The digital customer experience has emerged as a primary differentiator for many financial institutions, and for good reason. According to McKinsey, organizations that digitally transform their customer experience see a 20% to 40% decrease in costs, a 15% to 20% increase in customer satisfaction and a 20% boost in conversion rates. Very encouraging results in a highly competitive market.
Those findings a particularly interesting because the vast majority of customers start engagements online, yet most financial institutions still prioritize phone-based service. To address this, many have simply bolted digital applications, such as chat, to their phone-based contact centers. While this multichannel approach provides some degree of online options for customer choice, transitioning from chat to voice or another channel is typically not possible, creating friction and driving up abandonment.
Increase in customer satisfaction by digitally transforming customer experience, per McKinsey15% to 20%
In fact, a study from Salesforce found that three out of four consumers expect a consistent digital experience across engagement channels and a shocking 73% will likely change brands if they aren’t given a seamless digital experience. This has put emphasis on omnichannel solutions, which provide some integration between engagement channels, but are still essentially phone-based systems.
Financial institutions need to think beyond phone-first stopgaps if they want to meet customer expectations and keep that 73% from switching to a competitor. Digital customer service (DCS) platforms are helping a growing number of financial institutions align to today’s screen-based lifestyle, offering a seamless experience across all engagement channels. Not only do customers have a choice between chat, voice and video, but they can smoothly transition between them without disruption.
Digital-first DCS solutions allow customers to find information, seek customer service support and resolve issues online through one continuous interaction that doesn’t break the digital connection. Customers in chat no longer have to stop and make a phone call to reach a loan specialist, for example. Instead, they are easily connected online, even across channels, with a single engagement based on the customer’s preferences. This not only streamlines customer service, but often accelerates complex processes, such as loan origination or mortgage applications.
Understanding that most large financial institutions have made sizable investments in their contact centers, the key is in finding a way to transition from a phone-first system to a full DCS platform. Here are three key steps and related best practices that can ease the transition to digital customer service.
1. Assess: Not Your Standard Try-Before-You-Buy
There is a risk in adopting any new technology. Product demonstrations, case studies and reference calls are all helpful, but provide no guarantee that a solution will work within a given organization’s unique IT infrastructure. Look for a testing environment that allows IT, the customer service team and management to get their hands on the DCS technology and understand up close how it will work.
Instead of a controlled testing arrangement, virtual testing lets users see how a solution will work within their own tech ecosystem.
Many solution providers will offer a “controlled” testing environment, where a bank can kick the tires and get a basic feel for functionality, ease-of-use and primary capabilities. This kind of evaluation is useful, but a little like the car dealer who jumps in the front seat for the test drive around the block on a predetermined, flat, well-paved road.
Imagine if you could hold onto the car for a week and really put it through its paces. Hit that curvy road up the mountain and see how it drives on back roads in the rain. Some software vendors offer a virtual testing environment that allows a financial institution to get their hands on the actual solution, experiment and see how it will operate within their own banking ecosystem. This “sandbox” is a great way to not only see how the technology works, but also raise good questions and even assess how a vendor supports its customers.
2. Plan: Integration Accelerates the Phased Approach
After a thorough assessment in the virtual sandbox, consider a reasonable migration path to digital customer service. Seek out a relatively risk-free part of the business to try the solution with live customers. Find a limited group to pilot DCS services and start to get direct customer feedback. Many financial institutions that have already migrated to digital customer service took this phased roll-out approach.
A top ten U.S. bank, for example, took a highly targeted approach to the phased roll out, embedding a video channel with collaborative browsing (cobrowsing) capabilities directly into its Salesforce CRM application to support its sales and service centers. Without replacing a single channel or making any changes to the underlying communications infrastructure, the bank was able to launch this turnkey solution, which has proven popular with both sales and customer service teams and served as a pilot for future DCS projects.
The phased approach is hardly a new strategy for IT deployment, but it’s worth noting that digital customer service is particularly well suited to help financial institutions dial in digital service capabilities on their own timeline.
Many financial institutions have been able to implement DCS offerings in weeks, not months. Look for vendors that have simplified deployments by pre-integrating key financial stack technologies, such as CRM, online banking, mobile apps, loan origination and digital account opening solutions. Ideally, a DCS solution should offer near off-the-shelf capabilities. In some cases it can be as painless as adding a single line of code.
A financial institution in California simply launched a “DCS bubble” on its homepage without promoting it to see if customers would use it. In fact, it proved to be quite popular, helping to reduce call volume as more customers began to engage digitally. The institution then expanded DCS capability to its lending page. Loans have been a growth engine and this has helped to increase conversions. With the effective roll-out of DCS to support loan origination, the institution then focused on mortgages.
Whether a bank or credit union eases into DCS with chat first, then adds on voice and video, or starts with a particular use case, such as loan origination, and builds out, with the phased approach they can measure results, assess and optimize as they go. In fact, many institutions continue to enhance their DCS solutions with AI, SMS text integration or secure messaging capabilities, for example.
3. Deploy: The Phone-to-DCS Bridge
The end goal is to launch a fully digital customer engagement platform. But until then financial institutions should seek ways to maximize digital capabilities on their legacy phone-based system. Considering that 80% of callers are at or near either a computer or mobile device, is there a way to bridge the divide?
Phone reps often talk customers through online processes, although it’s typically awkward. Consider a rep guiding a customer through a loan application. “Do you see where it says ‘Loans’ on the horizontal menu? No, ok do you see the company logo to the left? Okay, the loan icon is to the right of that.” It’s like telling someone how to land a plane over the phone from air traffic control. The guesswork is aggravating.
The real problem is the lack of shared visual context. This is where cobrowsing could help to “visualize” the call. Using the phone as the voice connection, what if a service rep could add cobrowsing capabilities to securely share a screen and actively direct the customer to the online resources they need? The guesswork goes away and the rep is able to not only help, but efficiently guide and teach the customer.
Beyond finding the loan page they’re looking for and the correct application, now the customer can get help filling out the form. Air traffic control might be on the phone, but it now has copilot controls to help guide the passenger and land the plane.
Not all cobrowsing technology can support this, by the way. Ask for solutions designed specifically to enable this digital visualization capability for a phone engagement in addition to digital channels. Make sure the technology focuses on visualizing the engagement to improve the digital experience, rather than creating more technical complexity.
What is Cobrowsing?
Cobrowsing technology allows a bank or credit union service employee to share the customer’s web screen to help them solve an issue.
As an example, a regional bank was able to quickly launch a digital customer service initiative with a call visualization solution that offered cobrowsing to phone customers near a screen. The benefits were immediately apparent, as reps were able to actively guide customers through even complex tasks, such as loan origination, wire transfers, or mortgage applications.
This was a bank that had been exploring broader digital engagement, but was deferring on a decision as to how to proceed. The customer service team quickly realized that the call visualization solution with cobrowsing was highly beneficial. They immediately put a phased-approach plan in place to evolve toward a full digital engagement solution. Today that bank is running on a full DCS platform and continues to see average wait times fall while customer satisfaction continues to rise.
Digital transformation is not for the faint of heart, by any means. Especially for a system that provides customer service and is central to how customers interact, perceive and do business with a financial institution. It is becoming increasingly risky, however, to put digital customer service off much longer. Financial institutions that have embraced DCS are seeing tremendous results, including growth that tracks to the McKinsey statistics mentioned above.
Faced with diving headfirst into a full DCS project or pushing it down the field, consider a happy medium that allows your bank or credit union to virtually test solutions within your own environment, leverage digital capabilities such as cobrowsing to enhance your existing phone investments and develop a reasonable phased deployment plan toward full digital-first engagement that reduces risk, allows you to dial in DCS and experience the strong business benefits the digital customer experience offers. You’ll find that the results will drive you to reach your destination sooner than you think.