Call Center Staff Can’t Help Customers If They Can’t Find Key Data

The challenge for many banking institution's employees is not just finding the proverbial needle in the data haystack, but finding the right haystack. Call centers are a key function that needs help, but banks and credit unions need to improve their internal search capabilities overall. Hours spent just finding information result in frustrated customers and lost accounts.

Let’s say people call your bank or credit union for information or with key requests that hinge on data. How quickly can call center employees find that data? For that matter, is their search always successful?

If your organization is typical, employees waste an average of three hours daily per person searching for data, according to Coveo‘s 2023 Workplace Relevance Report. As the systems used by banking institutions expand, there are more and more places where data can be hiding.

Time spent searching for necessary data is time not spent solving customer problems. That creates stress among both employees and customers. As banks and credit unions work to improve their employee experience and their customer experience, optimizing their employees’ ability to search across the entire organization should be a top priority. This is called “enterprise search.”

How the Ripple Effects of Poor Enterprise Search Impacts Banks

Most employees find internal searches to be frustrating, in part because organizations’ data tend to be siloed. As a result, Coveo’s study found that 89% of employees have to perform as many as six searches to do their jobs in 2023, up from 82% the year before. Among banks, employees at 16% of institutions say they have to search as many as seven sources to find what they need.

Over time, the fragmented enterprise search experience wears employees down. Nearly half of Gen Z and Millennial employees say frustrating searches make them feel less qualified to do their jobs. More than a third say this angst contributes to burnout. (The Coveo study these statistics come from was conducted among 4,000 workers.)

The impact of poorly optimized enterprise search doesn’t just land on individual employees. When someone can’t find the information they need, they have to pull colleagues or their supervisor off their own tasks.

Meanwhile, delays in finding information contribute to customer frustration. Failing to find what they need through self-service, and spending minutes on hold while a customer service representatives searches for the information they need can be exasperating.

Two Strikes and You're Out:

In time, some consumers tripped up by their financial institution's data issues may switch providers. In a 2023 Coveo study on consumers' view of customer service, a third of people surveyed said they would abandon a brand after two bad digital customer service interactions.

In Coveo’s study 19% percent said that the financial services and health insurance industries “consistently provide the most negative digital customer service,” up from 18% in 2022.

The research indicates that 56% of people surveyed won’t complain when they reach the point of wanting to switch — they’ll just go.

This erodes customer lifetime value and reduces return on investment of marketing spend.

Read More: Customer Service in the Age of ChatGPT: Don’t Take AI Too Far in the Call Center

How Did Enterprise Search in Banks Become So Challenging?

Enterprise search didn’t become so difficult to use overnight. In general, what’s now a siloed experience started out as an app-specific internal tool that was set up and put on the back burner.

That worked, more or less, until the recent proliferation of new tools with their own data sources, most of which are not fully integrated with the banking institution’s core enterprise search.

Complexity and siloes don’t just waste time and money. Without proactive governance, the volume of data that’s available and the way it’s presented can wear away employees’ trust in search results. Employees will wonder if they’ve even found all the relevant data.

Data privacy regulations and other compliance requirements can complicate enterprise searches. For example, when a bank’s customer service center records calls, the legal team may have to determine what information can be shared internally. The IT team may need to implement permission settings to limit who can see that data. And that implies maintenance of strong security around it.

Read More: Marketing in a World of ‘Infinite Data’

How to Fix It: Building Bridges, Filling Data Gaps

The first step to improving enterprise search is to define what a successful total experience will look like for the organization. Key questions to consider include how the bank or credit union can bring search resources to where the users are, rather than making them toggle among half a dozen or more systems to capture the data they need.

With the goal defined, it’s time to outline implementation stages. We think of enterprise search maturity along a continuum: nascent, fragmented, connected, optimized and enabled. Trying to skip stages won’t work. Instead, identify the quick wins and pursue them first.

For example, can your institution’s systems identify and surface the most relevant results first in employee searches?

Filtering documents by financial product type can help. Having the best information at the top of the results page can save employees time and frustration, even if they’re still having to use fragmented sources to find everything they need. Knowledge management solutions can extract and classify document metadata, but manual governance and data cleansing also can go a long way toward making results more relevant.

The next stage could be to gather and analyze search activity to identify and remediate any content gaps, so employees finally have access to all the information they frequently search for. It’s also wise to identify champions in different business units to advocate for the new search strategies you deploy. This will get more users on board.

After the easy wins are won and the data sources are connected into a single portal for employees, it’s time to optimize results to surface the best possible information and strengthen trust in the search results.

Many organizations are thinking about how to use AI-based tools for this purpose, and knowledge management solutions are one obvious option for classifying resources libraries. However, there are multiple possibilities. For example, a natural-language chat assistant that supplements or replaces the traditional search string query might answer employees’ questions and surface the links they need. This could make each search experience faster and easier.

Read More: A Banker’s Guide to Digital and AI Transformation Success

Creating a Better Enterprise Search Experience

Improving enterprise search can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years. Much depends on the budgets and other resources that can be allocated. The most important thing is to start the process and pursue it.

However, ideally, enterprise search improvements should be an ongoing process, even for financial institutions that have optimized their current setup, because user expectations and technologies will continue to evolve. Organizations that work to keep up with evolving search technology will be better positioned to provide the best possible total experience for employees and customers.

One century-old financial services company recently revamped its enterprise search for its remote workforce. Among the key tasks were unification of data from 15 sources and creating a system based on enhanced employee profiles to surface the most relevant results for each team, level and region.

These changes and upgrades to the employee mobile experience took time. But they resulted in a 100% increase in search efficiency and a 99% increase in employee engagement.

About the Author:
Mike Marnocha is a director and senior solution architect at Rightpoint.

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