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The cloud can provide cover for omnichannel customer support

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The banking and capital markets sector is vast and diverse. But one thing cuts across its many functions and operations: customer support. Meanwhile, its customers have grown accustomed to exceptional experiences. They want service that's proactive, quick, easy, humanizing, and personalized – even when it's digital or artificial intelligence (AI)-based.

More than 80% of financial institutions agree that their customers are more impatient today and likely to walk away if they don't get value from their first interaction, according to Forrester Research.

To deliver on newly elevated customer expectations and remain competitive against digital-first startups and technology behemoths looking for new revenue streams, financial institutions must make use of cloud-based customer support solutions and deploy them intelligently across their global operations.

And, as easier transactions and interactions move to digital channels, human agents can solve the more complex and critical ones and use customer conversations to drive sales when appropriate.

Making omnichannel servicing a reality

Cloud-based support offerings encompass a daunting array of options, including conversational AI, skills-based routing, workforce management, SMS texting, and so on. So, a prioritized roadmap is critical. But without the core infrastructure of a cloud-based contact center, financial institutions can't take advantage of many of these offerings in the first place, leaving customers short-changed, disappointed, and more likely to switch to a new provider.

What's more, the channels – and mix of channels – customers use are constantly changing, which makes a cloud-based contact center key to delivering true omnichannel servicing.

The number and types of channels for customer support are exploding – with Facebook Messenger, Apple Business Chat, and WhatsApp Business among the most recent additions.

And channels are evolving. Messaging, for example, has moved from synchronous (or continuous) to asynchronous, which allows conversations to be more open ended and resumed later. In addition, many channels now incorporate some degree of automation and AI for both agents and customers. For example, AI-powered agent-assist bots work side by side with customer service representatives, giving them information they need when they need it to help them respond to customer queries more quickly, accurately, and confidently.

The mix of channels that customers use is also fluid. And agents and organizations need to be able to meet customers where they are at any point in time. This is part of a necessary industry shift that Genpact's recent research study, Banking in the Age of Instinct, refers to as 'optimized reality.'

Cloud-based solutions enable financial institutions to seamlessly incorporate new capabilities into their customer support ecosystems and make omnichannel integration a reality.

Looking through the lens of the end user

But the cloud is not a silver bullet. A poorly designed mobile app or friction-filled authentication process will not be solved by moving it to the cloud.

Likewise, there's no simple or magical solution to transitioning to cloud-based customer support. Moving from a legacy telephony or brick-and-mortar system to the cloud is challenging, particularly for organizations with multiple markets, locations, and languages. In addition to the immediate technological changes, there are downstream impacts on everything from business processes to employee responsibilities and compensation.

To succeed, financial institutions must take a programmatic, holistic transformation services approach that orchestrates change across people, process, digital, and data – always through the lens of the end user.

Therefore, it's important for financial institutions to analyze, develop, and optimize customer and employee journeys. Specifically, they must:

  • Assign journey owners end-to-end accountability for the customer and agent experience
  • Closely manage the key performance indicators and service-level agreements of these journey owners
  • Identify, fine-tune, and continually update the knowledge base for conversational AI and chatbots

Cloud-based chatbots and conversational AI can absolutely transform customer engagement. But financial institutions that implement them too quickly often learn costly lessons. For example, one large US financial services firm allowed customers to cancel their relationship via a chatbot without talking to a live human, which caused many thousands of accounts to be canceled, perhaps prematurely. Automating tasks and delivering service efficiency are critical, but there's as much art as science to the strategy and implementation.

Another benefit of a cloud-enabled contact center is the ability to match customers with agents who have the skills to complete the required task. Skills-based routing allows financial institutions to direct customers to the best available agent rather than the next available agent. To ensure the success of a skills-based routing initiative, financial institutions must first determine and quantify the business objective, build a hierarchy of agent skills, analyze agent attributes, develop matching matrices, and fine-tune performance management systems.

Driving agility in the new normal

Especially in our 'new normal,' banks must be able to adapt within days to shifting call volumes, different call center locations, new agent groupings, or the use of a configurable interactive voice response system. Cloud-based contact centers provide flexibility and speed of deployment and create an environment that allows digital innovation and agile development through a new technical architecture.

Financial institutions often require a variety of tools from diverse providers, which run on multiple platforms, to accomplish their business goals. Cloud-based software integrates with a variety of application programming interfaces. This integration dramatically cuts down on the number of stand-alone applications needed to get a job done, streamlines the agent experience, and increases agent productivity – increasing employee and customer satisfaction as a result. The ability to integrate also easily translates to lower ongoing infrastructure support costs, ease of upgrades, and extensibility.

Embarking on the next frontier

Due to COVID-19, cloud computing has moved from technology solution to business imperative. For financial institutions, the question is no longer whether they should transition to cloud, but how quickly they can make the transition.

The benefits of cloud are numerous. Still, one-third of organizations have seen no improvement or only a slight improvement in their organizational effectiveness thanks to their cloud adoption, according to the Unisys Cloud Success Barometer.

To succeed, financial institutions need talent with industry and process knowledge and the design, architecture, and implementation expertise to understand the practical application of cloud technologies. They need to optimize their business functions to capitalize on cloud technologies. And they must take a business-centric transformation services approach to orchestrate execution across people, process, digital, and data.

The journey to cloud is like a flywheel. It takes effort to get it started, but when it starts to turn, it starts to build momentum almost by itself. And customer support is a great place to start.

This article was authored by Jason Osborne, global head of consumer banking, Genpact. Versions of this article first appeared in Payments Source, part of the American Banker family of publications, under the following headlines: The cloud can provide cover for omnichannel customer service and The cloud can create its own agility for fintech innovation

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