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Increasingly, customer contact centers staff should be prepared to handle multiple communication channels

By Phil Britt

As the best service providers, community bankers will always respond to and communicate with their customers more effectively than their competitors. However, the digital communication revolution is changing where and how consumer interactions take place. Increasingly, those interactions are happening with customers virtually connecting with a community banker over a mobile phone through a contact center rather than over a service desk in a branch.

Today community bankers in contact service centers might need to be as adept at assisting customers on the phone as efficiently as they do over digital communications such as text, email or chat. Contact center staff might need to answer customer questions quickly over a social media channel, or possibly in real time over a chat line as a customer applies for a loan or opens an account online. Each customer communication channel could require a different communication style and protocols, and today’s customer contact center staff should have the right skills, knowledge and training to handle each communication appropriately and effectively, according to retail service experts.

Different communication channels have their own potential limitations or advantages, says Jay Minnucci, president of Service Agility Inc., a contact center consulting firm in East Greenville, Pa. For example, phone communications don’t offer the same visual cues that a teller might observe, particularly about whether a customer might be receptive to product or service information outside his or her question or issues, he says. Chat through a mobile app accommodates smartphones and can be more secure than texts. Email requires a completely different ability to write effectively to avoid wasted time and effort digitally communicating with customers.

Technology consultant Jimmy Sawyers, a co-founder of Sawyers & Jacobs LLC in Collierville, Tenn., says that contact center representatives should be trained to successfully handle the nuances of communication related to the different communication channels they monitor and use. He also recommends that community banks develop a series of standard responses so staff can efficiently handle the most common customer inquiries.

“First contact resolution is a key principle. Other things don’t matter as much.”
—Jay Minnucci, retail service expert

“First contact resolution is incredibly important because it focuses on the right thing,” Minnucci says. “No customer calls in thinking that he will be calling back three or four times, so first contact resolution is a key principle. Other things don’t matter as much.”

Sawyers says community bank contact center representatives should have a well-rounded conservational knowledge of the full range of their institution’s products and services, more so than contact center representatives at the largest financial institutions with teams of product and service specialists at hand. Effective training of contact center staff should include how and under what circumstances to recommend a product or service to a customer as effectively as staff might do in person in a branch.

However, having a customer relationship management system that tracks when, how and where cross-sales offers are made to customers across both branch and digital channels will prevent staff from making multiple or marketing offers to customers, retail services experts say. About 70 percent of buying decisions are influenced by whether customers believe they are being treated fairly and well, according to D. Scott Andrick, director of retail banking for Pegasystems Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., company that develops software to automate customer interactions.

More broadly, customer interactions over every communication channel at contact centers should be designed and monitored to ensure customers have the right experiences in keeping with their bank’s brand. Minnucci recommends training contact center staff to perform well—in addition to channel etiquette—in cross-selling, efficiently resolving calls, preventing call backs, and providing accurate information to customers about products and services.

Phil Britt is a financial freelance writer in Illinois.