For institutions undergoing this digital transformation, it is crucial to remember that digital transformation can be much more than a series of technical fixes to isolated customer experience bugs. A poorly thought-out digital transition will perpetuate information siloes and lead to missed opportunities. A holistic digital transformation strategy, on the other hand, will not only improve the efficiency of contact center operations, but also advance the overall strategy of the bank – it will improve market perception and customer satisfaction scores (NPS), reduce operational costs and customer interaction volatility, improve compliance and ultimately lead to more business.
Based on our experience helping banks transform their businesses through digital innovation, we have isolated a handful of strategies that, taken together, will ensure that a contact center transformation solves fundamental business challenges and opens new opportunities.
Win the Rank and File
Successful digital transformation is about much more than technology: It requires new ways of working and a significant shift in mindset, not just process.
Large call centers often have seven or eight functions that focus on distinct customer needs, from loans to checking accounts to credit cards. Each one of these functions will be impacted by a digital-first contact center transformation, and eventually for the better. In the end, associates will spend more time solving meaningful customer challenges that truly require person-to-person communication, and less time solving problems that are better addressed through automated means.
A stakeholder map is a crucial tool when it comes to understanding the impacts of contact center transformation. The stakeholder map enables the change team to pave the way with advance messaging and engagement with key stakeholder groups, including customer service agents.
To build rapport with the customer service team, it helps to share some real-world examples of what a digital-first customer contact center looks like, and how the new operating model will make the day-to-day interactions with customers more meaningful and easier to navigate.
Sync with Data and Analytics
The success of any contact center transformation journey will depend on the company’s ability to collect and analyze data about customers. Because of this, the data and analytics teams must also be engaged early on.
To plan for a contact center transformation, it is critical to first undertake an inventory of the core data depth, breadth and capabilities required to enable digital transformation. Data on website interactions, call paths, call reasons and call content (both speech-to-text transcripts and call metadata) are all important. Tools for modeling and visualizing customer journeys can extend the utility of that raw data, enabling comprehensive journey mapping and analysis.
One of the most important questions to ask is: “Which types of customer data do we already have, and which types of customer data do we need to learn how to track?” For example, a website might only collect submit button clicks, but not capture all link clicks, making it harder to pinpoint the exact moment when customers give up and reach out to the call center. The data team can invest in more robust packet sniffers to provide greater visibility on link clicks.
Early on, it is also important to establish that all major decisions for journey prioritization and transformation will be data-driven. Later, when budgets and activities need to be prioritized, universal buy-in on data-driven decision-making will empower the team to deploy the most resources to areas that will generate the highest return on investment.
Analyze the Major Customer Journeys
All customer journeys matter, but some matter more than others. A speech/call analytics tool and a series of category codes, applied to a broad swath of customer calls using AI, allows change managers to visualize the relative frequency of customer needs. For some institutions, it is reasonable to expect that most interactions will fall into four to six major categories. For lenders, the key categories would be payments misapplication, principal payoff and escrow clarification. Change leaders should also listen to actual customer calls – or review call transcripts – to better understand the range of past customer journeys, both positive and negative.
Mapping out the most common customer journeys – rather than dozens and dozens of potential customer journeys – will identify the key opportunities for improvement.
These customer journey maps should not track a single interaction, but rather the entire lifecycle of a customer’s attempt to solve a problem. A customer journey might last more than a month, from their initial call about payments problems to the moment an incorrect amount is rectified and the customer views their correct, updated statement 40 days later.
Acknowledge the Full Spectrum of Customer Sentiment
While datapoints like net promoter scores are useful in the context of a contact center transformation, the range of customer sentiment is more nuanced than the NPS framework of “promoter,” “detractor,” and “neutral.” When mapping a successful journey, the change team might imagine a point in the journey when the customer transitions from “curious” to “delighted” – likely the moment they receive an immediate email showing their updated balance and payment schedule.
Admittedly, getting nuanced emotional feedback directly from customers, especially at scale, is a Herculean task.
Fortunately, just about everyone is a user of digital banking tools and customer support lines and has experienced frustration and satisfaction in past interactions. Interviews with in-house associates can help rank the relative severity of various customer challenges. Associates with existing banking relationships might also spend some time navigating specific customer journeys via their personal banks’ existing customer support systems. This can help them identify and understand the moments when a customer might hit a wall and reach out to a call center and can also suggest how they might create seamless online experiences that make phone calls less necessary.
Reverse-Engineer Customer Success
Industry rankings from consumer research firms like J. D. Power aim to measure customer satisfaction rather than influence it. That said, paying attention to the intricacies of these customer satisfaction surveys can provide crucial reinforcement when identifying areas of concern. In essence, these surveys can be used by financial institutions to reverse-engineer customer satisfaction.
Financial institutions should ask: What sorts of customer journeys would earn us strong customer satisfaction scores in each survey category? These customer satisfactions surveys will inevitably unearth opportunities for improvement in areas like new customer orientation, billing and payments, and even digital design issues like font size and layout clarity.
Prioritize the Most Important Interactions
Prioritizing areas of activity during a contact center transformation involves more than simply zeroing in on the most frequent customer inquiries. Instead, activities should be prioritized based on a multi-dimensional view of how critical those interactions are to the bank’s business outcomes. In addition to the sheer number/frequency of customer inquiries, that might include the number of relevant customer interaction channels, the number of inter-departmental handoffs required to resolve an issue and the degree of regulatory oversight related to an issue.
Credit report disputes, for example, are less frequent than communications related to payments. But given the high stakes and potential legal/regulatory implications of improper credit dispute management, it might be reasonable to prioritize streamlining the credit dispute management customer journey if there are regulatory findings in that area.
From a business perspective, identifying new opportunities can be as important as correcting customer experience problems. If there are opportunities during the reimagined customer journey to better promote adjacent products and services, that business case should influence the rollout plan. Such elements might include adding a simple cross-selling module during a mobile app redesign or building new customer visibility and promotional offer tools for customer service agents.
Putting it All Together: The Benefits of Holistic Call Center Transformation
Transforming legacy call centers into digital first, omni-channel contact centers isn’t a simple project. While care should be taken to mitigate disruptions to the business, a strategic transition will inevitably impact the role of customer support specialists and reshape the organization’s data architecture. But the long-term benefits of undergoing a digital transformation far outweigh the challenges of temporary disruption.
We have seen digital transformation reduce one-on-one interactions with customer service agents by 25-90%, depending on the type of journey. Digital transformation also reduces customer service operational expenses by 30-50%. On a more granular level, we have observed a student loan servicer reduce average handle time by 12%, a benefit that amounted more than $500K in saved customer support time. We have also seen contact center transformation enable a leading payment network association to build a home-grown monitoring tool that significantly improved service quality and associate performance, boosting their CSAT score to an impressive 6/7.
In customer service, time is money – meaning there is an inherent benefit to reducing the amount of time customer service agents spend solving customer issues. However, if such a transition leads to a worse customer experience, the money saved will quickly dissipate as frustrated customers turn to other banks. A holistic contact center transformation keeps the customer at the center and delivers a system that not only delights current customers but deepens their relationship with the bank, while also improving market perception and attracting new business.