Seeing Eye-to-Eye: The Power of Telepresence
I listened recently to a lament from a fellow business traveler bumped from his flight and trying to figure out his next steps. His choices were to wait in a long queue with other frustrated passengers to deal directly with an agent—or to use a customer service number to negotiate his options with a call center.
What he really wanted was an immediate human connection—the option of a face to face communication that could provide empathy, understanding and reassurance that a long, stressful trip would end soon.
The need for this kind of human connection is fundamental to customer service. And telepresence can be a powerful and cost effective tool for just such communications.
I know one travel agency that provides customers a variety of options when it comes to planning and booking travel. If you visit the agency in person you have three options. At the self-help end of the spectrum, you can use a bank of iPads to select and buy your ticket; if you need more help, you can proceed to a manned service desk for one on one customer service (for a surcharge).
But there’s a third, increasingly popular option: stepping up to a telepresence kiosk, where you can also work one on one with an agent—at no charge. That’s what our frustrated traveler really needed—immediate contact with expert, well-informed help who look them in the eye, listen to their unique predicament and exchange more than just facts.
Telepresence kiosks offer some other advantages. Rather than staffing multiple locations, a telepresence service can be delivered 24/7 by accessing centralized service centers. They also can provide more service where and when it might be needed, like when an airline is having to cancel flights. This too can make for better customer service.
Clearly, there’s money to be made from this customer service option in almost any service industry: banking and finance, retail, and healthcare. Not just revenue from the immediate transaction but potential future revenue from the kind of service that increases customer loyalty.
Think about the power of telepresence in the public sector as well.
The British Red Cross is using a telepresence service, Facelook, to provide senior citizens with an interactive, face-to-face connection with loved ones. These interactions can have a huge impact on decreasing feelings of helplessness and loneliness.
Beyond well-being, doctors are using Facelook for remote check-ups to determine whether patients are taking their medications correctly. Doctors and Red Cross home support personnel see (and hear) cues like facial expressions, body language, not to mention seeing the actual medicines—so they can catch problems best addressed sooner rather than later. Best for the patient and best for the way our healthcare dollars are spent.
Such a system could be a key component of a more effective way of providing ongoing healthcare to a less mobile, aging population.
Whether the setting is a place of business or in the public sector, telepresence can deliver more efficiently face to face communications where and when they are desired—along with the visual nuance and human touch that can more fully satisfy the consumer.
A Smile and Real Service: What Keeps Financial Service Customers Coming Back for More
I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but when I walk through the doors of my local bank branch, a bright-eyed, smiling “designated greeter” wants to know how I’m doing and what I need on this visit.
My bank isn’t a local organization or even regional—it’s one of the largest banks in the world. But the world has obviously come down through the ranks that face-to-face engagement with customers remains vital in financial services.
And they’re right. While we may conduct routine financial transactions online and financial services continue to develop new online technologies, when we have questions or issues beyond the basics we still value human interaction.
But here’s the bad news.
In many cases, valuable customer information is “locked away” in documents, whether on paper or in unstructured electronic documents. Recent research showed that customer-facing processes in financial services firms are more likely to be document-driven than other industries. (You might have guessed healthcare, given the number of times you’ve been handed a clipboard to fill out the same information for the gazillionth time).
Reliance upon document processes is prevalent in the very functions that build the customer relationship and start to grow the lifetime value of the customer: Sales, Marketing/Customer Communications and Customer Onboarding.
Figure 1-Customer-facing Processes in Financial Services Firms are More Document-Driven
Source: IDC White Paper, "Organizational Blind Spot: The Role of Document-Drive Business Processes in Driving Top-Line Growth," Doc# 234430R, Sept 2012.
And that’s a problem, because if the service representative doesn’t know me, doesn’t have all the current and accurate information about my account or other dealings with the bank, then they will have a hard time developing a relationship with me. This is especially true during the first year of the relationship, when customers will develop a favorable or unfavorable brand experience. It is also, unfortunately, the time the bank is least likely to have the necessary customer data to best serve them.1
The good news is that it’s a problem we can fix. There are best practices that help achieve a more effective balance of paper and electronic documents in workflows. These practices range from reengineering in-house processes like the conversion of paper documents to searchable digital formats to outsourcing these and other tasks that do not add value for the customer to a managed service provider. In fact, financial services professionals say optimization can drive 10.5% of the cost out of customer facing processes.2
But the upside for the customer is even more important.
Optimizing processes lets staff spend their time really listening to our needs and mapping them to the best services and experts to meet them. That’s the kind of personalized, well-informed customer experience that keeps us coming back for more—and allows the bank to realize the full value of its customers over time.
- 1 Hooks, Dennis, “How To Improve Customer Onboarding,” Bank These processes are inefficient both atcollecting and disseminating relevant information to the right people at the right time to make staff more effective at customer interactions. Systems and Technology, March 7, 2013.
- 2 IDC White Paper, "Organizational Blind Spot: The Role of Document Drive Business Processes in Driving Top-Line Growth," Doc# 234430R, Sept 2012.
How To Improve Customer Onboarding
by Dennis Hooks
Effective customer on-boarding continues to be a challenge for many financial institutions.
Effective customer on-boarding continues to be a challenge for many institutions. Banks have a very limited window to engage new customers, increase new account balances and grow share of wallet before households lose interest in the many new customer communications and offers being sent their way.
In many cases, the customer may switch to another bank entirely. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), about 10-20 percent of customers switch banks each year. Additionally, a December 2012 report from ACSI indicated that while customer satisfaction has improved as an industry whole, it is mostly the result of continued high customer satisfaction among smaller banks and credit unions, and from an increasing number of consumers having moved from large banks to smaller institutions.
Taking a closer look at the customer satisfaction quandary, J.D. Power & Associates indicated in its annual survey of retail-banking customer satisfaction that new customers are the least satisfied and the most likely to leave. In fact, the report revealed that new customers are nearly three times more likely to show attrition during the first ninety days of opening a new account.
However, this short grace period is the optimal time for banks to establish long-lasting and profitable relationships with new customers. The challenge is that in the crucial first year of a relationship when the customer is most inclined to develop a positive or negative brand experience, a bank is least likely to possess the necessary data to accurately engage a customer according to his or her true potential.
For some new accounts, banks typically only have information on initial opening balance. Many banks rely on this extensively to assign treatment groups and decide which new customer should receive premium offers. However, the initial balance amount can be misleading as some customers open new accounts starting with a relatively low balance, perhaps to take advantage of a special offer or to begin a new, low-dollar amount direct deposit program. Opening balance often does not present an accurate depiction of households’ wealth and growth potential. As a result, potentially high opportunity customers may be placed into sub-optimal treatment groups and upsell opportunities are lost.
Banks require additional information to effectively identify high opportunity customers from day one in order to appropriately distribute resources, grow deposits and increase share of wallet; therefore, banks should look closely at new account opening processes and thoughtfully develop a strategic approach to better on-board and retain new customers.
Superior Customer Experience And Effective Cross-Selling
To win over customers, banks must not only deliver a superior customer experience, but also be particularly attentive during the first 90 days when the relationship is most vulnerable.
A case in point – Fifth Third Bank has more than 1,300 branches across 12 states, but despite its size and extensive customer base, it reaches out to customers three times within the first 90 days of a relationship. After two days, it thanks the customer; after two weeks, it reaches out again to ensure the relationship has been fully activated; and again after two months, to begin cross selling.
To successfully cross-sell and better identify customers who have a high potential for expanding the relationship, Fifth Third relies heavily on household total assets and total deposits estimates to better gauge the potential profit of new customers from day one using only the customer’s ZIP+4 code and age. This is especially helpful in determining which new customers are likely to be Mass Market, Mass Affluent, or Affluent, based on a view of their total estimated financial position, as opposed to just the starting balance.
As in the case with Fifth Third, a thoughtfully-designed on-boarding program, featuring a regular schedule of reaching out to customers to make sure service levels are satisfactory and offer relevant new products and services, is a proven way to put wary customers at ease and create life-long relationships. Customers consistently have better satisfaction when they feel like someone cares, and the most effective on-boarding program makes sure he or she knows the institution is excited to have that person as a customer.
The Right Products, Price And Channel
Another challenge of on-boarding is to offer the right products at the right price and through the right channel to new customers, especially on a real-time basis. Banks lack insight on their new customers and should leverage third party data and technology to better optimize cross-sell efforts, expand the relationship and improve profitability.
For one bank with more than $1 trillion in assets, its primary challenge was to source an enterprise solution for real-time assessment of a customer's viability for a product offer. The bank wanted to streamline their enterprise business processes to give front-line customer service representatives a fast, consistent way to offer new products and services at the point-of-sale. The bank also wanted a centralized solution for offering the right product to the right customer, regardless of channel. In order to respond to changing market conditions and competitive threats, they required the control and flexibility to quickly test and deploy new strategies.
The bank selected a third-party business process automation platform that allowed the bank greater control over its enterprise-wide business decisions for new product offers. The solution provides business users the ability to quickly and easily add and edit business rules, test and deploy new product strategies, and determine risk thresholds in real-time.
As a result, the bank achieved higher profitability through its ability to process custom offers for up to ten products in a single transaction; increase offer, acceptance and utilization rates; enable end-users to perform their own what-if modeling prior to production; and respond quickly to changing market conditions.
New customers can still be nettlesome, but the data available to banks today offers a tremendous amount of insight. In addition, it can be integrated into the point of sale to support better offer management – a huge evolution in banking and an ideal strategy for keeping wary new customers close.
Dennis Hooks is Retail Banking Leader at Equifax.