A Guide to Customer Service in Banking and Finance

Jun 29, 2021
Customer Experience
7 min read
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Customer service is the single most important factor in deciding whether a customer will stick with your bank or not.

The numbers support this. Research shows that 75% of a group of surveyed individuals would pick their banking service provider based on positive customer experience.

This clearly indicates how important customer service is when retaining customers in banks and financial institutions. Yet, most of them fail to do so and face numerous challenges in serving their customers.

Finance and banking are all about trust. By delivering class-leading customer service and offering relevant and meaningful financial advice, financial institutions can go a long way in improving customer loyalty.

Providing customers with all the attention they need might seem difficult at first, primarily because it may seem like it needs more costs involving personnel and operations. However, in today’s technology-driven world, financial institutions can leverage technology to take the pressure off overburdened reps and saving time and money.

But how can they leverage technology to improve customer service? Before we answer that, let us look at some of the common problems that plague customer service at financial institutions.

Table of Contents

Problems plaguing customer service in the banking and financial services sector today

Financial institutions have amongst the highest customer acquisition costs in the industry today. Banks spend nearly 5 to 10 times more on acquiring new customers than retaining existing ones. What’s more, is that they lose 75% of their customers within the first week.

It’s pretty evident that there is a gap between service delivery and customer expectations. So what’s causing these gaps? The answers might lie here.

Not being able to provide a personalized experience to every consumer

Most consumers (individuals and small businesses) see financial institutions as large, non-human entities that do not care about their individual problems. And they’re not entirely wrong. While a local bank branch might know their customers by name and provide personalized care, as banks grow into larger organized chains and move their services online, this becomes a challenge.

Financial matters are often sensitive, and every financial situation needs a tailored approach. So approaching every customer with the same generic set of questions and offering them the same set of financial solutions only makes you seem more like a machine.

Providing personalized service goes beyond just knowing a customer’s name and offering them tailored solutions. A study by Accenture shows that 48% of banking customers demand preferential treatment and rewards in exchange for their loyalty to your bank.

Leveraging AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) algorithms can help banks understand their customers better and use their technology platforms – apps and websites – to deliver personalized services to their customers.

Further, this data can also be used to create reward programs tailored to suit every customer’s needs.

Slow service delivery and long wait times

Another common area where most financial institutions fail is service delivery and wait times. Many banks rely on outsourcing support to third-party service providers to cater to customers’ requests and problems.

However, adding a layer of outsourcing only adds more hurdles and delays to a bank’s customer service process.

More often than not, when a customer calls a bank for assistance, they have to navigate through lengthy IVRs and then wait in a queue to get connected to a customer service representative. And sometimes, these customer service reps might need to route your query back to the bank or to a specialized department which only adds to customers’ wait time and frustration.

To avoid losing customers, instead of outsourcing, financial institutions can leverage technology and automation to scale customer service and control costs.

For instance, a study conducted by Juniper showed that using chatbots for customer service in banks can cut costs by $0.70 per interaction. Given the volume of interactions, this can be a pretty big incentive for financial institutions.

Falling short when resolving customer problems

Customer service problems in finance are usually a lot more complex and long drawn out compared with most B2C scenarios.

As a result, customer service reps in banks see a larger volume of queries and a longer turnaround time. And these queries cover a broad range of problems, both simple and complex.

Again, financial institutions can leverage technology to solve more straightforward issues and take some of the load off their customer service reps.

For instance, they can:

  • Provide customers with detailed FAQs and a Knowledge Base, allowing them to self-serve;
  • Use IVRs and Chatbots for help with troubleshooting, and;
  • Provide automated responses and create SLAs (Service Level Agreements) to help set customer expectations right.

While the use of technology can help solve a lot of the problems plaguing banks and financial institutions, there are several other ways that they can step up their customer service game.

We’ll take a deep dive into them in the next section.

Ways in which financial institutions can improve customer service

As we’ve mentioned above, the banking and financial industry suffers from a unique set of customer service issues. And thus, solving these problems also requires a tactical approach involving both technology and interpersonal skills.

Familiarizing all customer-facing employees with industry-specific knowledge

The first step in offering your customers a personalized experience is to have in-depth knowledge of the financial solutions you offer. This typically includes:

  • Checking and savings options
  • Certificates of deposit
  • College savings plans
  • Individual retirement accounts
  • Tax and estate planning
  • Business, personal, home and auto loans
  • Lines of credit and other credit products
  • Safe deposit boxes
  • Financial planning

Not only should all customer-facing employees be aware of the full range of services offered, but they should also be well versed with industry trends and best practices to suggest what works best for their customers.

They should have the ability to ask their customers the right questions and gauge their needs appropriately to help them make better decisions.

Clarity and transparency in communication

We’ve said this before — the foundation of banking is trust. And the best way to establish trust is by communicating clearly and transparently. So, for starters, all employees in financial institutions must avoid jargon.

Talk to your customers like how you would with a friend or a family member. Then, double-check with them every time you’re having a conversation to make sure that they understand the implications of their financial decisions.

Maintain written records of conversations to avoid misunderstandings at a later time. Some areas of banking that can be confusing include:

  • Calculating interest rates
  • Understanding various forms of overdraft protection
  • Determining which loan products are best
  • Understanding credit scores
  • Protecting against or recovering from identity theft
  • Utilizing online and remote banking options

Ensure that you walk the customer through these calculations in layperson’s terms and always be ready to explain it over and over again until they have full clarity.

Training all employees for interpersonal skills

Money is a sensitive topic for everyone, so having customer-facing employees with exceptional interpersonal skills is an asset for any financial institution.

You may find yourself in situations where you need to explain to a customer why their loan application has been denied or why a mortgage cannot be processed.

Though it’s important to be upfront and transparent in laying out options and providing explanations, one must display empathy and maintain the utmost composure. This will go a long way in helping customers feel reassured.

So banks and financial service providers must invest in training their employees to have them ready to navigate all possible scenarios. It may seem like the cost of training is eating away at the bank’s bottom line, but this will be made good by customers who stick with you because of good customer service.

Improving tech literacy among all customer-facing employees

A lot of interactions in banks today are driven by some kind of technology. Therefore, a good customer service rep should have an in-depth knowledge of the technology being used and guide the customer on using the technology platforms easily.

For example, instead of simply directing a customer to use an ATM/internet banking/mobile app, ask them first if they would like a walk-through of the platform. And if they do, then give them a simple personalized demo of the same.

One way for financial institutions to do this at scale while reducing the human intervention needed from the customer service team is to invest in video training guides and demos. Customers can watch these videos to familiarize themselves or troubleshoot the available technology platforms provided.

Making contextual data a part of your daily operations

The way forward for banks and financial institutions to survive and thrive is to leverage contextual data. In a nutshell, contextual data refers to any form of information that provides valuable context about a person/organization and an event.

In banks and financial institutions, contextual data can be used to identify behavioral patterns and gauge customer loyalty, which they can then use to improve customer relationships. The data collected can also be used to create bespoke financial solutions specifically tailored to meet the needs of every customer.

For banks and financial institutions, their most valuable sources of contextual customer data are their helpdesks and CRM (customer relationship management) software.

While banks can use CRMs to track contact details, location, social media activity, and purchasing preferences of the customer, helpdesks can be used to track their post-purchase interactions and their customer service requests.

Analytics in Hiver

Many helpdesk tools come with built-in analytics suites that can help you keep track of all your customer service KPIs without having to invest in another tool to track them.

Each piece of information can then be used to piece together a 360-degree view of the customer.

These customer profiles can help you tailor your financial products, upsell, cross-sell, create targeted marketing campaigns, and even design loyalty programs/provide preferential customer service.

Developing an omni-channel experience

It may be easy to assume that the banking world is also going mobile, given that we’re glued to our mobile phones most of the time. The numbers, however, tell a completely different story. According to this report by Reuters, 60% of Americans still prefer visiting their bank branch to open a new checking account rather than doing it via a mobile app.

To add, according to Accenture, 86% of Americans desire face-to-face interaction and will continue to visit bank branches in the future.

Most Americans still prefer visit bank branches over digital channels

This, of course, isn’t to say that banks should prioritize revamping their physical presence over their digital presence; rather, they should work towards optimizing all their data points.

A study conducted on 5000 banking customers revealed that every customer interfaces with an average of 22 touchpoints during their customer lifecycle. So, it’s only imperative that financial institutions capitalize on each of these 22 touchpoints and truly provide omnichannel customer service.

Allow your customers to self-serve

Self-service is the new customer service trend that is taking all industries by storm. To put this in context, studies have shown that 74% of customers across industries have used the self-service option for customer service. Further, 81% of customers have attempted to resolve issues independently using a product’s knowledge base before contacting a customer service rep. And despite this, the banking industry has been slow to adopt self-service.

Consumers prefer self-service

With the adoption of the self-service model, banks can reduce call volumes, support their customers 24/7, reduce wait times, and improve the customer experience by a large margin.

The first step in adopting the self-service model is creating a comprehensive knowledge base that can help your customers find information, troubleshoot problems, and resolve them, all without your customer service team having to step in.

Always solicit customer feedback

No one can anticipate the needs of your customers better than they do. After all, your customer data from your CRM and helpdesk tool can only tell you a part of the story. The other part lies with the customer. And no form of technology can magically help you read it.

It only makes sense to dive into this rich pool of information from your customer base by soliciting their feedback after every customer interaction. By doing this, you can gain insight into whether their needs are being sufficiently met, what financial products or services they’re interested in, their financial goals for the future, how their customer experience can be improved, and more.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys in Hiver

One way for banks and financial institutions to collect customer feedback after every customer service interaction is to email them with simple CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) surveys. These surveys are extremely lightweight and useful. Moreover, they can be of immense help because they can capture immediate, action-oriented feedback. This feedback can, in turn, be analyzed via the customer service helpdesk tool.

Wrapping up: Being flexible and open to change

The financial services landscape is in constant flux, with new trends and regulatory measures emerging almost every day. To ensure that your financial institution delivers the best customer experience possible, you need to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry and remain flexible to change—that means constantly looking for ways to improve and embracing new technology. By listening to your customers, keeping an open mind, and making smart investments, you can guarantee exceptional customer service at your bank or financial institute.

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Tejas Kinger is a Product Marketing Manager at Hiver. Passionate about tech, startups, and all things SaaS. Say hello on Twitter (@TejasKinger).