Banks must focus on their staff too

Branch and call centre customers are being let down because banks have not invested enough in the systems their staff use – and that needs to change, says KPMG


It’s a pretty safe bet that the last time you paid your electricity bill, cancelled a standing order or checked your bank balance you did so online, either via desktop, tablet or mobile phone. Banks have invested hundreds of millions of pounds to create smooth and intuitive customer journeys online.

However, in these days of omnichannel, customers expect the Martini principle with their banking available anytime, anyplace, anywhere. Unfortunately, when you pick up the phone or visit a branch, the experience will probably not be as quick and simple as it was online. You might well be referred back to the website or be asked to repeat your name, account number and sort code to a number of representatives.

Call centre banking staff will have multiple applications open on their computer screen at any point and they retype information from one to another. “Onboarding” new customers can be even more clunky, protracted and error prone. It’s hardly surprising that in KPMG’s international Customer Experience Barometer, UK banking customers returned the lowest score for customer satisfaction.

Why is the online customer experience so often so much better than the branch or call centre customer experience? KPMG believes that it is because banks have invested heavily in the customer-facing digital customer journeys, but much less in transforming the operational journeys available to their own staff.

“They know that customers who are familiar with fast, efficient and intuitive online experiences in the home now expect the same in their workplace,” says Mark Guinibert, a partner in KPMG’s Customer and Channel Management Practice. “But the problem is that occasionally customers will still want to speak to human beings either face to face or on the phone. When those human beings can’t help them as easily as the bank’s digital solutions, then customer satisfaction suffers.

“You can’t blame banks for spending money on their customer-facing online technology. Customer focus often has more mindshare from the C-suite compared to the way budgets are allocated to transform internal solutions.”

However, KPMG believes that it’s now time for banks to start investing in the kind of fast, integrated and intuitive technologies for their employees that they have started offering their customers. Only by doing this can the banks provide real end-to-end solutions for their customers.

“Banks need to invest in reskinning old systems to make them fit for purpose and to think more about the employee journey to transform the business operation,” says Mr Guinibert. “Interactions will often be 25 per cent to 50 per cent faster following these changes and there are significant reductions in errors and customer complaints. So all round, very good news for customers, staff and the banks.

It’s time for banks to start investing in the kind of fast, integrated and intuitive technologies for their employees that they have started offering their customers

“They don’t have to be complicated, either,” adds Mr Guinibert. “Something as simple as collating all the pre-existing relevant information from several systems into a single, intuitive employee journey can make a huge difference.”

Having a secure, transactional website is already seen by customers simply as a hygiene factor and what’s adequate today certainly won’t be so in two or three years. Mr Guinibert points out that now is the time to act as the economic returns and customer satisfaction improvements from improving employee journeys are often better than investing in customer-facing solutions.

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According to KPMG those banks that are already investing in better systems for their staff are seeing an almost immediate return on investment as customer satisfaction improves rapidly. Employee morale, alignment and buy-in also increase, while simpler, more intuitive systems mean that staff need less training and can become productive more quickly

By joining up the offline and online customer experience to create faster, more co-ordinated and seamless systems, staff can spend more time supporting customers and “the art of conversation”.

With their digital footprint and data from branches and call centres, banks already know a considerable amount about their customers’ finances, creditworthiness and spending habits. All of this information should be available at a single reference point to a staff member who is helping a customer with a loan or mortgage, for instance. Ideally, not only should they not have to ask again for this information, but the system should have auto-filled appropriate fields and carried out the necessary calculations and risk management protocols.

Banks can learn from successful omnichannel retailers. Amazon and John Lewis make shopping faster and easier (can you imagine filling in five screens of data just to buy a sofa?), and their joined up systems and operations mean that what they know about their customers is more co-ordinated and usable. In addition, their staff are more engaged and satisfied in their roles.

Similarly banks need to be able to personalise their online customer experiences. “They can make a customer’s website appropriate to their income, circumstances and time of life,” says Mr Guinibert. “For instance, the version for an older, more affluent client might have more on savings, investments and pensions, while for a young graduate it will focus on cash in and cash out. Based on this, staff can then have more meaningful conversations with customers.”

KPMG acknowledges that banking faces particular challenges, such as demands by regulators and observing the fine line between offering helpful suggestions and giving financial advice. “From our experience and research we believe that following the rapid growth of online banking for customers, the next development in financial technology will be a similar improvement for bank staff,” says Mr Guinibert. “Those who start making these changes now will see real benefits in terms of employee engagement, customer satisfaction, economic return and market share.”

For more information on some of the topics discussed here, please visit www.kpmg.co.uk/banking