’ll implement chat, up from 47% currently
Mobile apps are one customer-facing technology where financial services lead other industries. Nearly three-quarters (71%) offer an app, compared to 52% of the wider market. This is part of the trend to increase ways for customers to self-serve and may also be part of wider digitisation programmes that aim to collect and use data to better serve customers.
The customer experience has never been more important in financial services, particularly as an increased number of interactions are handled via the contact centre. Success requires a balance of technology investment, skilled agents, and efficient processes.
To learn more about the state of customer experience in banking today, download a copy of the 2022 ContactBabel UK Contact Centre Vertical Markets: Finance report here.