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Beyond the Bots: Supporting Your Front-line Teams with Interactive Communications

BY Pam Mugford

One of the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic is that more and more consumers are interacting with their financial services institutions online. This trend has led banks to accelerate their adoption of chatbots in a bid to both reduce the costs of perceived costly call center resources and to align with their perception of customer preferences. A J.D. Power Pulse Survey taken in September 2020 indicated that while 32 percent of those surveyed reported they would use mobile banking more than they had previously, 36 percent planned to return to banking the way they did pre-pandemic, including in-person visits to bank branches.

This makes sense because although digital communication is here to stay, in the world of customer service, mobile apps and chatbots can only take things so far. When your customer is tech savvy, a chatbot can be a great option for addressing simple questions. However, when your customer is not comfortable dealing with an auto-responder or has a complaint, a complex problem or a stressful situation, a chatbot can do more harm than good.

A study done by CSG found that customers still largely prefer to deal with humans for quick questions (40 percent), for complex questions (69 percent) and when things get stressful (71-percent). The challenging moments are the ones in which customer loyalty is won or lost and it is imperative that customers and the teams servicing them have the ability to respond quickly with the right information.

Today, many banks have focused their time and effort on the implementation of chatbots to reduce call center costs and provide fast and ready responses to customers. While this is a great initiative, the teams dealing with those more critical, sensitive situations are getting left behind. The call center still plays an instrumental role in marketing, selling and servicing processes at your bank. These teams need to be equipped with the kinds of new technologies that enable them to meet customer expectations as they stand today.

We all know that customers expect fast responses—which is one reason why chatbots are so appealing—but customers also expect relevant, personalized information from their banks, particularly when they are on the phone with a customer service rep, or CSR..

Customers expect their bank to have all their information at their fingertips to give them precisely the information and communications they need, quickly and via their preferred channel of communication. This can be a challenge when customer service representatives are left to hunt for emails and correspondence that are sitting in Microsoft Word documents on a centralized server. Finding the right materials quickly and then tailoring them to the customer can be a significant challenge, even putting the organization at risk of sending the wrong materials. In addition, the marketers and customer experience teams supporting these front-line workers want control over messaging. Hence, the right balance needs to be struck in terms of giving those teams access to the resources they need, control for marketing over the message and the ability to enable personalization.

We see customer service teams achieving great success when leveraging a single, centralized system for managing customer communications and the data that drives and supports them. Here, marketing can include pre-designed, approved communications that are dynamically hyper-personalized based on inputs from the CSR and/or customer data.

In addition, pre-approved content, such as explanatory material, offers, disclosures and even frequently used servicing correspondence can be managed, controlled and distributed via these interactive customer communications management or CCM systems. Modern CCM systems can make it incredibly easy to tailor content, graphics and offers in a communication by having the customer service representative make a few quick selections in an interview screen. Controlled editing experiences also enable CSRs to add custom content in pre-defined spots for truly one-to-one personalization.

The best of these systems will also apply artificial intelligence to help optimize the sentiment, readability and brand adherence of the content to ensure quality and consistency. In the end, these systems enable efficient access to the right communications and content, while still enabling the kind of personalization and one-to-one messaging customers expect.

For banks and other financial services organizations, too often the focus is on reducing or eliminating customer service or inside sales teams to reduce costs. However, a better solution is to reframe this perspective to focus on how, as marketers, we can optimize these teams’ operations. Properly supporting your front-line teams allow them to improve the service they provide, as well to avoid the problems that drive customers to look elsewhere when experiencing complex and sensitive situations.

Pamela Mugford, CMO, leads go-to-market strategies for Messagepoint, a provider of customer communications management software.

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