Addressing bank customer needs: Automate or fall behind

Behind the scenes, banks are facing a workload crisis. Inundated with a broad variety of customer services requests combined with increased lending pressures, from new loans to modifications of existing loans, banks are struggling to keep up with a mounting backlog of requests. To add to the stress, as the profit impacts of COVID-19 fully come into effect, concerns about costs are already surfacing.

As the world copes with the effects of the pandemic, it has never been more important for financial institutions to embrace automation. By reducing the amount of manual activities and decision making that must be performed by employees, financial institutions can complete more work within tightened timelines and continue to move their businesses forward.

Most banks have multiple systems and distinct, dedicated operations teams to handle different types of requests. Many of the processes are manual and require unique sets of expertise. If a bank can automate some of these tasks and provide more guided processing to agents and operations staff, by encoding policies and rules for making decisions into their work management systems, they can more effectively handle the influx by sharing workloads across teams.

The challenge is that many banks have put in place simplistic web forms to capture customer requests, but use manual processes to respond. That means someone still needs to go through the forms, ensure the required information has been provided, reach out for additional details when needed, and make decisions about even simple things, such as who should be handling the request or the eligibility of the request, for instance if it’s related to deferral of a payment or application for a government-backed loan.

With intelligent, digital interfaces, the bank could save staff and custome time by having the system verify if the needed information was provided and ask the customer for additional details, validate if the request is within any policy or government program defined limits, and determine to which team the request should be routed. And by capturing these requests and managing them as a “case,” banks can more easily track their servicing needs and provide the customer with greater transparency into the status of their requests.

More personalized customer engagements

With automated solutions, banks can take customer service to the next step. In particular, AI-driven insights can help banks evolve from being reactive to proactive and preemptive to focus on their customers’ needs first.

For instance, with access to real-time customer data, banks should know if a scheduled automatic payment cause an overdraft for the customer. Instead of letting that happen and having the customer contact the bank to ask the fees to be waived, banks can preemptively contact that customer, alert them to the issue, offer overdraft protection, ask if they want to consolidate debt payments, move money, etc. When banks have a holistic, up-to-date view of their customers, they can do what’s best in each unique situation, which increases customer lifetime value.

Many banks are starting to prioritize mobile and digital communications with their customers. But banks should not focus on building for a specific channel. Rather, they should build for a specific customer journey or transaction type because today’s customers are channel-agnostic.

Maybe a customer starts on the web, then reaches out to their bank via chatbot, and finally picks up the phone. It’s the same customer, the same journey, and the experience should be seamless, regardless of channel.

That’s why it’s important for banks to build their service approach from the “center-out,” with a focus on what their customers need, instead of forcing customers to conform to prescriptive, internal business processes or individual channel applications. By putting the customer journey at the heart of operations, including the business rules and intelligence that drive each journey, businesses can swiftly and consistently manage customer interactions and route work across departments and channels from end to end.

Automating customer service processes doesn’t have to be an expensive, months-long effort. Banks can start small by focusing on one customer journey at a time – such as handling payment disputes, processing loan applications, managing complaints, or even small account maintenance tasks like adding a beneficiary.

In getting started, banks should focus on automating their more straightforward journeys across channels or digitizing part of a customer journey to expedite the front end of the process. The goal is to deliver a seamless service experience, regardless of channel, for all customers and build a solid foundation that can scale for today and tomorrow.

Marc Andrews is vice president of financial services at Pegasystems.

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