Integrative Customer Service in Financial Services

December 1, 2011 § 7 Comments

I’ve recently read a string of posts, books, and articles that tie very well into each other regarding social media, customer service, and financial services.  I love it when this happens because it’s my hope that in tying these things together, I can articulate the connections I see and offer something new (rather than simply regurgitate the wisdom of others).  Let’s start with customer service.

Brian Solis recently wrote a fantastic post titled “How to Make Customer Service Matter Again” where he asserts the opinion that lately “customer service is a contradiction of words and intentions”.  He uses a horseshoe to illustrate the “lack of confluence” between social media and customer service.

…with social networks becoming the preferred channel of communication among connected consumers, businesses are losing ground and faith. The reality is that customers will share their experiences whether positive or negative and they will influence the decisions of others. The question is, how are you changing your service model to shape and steer experiences that deliver value to customers and also back to your business?

Improving customer service and delivering an integrated experience will not only help customers feel valued, but also establish a competitive advantage. In the end, businesses that invest in customer retention and acquisition to deliver positive experiences, regardless of platform, will strengthen relationships and loyalty and additionally contribute to organic advocacy.

In financial services, what does it mean to deliver an “integrated experience”? How can service models and financial products be improved to better support such an experience?  Brett King’s book, “Bank 2.0: How Customer Behavior and Technology Will Change the Future of Financial Services“, presents an ideal case for this in the call center of a bank, calling out the disparity in systems used to perform seemingly simple tasks like obtaining an account balance.  In some banks, the customer service representative (CSR) must use multiple systems to attain basic account information.  King asks, “Why isn’t anyone building a single view of the customer dashboard for call centers?”.

Recently, King launched Movenbank - a bank offering a more personalized customer experience.  Having signed up for the Alpha launch, I had the pleasure of experiencing the sign up process.  It starts by connecting your (gasp!) Facebook account to the bank during the login process.  Movenbank explains some of the benefits in doing so in a blog post titled “To Facebook Or Not To Facebook“, and Jim Marous cites in a recent post marketing research that supports the simplification of the login and account creation process.  He also makes the very important point that the benefits of a social login must outweigh the perceived privacy concerns.  While I currently use social logins for many sites, I honestly still felt slightly unnerved doing so with a bank.  It will certainly be interesting to see if Movenbank will continue to use Facebook as a form of authentication and what the public response will be.  The next phase of the sign up process was a series of thoughtful interview questions regarding my financial habits and attitudes culminating in a “Financial Personality”.  Once I completed it, I was quite honestly blown away by the fact that my current bank never asked me these questions!  It seems so simple, yet so revolutionary at the same time.

Back to the call center and CSRs.  Imagine a dashboard that not only integrates all of the disparate systems required to satisfy a customer request but also includes this personality profile and alerts the CSR if the customer has recently tweeted or posted in any other public social media forum about the company or any of its products and services. Maybe even a life changing event has occurred recently that the customer has shared.  Am I comfortable with an informed CSR knowing my financial personality and knowing some basic personal information about me obtained through Facebook?  Am I comfortable with a CSR accessing my public Twitter stream? Absolutely! Yes, please display my picture when I am speaking with a CSR because I’d like to be more than just another anonymous voice on the other end of the line. Yes, I’d also like you to know that I’m not saving as much as I’d like to, that I use other financial products (just not with you), and I’d rather not make a trip to the branch.  Oh, and I abhor checks and am an avid fan of mobile payments.  Maybe then you could tell me about a product or service that better fits my lifestyle and enables me to meet my financial goals.  For me, this knowledge establishes the beginning of a business relationship that already exceeds that which I have with my current bank of four years, and as someone who keeps an “ear to the ground” in financial services, I see this opening the door to multiple new products and services banks could offer while presenting many more sales opportunities of existing products.  An integrated, personalized call center dashboard is just the beginning.

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§ 7 Responses to Integrative Customer Service in Financial Services

  • Welcome back the the world of writing (on your blog). The issues and opportunities you raise are all valid. The key will be whether an organization (bank or otherwise) can effectively use the insight I allow them to access to improve my customer experience.

    When speaking, I often reference the investment representative who painstakingly collects the most complete and robust profile of my personal information including needs, goals, current financial profile, etc. only to have it filed away in a virtual or real filing cabinet never to be used again. Bottom line, if you ask for the information, you are entering into a perceived contract with me to use the information for my benefit.

    The problem is that hardly anyone in the branch-based or virtual space uses what I provide to proactively make my life better. Simply taking key words I provide and selling me isn’t enough. I expect so much more.

    And having the insight about me isn’t enough. You need to show me how you are using it to improve my experience constantly. Am I setting the bar high. Yes. But I am willing to provide my social and non-social information to you if you can leverage the amazing technology available to make my banking, shopping, and interacting better.

    Thanks for the follow and for your perspectives.

    • JenRBoyd says:

      Thank you for sharing your expertise, Jim. You are absolutely right – having data, social and otherwise, is useless if it isn’t being shaped and displayed in ways that are useful at appropriate times. One of the benefits I see in using social data is that it can represent real-time changes in a customer’s life and behaviors. Key words are a snapshot representing what I want to know more about at a particular point in time. There may be products or services I would benefit from but didn’t indicate in my key words. As people visit branches less and less, move away from paper correspondence, and spend more time using mobile banking than online banking (less screen real estate), being able to anticipate customer needs and capitalize on the decreasing amount of time that you hold their attention is going to become increasingly more important.

      I also wholeheartedly agree with you about the need to very clearly know what the trade-off is for me giving you access to my social data. I think we are going to see how we manage and trade this data change in the near future, and I have some ideas about that I’ll share in another post. This article asks the question “Is Personal Data the New Currency?”. While it refers mostly to ad revenue, it clearly points to growing concerns over loss of privacy and control of our personal data and the acknowledgement that there should be value for both parties no matter where the sharing of personal data takes place.

  • Brian Bolton says:

    How about a two way view? If the csr can see my picture and personal info, I’d like to see theirs. Otherwise I feel like they’d have a leg up on me on any negotiations.

    • JenRBoyd says:

      I don’t see any reason to see a CSR’s personal info, but a picture might help to make the whole interaction more personal. Maybe it could keep tempers cool when the conversation becomes difficult. I’ve sat in a call center before just observing – that’s a tough job!

  • Brett King says:

    Thanks Jen. Thanks for believing and being a part of the journey!

    Brett King
    BANK 2.0

  • What happened to CRM systems? Aren’t they supposed to put all that information together into a single dashboard so a CSR, or a Branch Manager, or anyone at a bank can get that single look of a customer. I’ve installed a few of these systems in the past. They do exist, and are in use at call centers. Did I imagine that?

    • JenRBoyd says:

      I think the dashboard that Brett references in his book and that I reference in my post is one where the CSR could do everything – card replacement, ACH transfers, fraud reporting, etc – in one place while having a view of the customer profile. Is that different from what you’ve seen?

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