The contact center’s role has changed multiple times since companies first started gathering customer service representatives together to take phone calls. Initially, financial services firms envisioned contact centers as an alternative channel to bank branches or insurance offices, providing basic services as needed. Then the contact center expanded its reach so that customers could talk to representatives outside normal working hours or when their travels took them away from the firm’s physical locations.

Recently, however, lines have blurred, with contact centers taking on more emotional sales and relationship building activities that traditionally took place in physical locations. As one of the remaining human-to-human interactions between financial services provider and their customers, effectively utilizing the contact center channel is key to maintaining and expanding relationships.

Expanding the contact center’s role in delivering a relationship has moved faster in other industries than in financial services. Financial services firms have lagged other industries in defining the role of their contact centers within their distribution approach and investing in them to deliver the strategic customer experience. To establish and maintain engaging, efficient customer service while reducing overall costs, financial services firms must deal with four major factors:

  1. Customer expectations are higher than ever. Customers seek high-quality interactions with financial services firms. That means understanding the customer’s history and quickly and effectively using it whenever there is contact. To do this, contact centers are being asked to simultaneously provide digital and human interaction with their customers.
  2. Lines between service and sales continue to blur. Increasingly, contact centers are expected to strengthen relationships and, ultimately, to generate additional revenue by leveraging service interactions to start higher-value conversations. To accomplish this, contact centers need new types of diagnostic, technical awareness, and empathy skills, with new capabilities to allow the workforce to deliver customer results.
  3. Humans are working interchangeably with AI and customer-facing digital assistants. Financial services firms are bringing digital capabilities including AI online quickly, changing the type of transactions handled by humans. These technology-fueled interactions are increasingly conversational and therefore much more complex. But many firms struggle in deciding how to introduce these digital assistants to customers and which use cases are readily adaptable to AI.  Contact centers with high volumes of transactions and the ability to generate data are excellent places to test and refine these solutions.
  4. There is a greater focus on obtaining and leveraging data. Contact centers are well positioned to gather additional, improved customer data through human-to-human interactions, but to capture this information, agents need the right tools.  This means using all the data provided to know them across all touchpoints from the institution. With improved data, agents and the broader organization can deliver a more personalized end-to-end customer experience – one which incorporates context from recent interactions along with robust customer profiles.

These four elements and other change factors are pushing financial services firms to explore new strategies, methodologies and capabilities to transform their contact centers. This is taking place at high speed due to what has been called an “arms race” as firms seek to improve the customer experience.

In future posts in this series, we will look at how firms can develop the organization, talent and technology needed to outpace the competition and provide superior service. In the meantime, review some of Accenture’s other thought leadership on the new role of the contact center.

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