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Do Brits want to speak to an operator? Don’t bank on it

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/lenetstan)

We are now living in the on-demand age where we can pay our bills anytime, anywhere. Long gone are the days when we had to queue at the bank, wasting valuable lunch hours, or even worse, seeing precious weekend time dwindle away while we sit down with an adviser.   

Technology is shaping how Brits are doing their banking. Banks are among the pack leaders when it comes to customer experience (CX), edging ahead of most industries. As well as readily-available capital, banks have always had incentives to invest. They hold an arguably larger number of customers and prospects than other sectors, and traditionally high densities of direct interactions with those customers conducting their banking. 

But despite their historical CX leadership, banks face continued pressure to evolve at the same rate, if not faster than the changing behaviours of customers. Technology’s integration into daily life has created the expectation for rapid access to services, including banking, but simply reducing wait times and offering strong rates isn’t sufficient. This applies not only to second and third tier banks trying to win business from the top end, but also for the big four that are battling to retain their market share. 

Today’s banks must combine the best of traditional and modern capabilities, using highly-skilled agents and efficient contact centres with streamlined channels powered by artificial intelligence (AI), such as chat bots and automation. This is critical when you consider that a recent Avaya study found 36 per cent of Brits would switch banks on the back of a bad experience. 

The same report found the extent to which consumer behaviour has changed. More than half (54 per cent) of Brits prefer access to a full list of the bank’s services via their web site or mobile banking app, and are only willing to speak with a human if it is absolutely necessary. This preference for digital services exceeds that in other developed nations including Italy (36 per cent), France (35 per cent) and Germany (35 per cent).   

No calls please, we’re British!   

Given the extensive investment UK banks have made in building omni-channel services for their customers, it’s no surprise that online and mobile have become the widely preferred channels. Customers are becoming more and more self-sufficient when it comes to the transactional nature of their interactions. The comparatively small role of phone-based communication reveals how much the contact centre has evolved to make sure it also meets the needs of each customer.  

However, while these preferences look far beyond the traditional call centre-driven CX, banks hold a diverse consumer base of young and old demographics with varied digital skills. This breadth of preference makes banking a sector that needs flexibility and individualisation. In fact, 27 per cent of Brits still prefer to visit branches – a trend repeated in Germany (28 per cent), Italy (28 per cent), Australia (22 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (23 per cent).   

Ultimately, a bank should be able to allow a customer to make initial contact via any platform of their choice – for example via social media or a mobile phone app – and very quickly have the issue resolved as a result of the combined intelligence of highly-skilled staff and automation. However, should the matter require escalation, the bank should allow that initial communication to transition to a more appropriate media – like a phone or video call – without forcing the customer to wait in a queue, repeat the issue, or re-identify themselves several times.  

By operating with this type of use case-driven model, banks can accommodate what Brits identified as the most important factors influencing their interactions with a bank: having their problem resolved on the first point of contact, and having the same level of experience regardless of their choice of channel. Contact centres have a crucial role to play when online customers encounter questions they can’t resolve – which is why shy Brits deserve contact centre handlers equipped with the technology and information necessary to respond effectively and quickly. 

There are still gaps to plug – long wait times continue to cause concern, with 20 per cent of Brits citing this as a key issue, which may explain why only 11 per cent regularly call a contact centre (the lowest of all countries surveyed). This yields poor return on investment for banks which spend significant capital on training agents and providing them with the appropriate resources to do their jobs. 

Surprisingly, the results do not seem to reflect a dissatisfaction with the level of service they receive from their bank’s call centres. UK customers were most likely to say they hadn’t experienced any issues when contacting their bank’s call centre (64 per cent).   

Future banking - I dream of chat bots   

Most importantly, banks that want to remain CX leaders need to be first movers. The industry has shifted to an open, integrated, future-proof technology ecosystem that, when properly designed, promises endless customer experience (CX) benefits, competitive new business outcomes and service differentiation. Banks are traditionally conservative, however those which elect to drive digital capabilities via the likes of voice biometrics, chatbots and other forms of AI will begin to drive further loyalism from customers by building trust through tailored experiences.   

In the future, it seems likely that automated interactions will continue to gain in popularity with users as our free time becomes more valuable to us. We’ve seen from our customer base an increasing interest in taking AI to the next level, going from just automating purely voice and speech data channels into digital channels, which is really where chatbots are coming to the fore. As with other chatbot services, the call can always be handed over to a human specialist advisor if the customer wants or requires it. Banks should continue to embrace new forms of technology to assist us, as the customer is always right – at any time of day or night. 

Natalie Keightley, Solutions Marketing Director, Avaya 

Image Credit: Lenetstan / Shutterstock

Natalie Keightley is an evangelist and spokesperson for Avaya’s contact centre portfolio.