A bank’s customer-service revamp starts from within

To succeed now—and to flourish in the future—banks and credit unions must distinguish themselves on customer service.

It would be a mistake, however, to focus solely on the end consumer. Successful companies will look within to create connectivity, maximize efficiency, unlock value, and improve agility and flexibility. Stepping up to this challenge will also help address industry pain points that include loan servicing, payment and card operations.

Too often, banks and credit unions have grand visions for digitalization efforts, but settle for a Band-Aid approach because of budgetary constraints. One legacy system may be upgraded or a front-office customer service may be digitized. But instead of making things easier, operations somehow become even more complex. That’s because the front office is often detached from the middle and back offices, hindering the seamless experience banks so desperately need.

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To truly transform, financial institutions must work from within and holistically address this fragmentation. Here are some considerations to keep in mind.

Create connectivity

Highly fragmented systems and manual processes create extreme inefficiencies in the middle and back office, home to overly siloed information. By one estimate, financial employees spend as much as 80 percent of their time looking for answers across systems and data, leaving them just 20 percent to spend on far more important tasks, such as making decisions and communicating with consumers.

If everyone operates from the same system at the same time with the same information, institutions will have the visibility needed to improve resilience and create more customer-centric operations. Executives, meanwhile, will have a better line of sight into the operational details needed to make better decisions.

Maximize efficiency and unlock value

Manual processes are the scourge of the middle and back office, slowing it down and complicating work that happens across multiple functional areas. A single missed or misrouted email or work item can bottleneck work for days.

If a financial institution securely digitizes workflows, the right person can be prompted to act at the right time. Complicated processes are simplified, allowing work to advance quickly and easily. When employees have better tools and insights to maximize impact, they spend less time on mundane tasks, freeing them up for customer-facing issues.

Improve flexibility and agility

Financial institutions frequently upgrade outdated legacy systems with piecemeal technology solutions to avoid the expense, added complexity and risk of larger changes. An alternative is to instead consider a service that plugs into existing technology to quickly add value without having to create another system of record.

The key is ensuring that it not only works with what’s there, but that it can also quickly and easily integrate with new technologies and innovative fintech vendors. In addition to creating a more collaborative work environment, this helps banks keep up with changing consumer and regulatory needs.

For loan servicing, employees often feel bogged down by manual processes and disconnected systems. What if a loan service request sparked an automatically created case file that pulled all relevant information from internal systems and the customer, and, if needed, the file was digitally routed to a team member for review? The system could update automatically, and throughout the entire process, actions and timelines could be digitally traced.

Another pain point is payment operations, which remain largely inefficient and costly. What if a customer who sent money to the wrong person could easily flag it as a wrong payment. Employees could easily review the item and potentially reverse it and approve the next action. Automatic notifications and real-time information would reassure the consumer.

And think about card operations. A customer wanting a new card could have his or her information viewed by a document team that has a dedicated workspace providing visibility in the status, the amount of time the case has been open, individuals working on the case and other information. Faster processing would improve customer satisfaction and improve the employee experience.

For the financial services industry to thrive, companies must transform from within to benefit the customers. No one has to start over. The key is to easily fix the broken connections between existing systems and processes by simplifying the experience for both the customers and associates.

Gregory Kanevski is global head of banking at ServiceNow.

Find out more about how the pandemic has changed the way banks and credit unions serve their customers in “COVID-19 is remaking customer service…forever,” a BAI Executive Report.