Reducing Contact Center Hold Times to Improve Service

The continuing coronavirus pandemic is pushing banks to think even more productively about how they can help their customers.

American workers are increasingly concerned about their ability to stay current on credit card and mortgage payments as workplaces continue to close and more jobs are lost amid Covid-19 uncertainty. What products and services can banks offer customers to offset their financial burden and address or alleviate their worries? Plainly, there’s never been a better opportunity for banks to focus on deepening their relationship with the customer.

Today’s bank looks a bit different than the bank of six months ago. Six months ago, customers willingly moved in and out of bank branches, offering many touch points with which the bank could engage with them and vice versa. Now, branch foot traffic is declining significantly, and the contact center has become the dominant human touchpoint.

The shift in demand means that some banks are struggling to efficiently answer basic customer service queries, let alone deal with unique and complex scenarios. Many institutions are offering the most basic customer experience at best. At worst, they are offering a terrible experience, with customers complaining of hold times lasting hours during Covid-19’s onset.

This is a problem for banks for many reasons. Customers don’t want to sit on hold for an extended period (if at all) for nearly anything, especially to get an answer to a simple question. And most of the questions are in fact simple. Our call driver data shows that approximately 70% of customer service queries are basic or transactional: routine requests for information and actions on an existing customer account. Not surprisingly, the most common requests are account access issues — typically a password reset or login confusion.

The next largest group, making up 25% of all requests, are complex. These are customer specific problems or special cases that require detailed attention and assistance to resolve. In these circumstances, the customer often has already attempted other digital methods of finding the answer before reaching for live help. These situations offer the opportunity to provide personal service with a warm human touch, cementing customer loyalty to the institution. This is where customer experience reputations are made and where customer service agents can really shine.

But customers with routine requests are forced to sit on hold when they don’t want to, and those with complex requests who need to speak with an agent can’t do so efficiently because agents are stuck servicing routine requests, according to our recent data report. Banks can solve this problem in two ways: they could hire more customer service agents to reduce wait times or they can automate certain functions using AI.

Handling transactional queries with a conversational chatbot offers the highest value to the customer and to the bank. Instead of hiring more agents, banks can free up the time of existing agents by offloading routine tasks. Contact center agents can focus on more complex or high-value problems, supporting more consumers with the same resources. A large bank reported that their AI chatbot halves the average handling time for customer inquiries, saving customers an average of 12 minutes per chat when handled by the bot.

To get started, banks shouldn’t look at conversational banking as a niche channel but as an important part of their overall customer experience strategy. Consumers no longer decide where to bank based on whether there’s a branch nearby. Banks need to look deeper, creating meaningful engagement with their customers. Excellent customer service is the baseline.