Contact Centers in a Digital World

By Shelba Murphy

Customer service is king. Sean Riback, project manager of Bank of Internet Federal Bank (BofI) (Assets: $4.3 billion) knows this intimately. “We are a branchless bank, so it’s absolutely crucial that we deliver superior customer service in order to overcome any notion that we are just a bank with lots of technology.”

In a digital world, it is more important than ever for banks to provide customers exactly what they want, when they want it. Physical doors may close at the branch for the night, but the bank is always open—and must be in order to maintain and support customers.

Customer service plays a pivotal role in sustaining customer relationships and building new ones. The contact center can be an overlooked solution to the success of those relationships.  And it can be the differentiator between being a driver for customer experience or becoming a burden for internal staff and a frustrating experience for customers.

Around the clock banking meets around the clock support

There is a shift in behavior across today’s banking customers. They take advantage of multiple channels to access banking services, at any time of the day or night. Banks that can match customer needs with innovative, effective solutions are those that not only survive, but thrive in this on-demand environment. However, not every financial institution has the staff, resources or time necessary to meet these challenges effectively. Bank of Internet Federal Bank (BofI), which considers itself to be a highly efficient, customer-focused and technologically sophisticated bank, was one such bank.

BofI wanted to improve the efficiency of its call center at the same time it integrated three disparate systems across the bank; the telephony call center software, the customer relationship management (CRM) platform, and the core banking system. The bank felt their staff had to arbitrarily navigate between systems and this created a ceiling on the information available at any one interaction and, therefore, on the level of customer service they could provide. So BofI opted to move to an outsourced telephone support and customer service platform, fully integrated with its core, and has been happy with the results.

“Since converting, our day-to-day operations have improved significantly,” says Riback. “Our bankers are able to manage call queues, identify call reasons, and really deliver the feedback that results in positive customer experiences. As a result, the call center is now a big driver of customer experience improvements throughout the bank.”

Being able to handle the uptick in digital services is incredibly important. Riback continued, “If we’re doing it right, the technology is invisible—it just works. And that’s exactly what we sought.”

Customer Service as the Whole Strategy

The battle to win and maintain customers is fought on the front lines by the contact center every day. However, there is a shift in behavior moving away from simply reducing handling time, and more toward reducing customer effort. Customers are calling their bank for information and help, but even more so as a knowledge resource. When you consider the broader digital field in which banks are playing, i.e. with companies such as Amazon, you begin to realize that banks are not simply competing with other banks, they are competing in experiences with major corporations.

Because of this, the banking industry is headed to a place where there will be a much greater focus on customer experience management. The call center can, and should, be the best possible brand ambassador, leaving customers with a positive experience. Consider a digital marketing campaign—with considerable business value—designed to reach potential customers outside of your bank’s geographic footprint. This is an opportunity for new customers to interact with your bank for the first time and it is imperative that you do not overlook the call center.

“We don’t consider implementing an outsourced call center platform to be either an offensive or defensive strategy; it is the whole strategy” feels Riback. “It gives us both the ability to compete more aggressively with larger competitors, and another point of competitive distinction. It affords us the opportunity to provide outstanding customer service, and customer service is never a defensive strategy. Very few banks are using it as an offensive strategy, so where we can, we’ll use that to our advantage. It’s really easy to win when your competitors choose not to compete.”

Meeting technology and customer service related needs can be challenging. While an ever moving target, striking the right balance between the two can be a major differentiator in your bank’s brand effectiveness, digital strategy and competitive edge.

Shelba Murphy is a solutions specialist manager with Jack Henry & Associates, Inc.