How Remote Experts Increase Customer Loyalty

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When you walk into a store and there is no help onsite, do you leave? If so, what’s your threshold for finding help when your money is involved?

Research has shown that 70 percent of banking consumers will leave a bank branch (and not return) if they ask for help and it is not readily available. It’s called “revenue leakage.”

A financial service, including banking, is a multifaceted business with many different disciplines. Each one—from wealth management and financial planning to mortgages and business loans—is integral to the health and vitality to these organizations, contributing significantly to the institution’s bottom line. However, even large banks that have a number of specialists such as financial planners or mortgage specialists may not necessarily have them available at the right locations at the right time - according to the customer’s convenience. It’s hard to provide the same level of competency and resources at every branch location. Customers coming in to a branch office are frequently asked to return at another time because the required experts are shuttling around to multiple locations to lend their expertise, or even not exist in that region at all.

Think about it: as a customer, how would you feel if you were asked to return three days later, or next week, to discuss your finances? Many customers simply accept this situation as the status quo. But what about high-value customers? In today’s competitive financial services market, how long will these customers continue to accept these kinds of advice and service delays? For years, banks have talked about “anywhere, anytime etc ” … which is still true … however just no longer true enough, especially when customers are increasingly used to “here and now” from other industries. Whether searching, researching, comparing, selecting or buying – both over the net, and increasingly as part of a “mashop” combination of being online at the same time as being in a store. 

The Convergence of Video and an Enhanced Customer Experience

Interestingly, to combat this potential disconnect in the customer experience - “thank you for coming in, but please come back later when we’re ready for you”,- financial institutions and other customer service industries are increasingly turning toward the virtual world of remote experts and advisers to help meet the growing needs and demands of their clients. They do so to drive their own particular strategies, which include: increasing their revenue at less cost; increasing their advisor productivity; addressing their ‘revenue leakage’ of customers not coming back later; offering customers fresh innovations and new functionalities, or simply reducing branch costs by not having to dedicate expensive specialist advisor resources to a single branch or territory. This methodology also allows bigger banks to come across as smaller and more personalized. And smaller banks to come across as bigger, with a wider access to relevant specialist expertise - all at lower operating costs.

The idea is that the technology lets customers visit the branch and meet and connect with real-live experts/financial advisers using high-quality video and audio that delivers the “in-the-same-room” experience – on demand. This approach will continue to gain momentum as an effective tool for building customer relationships and loyalty across many industry verticals because:

·       The vast amount of online information has reduced the relevance of locally based “generalists.” Banks and stores now need to differentiate themselves by offering easy (immediate, informed and immersive) access to specialized knowledge.

·       Consumers are increasingly comfortable with video communication in their personal lives, and a high-quality video experience is now a cost-effective proposition for businesses.

·       Remote Experts are popping up in many other industries – health care, telephone providers, retailers – even foreign language education.

In its 2011 Private Banking Survey, McKinsey’s EMEA Banking Practice identified “interactions with bankers and specialists” as one of several key areas in which private banks and wealth managers need to take accelerated action: “While technically challenging 10 years ago, video-based interaction between advisers—or between bankers and clients, on one side, and product specialists, on the other—is now fully feasible. We expect significant piloting of new solutions . . . in the near future.”

In Practice, in the Branch?

While many major banks are in the planning stages of using video to service customers, those that have recently gone public about conducting video-based remote adviser pilots include: Bank of America Corporation (BAC), HSBC, Bank of Montreal, Citizens Bank (Royal Bank of Scotland’s subsidiary in US), Royal Bank of Canada, Citibank (Japan) Umpqua Bank, Garanti Bank and Nordic banks Danske and DnB NOR.

BAC, for example, has piloted the use of video in branches for some time, testing access to mortgage advisers and experienced service staff able to answer complex queries beyond the expertise of most tellers. In September 2010, BAC went publicabout its plans to convert a dozen branches in the Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles areas to “specialty stores,” including adviser rooms with high-definition video screens. Customers at these stores can make appointments online and, if one specialist is busy, connect with another through video conferencing, rather than waiting in line. Specialists offer advice on mortgages, investments, and small-business issues.

Bank of Montreal (BMO) is another financial institution to employ this technology. In 2010, BMO launched video-based remote expert technology, offering high-definition, branch-to-branch video capability in their retail branches and in their wealth management offices. The primary impetus for trying the technology was the bank’s wide geographic disbursement, with branches extending the length of the country. For BMO, the TelePresence video form factor made sense – having an experienced adviser traveling many miles from branch to branch was inefficient. Now, 50+ BMO Retail branches in Canada have the technology, which offers customers in one branch immediate access to financial planners and investment advisers from a bigger branch or  contact center. Through the technology, BMO is connecting financial, investment, and business advisers with remote branches located far from their offices, helping to ensure that all BMO customers have the same access to expertise.

Although the remote-adviser approach works for them, many banks remain unsure whether the initial investment in video advisers makes long-term financial sense.

Do Remote Experts Make Sense for You?

To determine whether remote advisers should play a role in a customer engagement strategy, one must consider a number of factors and perform several assessments, including:

·       Considering how the unique features of remote experts can be harnessed to fit with an institution’s strategy e.g. to drive increased revenue and sales effectiveness for your business approach, and so ensure the operational model will achieve intended goals.

·       Carefully considering how to secure internal buy-in: more than one pilot has stumbled due to unaddressed concerns of local branch managers, local advisers, or Executive ownership.

·       Analyzing and experimenting with a number of different remote expert models - for example, different business use cases/applications, different technology types, deployment in major branches versus minor branches, and cost-reduction-focused versus sales-effectiveness-focused results.

·       Driving fast to an in-market Pilot to allow the real marketplace and actual customers to point you how to best make it work for your brand’s strategies and your customers’ expectations and loyalties – rather than endless polishing of analysis and modeling, which are unlikely to deliver the perfect permutation of segment, location, form factor, product, advisor location, sales timing, compensation, transfer pricing, change management, promotion, process integration etc. etc. 

By enabling banks and stores to address consumer needs more effectively and efficiently, remote experts can become a not-so-secret weapon for innovatively boosting customer satisfaction and loyalty.

About the Author: David Morland, Director, IBSG Financial Services

With the Cisco® Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) Financial Services Practice, Morland focuses on seeding and driving fresh, innovative business ideas to boost revenue at lower costs. He has conducted a number of successful pilot programs creating multichannel customer experiences that differentiate banks in their highly competitive markets by delivering greater value to customers. He has also done a great deal of work investigating ways to increase specialist adviser productivity by using new collaboration and communications technologies.


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