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Transforming the
financial services
contact center:
A human perspective
in the digital era
2
Digital disruption has transformed industry after
industry – from retail to publishing to lodging and
telecommunications...
As more and more customers are dealing with routine matters on their
own through self-service options, they resort to huma...
4
In operating a contact center, the workforce
typically represents approximately two-thirds
of operating costs (and handl...
5
Through such techniques as coaching (not just in
hard digital skills but also in softer skills such as
empathy), the cre...
6
While the need for enhanced contact center
talent and skills is clear, financial services firms
also need a well-defined...
7
3. Applying new metrics to restructure
motivation and enhance compensation
Rote, mechanical performance indicators
such ...
Footnotes
1.	 “Contact Centers Must Go Digital or Die” – Forrester
	 Report as quoted by Kate Leggett of Forrester 23 Apri...
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Transforming the Financial Services Contact Center: A Human Perspective in the Digital Era

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Contact center employees can help financial services firms deliver a positive and differentiating customer experience.

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Transforming the Financial Services Contact Center: A Human Perspective in the Digital Era

  1. 1. Transforming the financial services contact center: A human perspective in the digital era
  2. 2. 2 Digital disruption has transformed industry after industry – from retail to publishing to lodging and telecommunications – and, in doing so, has drastically changed customer needs and expectations. The virtual nature of its products puts the financial services industry at the forefront of this shift. Conditioned by the ubiquitous presence of digital businesses such as Amazon, customers now expect near-immediate resolution of issues with a choice of multiple channels. Of these channels, the contact center still has the most power to affect customer attitudes and outcomes. The contact center has emerged as one of the most effective venues through which financial services firms can deliver a positive customer experience. To deliver such an experience, however, they need to establish a new focus on a largely overlooked resource: The people in the contact centers who interface with customers on a day-to-day basis. The digital era changes the expectation of how the human perspective is provided, and is fundamentally changing the levels of engagement, tools used, measures of effectiveness, and skills needed in the contact center. Contact center representatives or agents, who have historically been treated as a substitute for more expensive branch personnel, are now being asked to provide tremendous differentiation from the customer’s perspective. Their role – to humanize and establish a connection – is becoming more, rather than less important in the digital era. Firms continue to move to a self- service and process automation model for routine inquiries and transactions (such as address changes), pushing increasing responsibility to the customer. Now, when customers deal with a contact center representative or agent, they do so because their issues are too complex to resolve through automated or self-service options; or, they may have found that the digital process has broken down and that human intervention is called for. Increasingly, the firm seeks to deliver the “human touch” as part of the customer experience, but it is no longer as simple as answering the telephone; just as the telephone augmented in- person business, now digital augments business conducted by telephone. In this environment, financial services firms are finding it necessary to re-examine and redefine the ways in which contact center employees are selected, trained, equipped and motivated. The firms need to impart new skills and, more importantly, new attitudes, so that contact center teams feel engaged, motivated and empathetic. They need to supply the right tools, technology and information, but they also need to adapt to new approaches to everything from performance tracking to career development. We believe that a systematic approach to the workforce within the contact centers – based upon understanding the customer’s expectations; the adoption of data-fueled technologies; and appropriate selection, training and development of contact center employees – can transform contact centers to a powerful engine for customer interaction. Firms pursuing this course can protect hard-won customer relationships and seize opportunities to build upon existing connections.
  3. 3. As more and more customers are dealing with routine matters on their own through self-service options, they resort to human interaction when they encounter intractable problems such as technology failures or a sub- standard customer experience. This means that contact center employees are confronted not only with more difficult problems but, often, with frustrated and/or unhappy customers. Within this context, financial services firms have to meet certain standards for contact center interactions: Start from knowledge of the customer’s relationship with the institution including other accounts and previous interactions (no matter which channel was used for the interaction). Provide the skills, authority and responsibility to handle all but the most difficult situations on the agent’s or representative’s own, with “first call resolution” the target for most situations. Similarly, the contact center representative should have access to customer information and to collaborative tools to deliver the experience. Research from Forrester has indicated that less than half of contact center decision-makers use agent-facing knowledge management solutions that help contact center employees answer complex questions.¹ The quality of the experience is expected to be the same or better than in a physical location, and the outcome should be complete and more positive than a face-to-face interaction. A contact center employing properly trained and motivated people – with access to appropriate digital resources – can not only address customer problems but can do so in a way that is appropriate to the customer’s needs and the context in which contact is initiated. A customer, for example, who contacts his bank because he has received an alert about possible fraudulent activity should be able to talk to someone who is: a) Supported by a thoughtful authentication experiences. b) Aware that the customer has received the text. c) Understands that immediate resolution of the problem is the top priority and that cross-selling or similar initiatives do not suit the situation. The new contact center environment 3
  4. 4. 4 In operating a contact center, the workforce typically represents approximately two-thirds of operating costs (and handles 100 percent of customer interactions). Organizations have a huge opportunity to streamline the effectiveness of this critical resource pool and to obtain better returns from this large human capital investment. Employees are seeking training and development leading to well-incentivized career paths that now flow into and out of the contact center. The increased responsibilities and complexity supported by representatives mean that contact centers are providing new career arcs for customer facing employees, and, in the process, building a stronger employee base across the enterprise. Another benefit of focus on the workforce is the potential reduction in attrition, both in the contact centers and across the firm. Attrition management drastically reduces the costs of attracting, onboarding, training and retaining new employees. A mature workforce also has a strongly positive impact on the customer experience, but it is hard to establish a mature workforce – annual attrition rates for US contact center employees hover around 33 percent and are much higher in places such as India and the Philippines.² We see people as the center of the digital era. Companies that focus on workforce innovation can, in our view, make their people a key point of strategic differentiation. In the contact center environment, as in other work situations, companies are moving toward what we have termed a “liquid workforce” with strong basic skills and the ability to quickly pivot to new tasks and learn new capabilities as needed (see the Accenture Technology Vision 2016). As the Technology Vision notes, successful organizations make continuous learning a core competency, using technology to provide employees with needed learning opportunities. The human factor Opening digital doors for customers at Bank of America Bank of America has been working hard to make it easier for customers to navigate the contact center experience. Its interactive voice response system (IVR) allows customers to speak naturally to describe what they need, using simple, everyday terms. Callers get to the right option more quickly and can get help from a contact center agent as needed. The IVR system passes information on to the agent, reducing the need for customers to repeat themselves. Bank of America also integrated its mobile banking and contact center channels so that a customer on a mobile device can transition quickly and still be fully authenticated. And, in late 2015, it introduced a new application allowing its customers to save their fingerprints on iPhones, iPads or Android devices then use them to access their mobile accounts without pass codes. 4
  5. 5. 5 Through such techniques as coaching (not just in hard digital skills but also in softer skills such as empathy), the creation of new career paths for contact center employees, and the establishment of digital collaboration among teams and supervisors, financial services firms can increase their employees’ level of satisfaction and decrease levels of attrition and disengagement. As seen in figure 1 below, innovative approaches to training such as gamification and massive open online courses (MOOCs) have been shown to provide employees with personalized instruction and a sense of progress as specific goals are reached, using the digital technology most already have in their personal lives. A study that was specific to contact center employees, for example, found that companies using gamification enjoyed gains in employee productivity and retained more of their high-performing representatives.³ Figure 1. The spectrum of learning solutions for contact centers Digital platforms offer a large variety of solutions that drive learner behavior and performance Learning delivery spectrum Digital gamification Overt use of game mechanics to drive engagement and achieve business outcomes Real-world gamification Change behavior with physical connections Virtual-instructor-led training Classroom-like learning delivered virtually at learners’ usual place of work via online instruction Serious games Allow for simulated “on-the-job” training for the purpose of education and behavior shaping Learning boards Provide a personalized way for learners to access self-study learnings Augmented reality Superimposes digital contents into real context and offers an innovative learning space by merging digital learning materials
  6. 6. 6 While the need for enhanced contact center talent and skills is clear, financial services firms also need a well-defined strategy for achieving such an objective. We see three key elements as central in developing an effective approach: 1. Reinventing the hiring process Firms should re-think their criteria for choosing desirable candidates; our research has noted that 43 percent of employers say that a lack of digital skills is the biggest barrier to becoming a digital business, and only 40 percent say they are well-prepared to recruit for digital skills.⁴ Once the desired skills are identified, firms then should align the overall screening process using analytics and other tools to attract candidates with attributes such as critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and the willingness to see problems from the customer’s perspective. New candidates should be selected on the basis of their ability and willingness to cross-sell, to provide complex advice, and to build a strong rapport with customers. Candidates can be evaluated on their performance in customer-service-related case studies or on the basis of their answers to behavioral questions designed to test analytical thinking and the ability to deal with ambiguous situations. Analytics can be used to develop new criteria for identifying desirable candidates, as well as criteria used in candidate selection, interviews and background checks. 2. Embracing technology-delivered training In an environment marked by challenging interactions and higher customer expectations, contact center employees need both a higher level of technical proficiency and deeper product knowledge to handle more difficult inquiries. Collaboration technologies can enhance the overall employee and customer experience, while simulations based on real- world experience can prepare employees both for routine inquiries and for highly unusual situations. Gamification and/or learning- on-demand through mobile and desktop applications can assist individual employees, while MOOCs, virtual training and boot camps can give entire training classes a thorough grounding in both basic and higher levels of customer service. Contact center supervisors can play a much greater and more positive role in employee development and retention. Studies have shown that supervisors who lead by example, offering coaching and on-the- scene performance feedback, not only foster a greater sense of workplace belonging for employees but themselves experience significantly lower levels of burnout, emotional exhaustion, attrition rates and turnover.⁵ A strategy for transformation 43 percent of employers say that a lack of digital skills is the biggest barrier to becoming a digital business, and only 40 percent say they are well-prepared to recruit for digital skills
  7. 7. 7 3. Applying new metrics to restructure motivation and enhance compensation Rote, mechanical performance indicators such as number of calls handled or average duration of calls may not be the best way to evaluate contact center performance. New, outcome-based metrics mixed with new customer experience metrics can measure important elements such as customer satisfaction, first-touch resolution, customer retention and new products sold to recognize and reward high-value, proactive behavior. Traditional efficiency metrics such as total handle time will continue to play an important role. More sophisticated organizations will be able to reward successful customer education and other factors that must be measured over time. Another essential element of employee motivation is the development of non- traditional career paths for contact center employees, along with other ways to increase employee engagement. Ongoing incentive programs can tie rewards and recognition to customer experience methods. Other initiatives can include team and individual competitions or innovation awards to identify improvements to the system. Some financial institutions have created rotational programs for new contact center hires. New employees gain experience in a variety of areas, including customer service centers and physical branches, to gain a better understanding of product features and also to increase their identification with and empathy for the customer. Digital innovation will allow financial services firms (and their employees) to become more knowledgeable and to work more efficiently. As this happens – and as robotic process automation (RPA) handles more and more routine inquiries and maintenance transactions – the role of the contact center will change, and the contact center workforce will be responsible for handling more difficult inquiries and problems. Digitized and optimized contact centers will also generate vast quantities of new interaction data. The expanded data will include the digital portion of the experience, not just voice. Outcomes and satisfaction will be measured with all channel touches in the customer’s experience factored in. Financial services firms will need to be able to collect and organize such data and convert it into insights that can be used to improve the customer experience and develop new and attractive offerings. Financial services firms that are able to attract, train and retain the right kind of people – and to equip them with the tools, analytics and other digital resources needed to exceed customer expectations – will have a significant competitive advantage over firms that do not undertake these initiatives. In an environment in which new customer relationships are hard to establish – and in which customers find it easy to switch from one institution to another - the ability to satisfy customer demands and, as appropriate, offer additional digitally supported services through contact centers becomes increasingly valuable. Companies investing in targeted contact center technologies, training and incentive programs can see rapid returns on these investments. The future of the contact center: Doing more with more 7
  8. 8. Footnotes 1. “Contact Centers Must Go Digital or Die” – Forrester Report as quoted by Kate Leggett of Forrester 23 April 2015 2. Filwood, David “Why Do Your Call Center Agents Quit?” Linkedin.com 18 May 2014 3. Klie, Leonard “Gamification Comes to the Contact Center” DestinationCRM.com January 2014 4. “Digital Disruption: Embrace the Future of Work and your People Will Embrace it With You” Accenture Strategy Point of View 2016 5. Filwood, David “Minimizing Call Center Burnout/ Emotional Exhaustion – 3 Management Tips” Linkedin. com 19 June 2014 Contact the Authors To learn more about how Accenture can help your organization to transform its contact center for future success, please contact the authors: John McNally Managing Director in Accenture’s Distribution & Marketing Practice john.f.mcnally@accenture.com Maureen Parina Management Consulting Senior Manager in Accenture’s Distribution & Marketing Practice maureen.e.parina@accenture.com Join the conversation Read our blog About Accenture Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions – underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network – Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With approximately 373,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Visit us at www.accenture.com. Copyright © 2016 Accenture. All rights reserved. Accenture, its logo, and High Performance Delivered are trademarks of Accenture. This document is produced by consultants at Accenture as general guidance. It is not intended to provide specific advice on your circumstances. If you require advice or further details on any matters referred to, please contact your Accenture representative.

Contact center employees can help financial services firms deliver a positive and differentiating customer experience.

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