Banks Cozy up to Customers at Contact Centers, Says Survey


Though the financial services industry is still reeling from the sub-prime mortgage crisis, with many financial institutions forced to take big write-offs and lay off employees, there is one area in which the sector is outperforming many other industries. According to a Genesys Labs survey, the financial services industry makes good use of its contact centers, largely through a strong customer focus and commitment to using up-to-date technologies.


A Bank Systems & Technology story about the survey notes that the financial services industry leads other sectors in its use of contact center technologies, especially self-service, matching of customers to the appropriate agents, and integration of Web and contact center channels. More than 80 percent of respondents reported using skills-based call routing, and 70 percent measure customer satisfaction levels at their contact centers. One example of a seemingly tech-happy bank is Barclays, which utilizes a state-of-the-art system that can handle 75 different feeds from two dozen data sources, including an IBM mainframe, CRM applications and e-mail applications.


Forty-nine percent of respondents expect to spend more on contact center technologies this year, while 78 percent of respondents plan to boost staff levels. Interestingly, just 12 percent will outsource the new jobs. Though upfront costs of non-outsourced contact centers are higher, some analysts say it's worth it because of contact centers' importance in retaining customers. Such beliefs have led banks like U.S. Bancorp to make hefty investments in dedicated onshore centers.


The Genesys Labs results mirror those of an earlier customer satisfaction survey by CFI Group, in which financial services contact centers earned a score of 77 out of 100, second only to the catalog industry with a rating of 80 percent. In an interview earlier this year, Sheri Teodoru, the company's worldwide managing partner, told me that the financial services industry has "focused on doing it right." She says:

They've put the time and effort into understanding what it is that drives customer behavior, and they're doing a better job of looking at customer needs, training their representatives and making sure that, at the end of the day, the person calling in has a good experience.

While banks are wise to focus on customer satisfaction levels, says Teodoru, it's possible to take customer service to ridiculous -- and expensive -- extremes. That's why calculating the value of customer retention is an important part of contact center strategy. She says:

If you get a dissatisfied customer leaving, that's a pretty pricey proposition. In an ideal world, every single customer would have a dedicated person answering the phone to solve their problems. But then the company would go out of business. Between those two extremes, there is a right answer. You need to figure out how much leverage satisfaction has on retention and what that's worth. It's that sort of hard math that the companies doing well are actually doing.