Contact Center – Transform or Perish!

Transform or perish is the IT equivalent of Darwin’s theory.

Contact Center – Transform or Perish!

By Iffy Kukkoo

18 Mar, 2019

Transform or perish is the IT equivalent of Darwin’s theory. As global organizations expand their footprint across continents, the number of customers required to be supported in real time increases at a staggering rate. When we are talking about tens of millions of daily contacts from customers, we need an integrated solution that can streamline various customer contact channels (phone, agent chat, chat bot, email, social media, etc.) and route calls accordingly.
Contact Center solutions have evolved in a big way over the past decade. To complicate things further, it has coincided with Digital Banking and Fin-Tech (Financial Technology) advancements, which has enabled customers to execute banking transactions from their portable devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers. Financial institutions need to walk a fine rope between providing convenience to customers and adding security to transactions. In this article, we explore the hottest trends in Contact Center Technology and how banks are leveraging it to redefine customer service experience.

Why do banks need contact centers more than anyone else?

Banks have been investing in digital platforms for decades and they are truly reaping the benefits now. Back in the day one had to visit the branch for the smallest of interactions – balance enquiry, funds transfer, statement generation, update in contact information, requesting a checkbook, issuing a draft, etc.
Customers are now performing all these transactions (and many more) from the comfort of their homes. It is a win-win situation for both parties, as banks can cut down on the no of staff present at branches and customers can save their time and commute by transacting efficiently.

What are Contact Centers all about?

As suggested by the name, Contact Center is a centralized location which receives and manages all customer touchpoints – be it over telephone calls, emails, social interactions or video interactions. It plays a pivotal role in an organization’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy execution.
In a Banking and Finance set-up, contact centers would receive hundreds and thousands of simultaneous calls from customers requiring different services. Traditional telephone line based customer handling was not able to meet this demand and hence found itself replaced by a number of innovative call handling technologies.
Central to all techniques is the ability to identify a customer’s need before an interaction has begun so that his call can be forwarded to an agent skilled appropriately to handle it. Given the global, round-the-clock nature of the modern financial institutions, it is imperative to have agent available round the clock to respond to customer queries. To add to it, there are situations where all agents are busy and callers have to be queued.
As customer interactions grow, more number of agents have to be recruited. Once this is done, there is a need to monitor their performances, shift availability times, on-call time and a number of important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). A modern contact center does all this and much more by implementing and integrating a number of solutions for Interaction Routing, Workforce Management, Call Recording and Reporting, Speech Analytics and much more.

The Rise, Fall and Rise of Contact Centers

Not surprisingly, Call Center (Contact Center of today) has a creation myth, as is the case with many technological advancements. Its origins date back to the 1960s, which was the first time mass call-handling systems were put in place. Private Automated Business Exchanges (PABX) were put in place to handle large number of customer interactions. Customer calls got to a central point from which calls were manually transferred to agents.
The evolution to an Automatic Call Distributors (ACD) was only a matter of time, as there was a need to eliminated human intervention in managing ever growing call volumes and ensuring the calls get to correct agents. PBAX and ACD marriage made way for development of large scale call centers. Financial giants Barclaycard and Access were one of the early adopters, who had started handling tens of thousands of calls per week.
Come 1980s and Aspect Telecommunications was founded that made significant improvements in ACD technology. The Jim Carreker founded company cut down on the call waiting time by separating calls at an early stage and routing them to the most suitable agent available. Aspect continued to push the bar further by launching Aspect CallCenter – its flagship product that propelled the company on its path to become the world’s largest dedicated ACD manufacturer.

By the time 1990s came along, call centers were indispensable for Fintech industry. Banks, insurance companies and brokerage firms all jumped onto the bus – competing to offer personalized, 24×7 services. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) was developed and ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) revolutionized network connectivity.
In the present century, we are in the Computer Telephony Integration age which allows telephones and computers to work in sync. It coincided with the dot com era which allowed companies to offer technical support and customer care entirely through websites. The industry was experiencing exponential growth and offshoring technical support jobs to India, Philippines and Africa became a trend. It allows companies access to a large, qualified talent pool at a fraction of the cost.

A global backlash against offshoring saw a reversal of this trend which continues till date. Optical fiber revolution and Cloud Computing has allowed datacenters to function in an “always on” manner, where information requested by agents is instantly retrieved from servers located thousands of miles away and flashed on their screens. Virtual teams located across time zones are able to function as one integrated unit, offering world class service and support to global customers. Long story short, Call Centers of yesteryears have grown into more sophisticated and diverse Contact Centers of today. They are here to stay.

Modern Contact Centers – Opportunities and Challenges

A relatively old (2015) but entirely relevant Watermark Consulting study quantifies several aspects of customer experience that directly impact your business. One of the most noticeable result shows that customer experience leaders have outperformed S&P 500 Index by 35% when it comes to yielding results. On the other extreme, the customer experience laggards trail it by 45%, leaving them full 80% behind the leaders.
These numbers should lay to rest the never ending conundrum a CEO is often faced with – sandwiched between the boards pressure of delivering quarterly dividends and his own vision for the company’s future. If there is no customer, there is no question of having quarterly dividends for too long anyway.

Conversational Banking – Banking has evolved like few other industries in the past decades. ATMs, Telephone Banking, Online Banking and Mobile Banking have all been transformational for banks and customers alike. While the customers may find comfort in using the old technology or switching to newer ones, your business has to be ready to offer both to deliver delightful customer experience efficiently, the way the customer prefers it.
This Accenture insight on evolution of banking explores how Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data can be leveraged to customize experience for each caller. Breaking away from the traditional contacts, customers now want human conversations with the agents.
New age customers want instant, convenient and liquid conversations. Mobile devices are at the center of every transaction customers wants to perform. Messaging apps have become customers’ preferred medium of interaction as they provide both text and voice based conversation. AI is fast mirroring human like behavior and is ready to take up repetitive, low value interactions which make about 80% of all customer interactions.

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Beyond Random Interactions – The Customer Experience Journey

Statistics from The U.S. Chamber of Commerce state that bad customer service is responsible for 68% of the total customers that leave. Customer acquisition being far too costly than customer retention, your best bet is to retain your existing customers by providing them delightful experience every time they dial in. Gartner’s study confirms this notion, as they believe 80% of your future revenue is going to come from 20% of your existing customers. Here’s a study from Pricewaterhouse Coopers which elaborates the cost of bad customer experience around the world, with a focus on The United States.
Your present vendor probably provides an Automated Call Distribution powered IVR facility, which routes customers to the correct agents. Your customers are getting their queries addressed and you have also invested in email, chat and bot capabilities to get your contact center “future ready”. Still, when your performance is audited, you see that the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer satisfaction scores are low.
Eventually, your customers start leaving. You are investing a lot in technology of present and of the future but still, the results are not improving. What went wrong here?
Let us run through this from a customer standpoint. He mailed his query, for which he got an automated response mentioning a 48-hour turnaround time. After waiting in vain, he dialed your customer service number, provided authentication details twice by keying in his account number and then his credit card number. He was finally able to reach an agent who asked for his credentials all over again.
His patience being tested, he provided the details again and then, not surprisingly, the agent asked him what his query was as he had no access to the mail your customer’s first wrote.

Not many customers would have the time or patience to go through this frustrating experience every time they reach you and hence, switching over to another bank is the only logical option they are left with.
In the next section, we have a look at how existing infrastructure can combine with cutting edge technological solutions such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Cloud Computing to drive synergies and enable your business take a quantum leap by enabling a round-the-clock, 360-degree customer service

Embrace the Cloud powered, AI bot – driven, 24x7x365 Contact Center

Innovations of tomorrow are staring us right in the face. While planning your next budgetary spends, make sure you take into account the imminent explosion of Internet of Things (IoT) and chatbots. Chatbots are already catching up with global banks and this IBM study has churned out some very impressive numbers about their success.
According to IBM, 80% of Contact Center interactions are of repetitive nature and bots are already demonstrating 90% success rate in addressing them. The accumulated savings are projected in the range of $8 bn!
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) giant Salesforce has also come up with telling numbers about the future of Contact Centers. Though AI is a technology that dates back to the invention of computers, it had never captured as widespread curiosity as it has today.

This whitepaper by Salesforce and International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts a $1.1 trillion boost in global economy as a result of incorporating AI in CRM activities. More than 800,000 jobs are expected to be created from this, outnumbering those lost to AI. 79% of global respondents had either already invested in AI or are planning to do that over next two years.
These are indeed very exciting times to be in the digital world. More so, if you are a banking or financial institution. Technologies that were being developed in isolation from each other over decades (in Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Big Data, Hardware and Networking domains) are all set to work with each other and drive unprecedented synergies.

Technology giants such as Amazon, Google and Apple have all launched their own Virtual Assistants with global acceptance. This enables organizations to offer personalized recommendations for clients. As technology advances, customers will get more and more impatient. Contact Centers supporting banking and financial enterprises are fast changing and we are not far from the day when customers would want businesses to proactively tell them what they will need down the line and have a solution ready for it when the time comes.
Do you want to shape the future of digital finance? If yes, let us know through our website and we will be happy to partner with you along the journey.

Posted By: Iffy Kukkoo
Resident Editor-In-Chief

Iffy is our exclusive resident technology newshound editor, relentlessly exploring the beauties of the world from a 4th dimensional viewpoint. When not crafting, editing or publishing our IT content, she spends most of her time helping people understand life and its basic principles. You know, the little things around you, that you've failed to grasp each day. IT blog has updates on IT Consultancy, IT Contractors and Software Development related posts, on how your business can be managed effectively using technology.

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