Digitising customer care – the call centre of tomorrow

Banking is becoming ever more digital. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be less personal

The rapid advance of technology has created the impression that the entire banking industry will soon be digitised. Yet while much of traditional banking has gone the way of the abacus, we’ve learned something interesting along the way: people still want to speak to people.

When my credit card was rejected recently, my first reaction was to call the bank. My app won’t tell me what the problem is, at least not today. And when it comes to a decision about my own money, that human interaction becomes even more important and reassuring. Not everything will be online and clients don’t want it to be.

What technology is doing well is building a better picture of who our clients are. Digital is generating massive amounts of data – known as ‘big data’ – and we’re mining it to understand and anticipate the needs of our clients.

Hotbed of digital innovation

If I’m sitting in a contact centre (or call centre), I have a lot more information at my fingertips than I did even a few years ago. So conversations are getting richer – once I unblock your card, I can have a chat with you about how to save for your children’s education, if I see you have a need for it; in other words, it’s less about transactions and more about how the bank can help you achieve your financial goals.

A lot of the data enabling these conversations is coming from the contact centre itself. Long seen as the drab, unglamorous backwater of the banking world, it’s becoming a hotbed of digital innovation, deploying sophisticated technologies such as speech analytics, artificial intelligence and biometrics to improve client interactions. Video banking is bringing clients right into the contact centre, at least virtually. Increasingly, our customer care colleagues are deepening relationships with them.

That shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Digital doesn’t mean we don’t want to talk to our clients. Actually, we want to spend more time talking with them. As digitisation advances, the number of transactions in branches and in contact centres will decline. But if we know them better, the conversations we do have with our clients will become richer, whether they are face-to-face or digitally enabled. We want to make the most of these opportunities. Otherwise, we run the risk of having a great digital relationship with clients but a weak banking relationship.

So contact centres need to keep innovating. This changes how we recruit, train and manage our people and technology. We’re also rethinking how to design and manage contact centres themselves as they move to centre stage in managing client experience. Far from making them obsolete, technology is driving the rapidly growing role of contact centres.

A version of this article first appeared in Asian Banking & Finance in November 2017.