The rapid advance of technology has created the impression that the entire banking industry will soon be digitised. Yet whilst 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 touch 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 and we’re mining it to understand and anticipate the needs of our clients. If I’m sitting in a contact centre, that means I have a lot more information at my fingertips than I did even a few years ago. So conversations are getting richer - once my card is unblocked, I can have a chat about insurance renewals, a new online mutual fund or how to save for my children’s education; 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 contact centre colleagues are engaging directly with clients and 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. Banks should make the most of these opportunities. Otherwise we run the risk of having a great digital relationship with them but a weak banking relationship.
So contact centres need to keep innovating. If you’re working in one, your role is changing fast, from handling complaints and enquiries to providing products, services and even advice. This changes how we recruit, train and manage our people and technology and people skills will become increasingly vital. We also having to rethink 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.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Asian Banking & Finance. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Stuart Beaumont is the Global Head for Distribution Transformation and Voice & Virtual at Standard Chartered Bank. Based in Singapore, Stuart is responsible for transforming service delivery and improving service standards in the bank’s Client Contact Centres. He provides strategic direction to over 5,000 employees across 23 locations in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.