Customers are interacting with banks and credit unions across a wide array of touchpoints these days, including chatbots, social media, email, mobile apps, websites and traditional call centers.
Having all of these options available offers customers flexibility, but it also presents a formidable challenge for financial institutions.
Ensuring high-quality customer support is delivered across each of these channels — with people able to switch from one to another without having to repeat everything they’ve already said — is a complex undertaking that many banks and credit unions are struggling to perfect.
The banking industry is not alone either. I recently had a problem with an airline that illustrated this point. It was not until I worked my way through four different channels, failing to achieve an adequate resolution in any of them, that I finally got satisfaction using the fifth channel, as discussed in more detail below.
The irony is that the proliferation of channels for customer interactions was meant to improve efficiency and service and now has become a source of inefficiency and frustration in many cases.
An effective multichannel customer service strategy does not end with merely offering multiple channels. Read on for a checklist of the components — human and digital — that companies need to weave together in order to deliver better results.
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More Channels Doesn’t Automatically Equate to Better Customer Experiences
Banking executives often say that customers should be able to interact with their institution when, where and how they want to. A variety of channels is available so customers can choose whatever option is most convenient for them.
But the fragmented nature of customer communication, dispersed across various channels, can make problem resolution more of an inconvenience rather than less of one.
Customers may find themselves repeating information multiple times, hopping from one channel to another in search of resolution, or even receiving contradictory responses from different channels. Such experiences can foster frustration, erode trust, and ultimately drive customers to look for another financial provider.
When channels operate in isolation, they are all deprived of a 360-degree view of customer interactions, preferences and history. Consequently, tailored solutions become elusive, and the potential for building strong, lasting relationships diminishes.
The problem I had with a recent overseas flight shows just how elusive.
I initiated a conversation with the in-flight crew and they were very responsive, but had very little authority to resolve the issue or provide adequate restitution. While still on the plane, I went to the airline’s website, where I had a conversation about the problem with a chatbot. After rather extensive dialogue, I hit a roadblock because of a policy that no resolution was possible until the entire journey was completed.
As is the case with many disgruntled customers, I then moved my conversation to social media. The social media team responded quickly, but the offer of 10,000 points seemed to again be limited by policy as opposed to personalized based on my complaint and high level of loyalty to the airline. After that, I emailed, but never received a response.
My final option was to reach out to the airline call center. The representative transferred me to a special team that handles frequent fliers. The final resolution was better than I expected — but the hassle to get to that point diminished the overall experience for this longtime customer.
The airline’s customer service process is definitely broken.
Such disjointed interactions not only wasted valuable time for both the airline and myself, but also left me feeling like an anonymous cog in a machine, rather than a valued customer … until I found the key to preferred service. The burden should not be on the customer, however. All channels should work in harmony, with high-quality service available in each one.
6 Steps to Delivering a Satisfying Multichannel Customer Service Experience
While the diversity of channel options is intended to enhance convenience, it often becomes a double-edged sword. A lack of integration among channels can thwart the best intentions of both customers and financial institutions. Here are some steps to building a multichannel customer service experience that is consistently outstanding:
- Embrace technological integration: Leverage advanced customer relationship management systems that seamlessly integrate data across multiple channels. In the absence of an integrated platform, customer data is often scattered across different systems, creating data silos. This prevents customer service representatives from accessing a comprehensive view of each customer’s interactions and history, making it challenging to tailor solutions effectively. A CRM system can help.
- Invest in advanced analytics: Employ intelligent analytics tools that not only track customer interactions but can use them to determine and deploy actionable insights. From sentiment analysis to customer behavior patterns, analytics can empower institutions to make data-driven decisions that enhance customer experiences.
- Prioritize automation and AI: Leverage automation and artificial intelligence to handle routine inquiries and streamline repetitive tasks. AI-powered chatbots can provide instant responses and collect relevant data before escalating complex issues to human agents. But make it easy for customers to opt-out of chatbot conversations.
- Empower all employees who are providing customer care: Equip employees at every level with access to unified customer data and the comprehensive training that will allow them to use that data effectively. With these advantages, the employees responsible for customer service can do a better job of personalizing interactions, anticipating needs and resolving issues promptly.
- Gather and act on customer feedback: Encourage customer feedback at every level of the conversation and leverage the insights collected. Feedback is valuable — it can help not only with identifying pain points, but also with supporting innovation. It lets companies know where they can focus their efforts to have the most meaningful impact on the customer service experience.
- Monitor and measure: Regularly monitor the customer feedback, track key performance indicators, and conduct satisfaction surveys to gauge the effectiveness of the multichannel strategy. Use this data to make continuous improvements.
- How to Find the Right CRM System and Make the Most of It
- 8 Lessons the Southwest Airlines Fiasco Can Teach Bankers
AI Helps Bridge Digital Speed and Human Empathy
Customers want swift and efficient resolution to questions and complaints. Digital solutions, such as chatbots and self-service portals, excel in providing immediate responses and addressing routine inquiries. This speed enhances customer satisfaction and frees up human agents to focus on more complex and nuanced interactions. But more than efficiency is needed.
The human element is irreplaceable in customer service. Human agents have empathy and emotional intelligence, qualities that allow them to understand the nuances of customer emotions and tailor responses accordingly. Empathetic interactions build trust and rapport, fostering a deep sense of connection between customers and institutions.
Artificial intelligence is a secret weapon that can enhance both the speed of digital and the empathetic responses provided by humans. With the ability to process vast amounts of data and learn from interactions, AI-driven insights can give an institution the means of providing consistent responses, ensuring a uniform customer experience across multiple channels. Moreover, AI solutions can handle a high volume of inquiries simultaneously, improving response times and efficiency.
The final key to customer satisfaction is the ability to personalize the response to each person’s set of circumstances. By integrating human, digital, and AI components, financial institutions can unlock the power of data-driven personalization and execute on a multichannel customer service strategy that checks all the boxes.