Improving the banking customer experience
Customer service at banks is again in the spotlight. Firstly, an undercover reporter from The Times found shortcomings at one of Lloyds Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) complaints handling centres. Staff were allegedly being taught to reject potential complaints and ignore potential fraud by Lloyds salesmen. The bank has said that it identified shortcomings independently and has retrained staff in line with its policies and procedures. In total UK banks have set aside £15 billion to cover potential PPI costs.
Secondly, in a more positive development for customers, plans to make it easier to switch current accounts are on track to begin in September. The hassle free scheme will guarantee that customers can change banks within seven working days, with safeguards to avoid any issues with regular payments, such as direct debits. The aim is to encourage greater competition, help new entrants to the market and consequently improve customer service standards.
Change is obviously needed. Figures recently released by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) showed a 92% increase in cases handled by the organisation last year on behalf of consumers. Compensation was eventually paid in nearly half of formal disputes taken on by FOS.
Clearly the financial services industry currently has a poor reputation with consumers. Customers are also more aware of their rights and are more willing to complain, particularly given the pressure on household finances. Equally, financial services companies have millions of customers and it can be extremely complex to manage operations, thanks to increasing regulations.
Based on Eptica’s experience, here are four areas for banks to focus on when it comes to the customer experience:
1. Deliver clear information
Consistency is key when talking to customers – whether over the phone, in branch or via electronic channels. Create a knowledgebase of approved information and make it available to all customer-facing staff. This also guards against future misselling claims.
2. Invest in the back office
Make sure you have sufficient agents to deal with customer queries and that they have the time to provide in-depth answers. Use technologies such as web self-service to automatically provide answers to more generic questions, freeing up staff to handle more complex cases.
3. Join up your systems
No-one likes repeating themselves so make sure all your channels (web, email, telephone, social media) are integrated. That way whoever is handling a customer case has all the details and can focus on providing a solution, rather than having to waste time re-entering basic details.
4. Analyse customer service
Don’t just focus on basic metrics such as calls answered, but use analytics across your customer service channels. What questions are being asked most often and on which channels? This provides both early warning of potential issues and a chance to better understand customers and potentially launch new services to meet their needs.
We all rely on banks and building societies, but at a time when consumers are ever more likely to complain, the financial services industry needs to focus on delivering fast, accurate customer service that better meets their requirements.