There have never been so many ways for customers to do their banking. Of course, they can walk into a local branch or call a toll-free number, but they might also access their accounts through a mobile app or roll up to a video ATM and connect with a specialist based several states away.

In order to retain and grow a healthy customer base, most financial institutions today need to do some combination of each of the above — and more.

As a collaboration strategist, when I get a call from a bank or a credit union, it’s not usually because things are working great. My first question is always about how the current processes are working out, and frequently, I get a 30-minute-plus response detailing the many kinks in the system.

Once the problems are identified, though, we can start driving toward a solution.

Creating Cutting-Edge Call Centers

One popular channel or customer communication point is the call center. Call centers allow financial institutions to create a pool of experts who are available to all customers, regardless of geography, and who focus on specific skills or tasks. But sometimes I hear from clients whose customers are hanging up before they reach a representative. That’s a huge red flag.

New call center technology is available that can help cut down on the frustration that results in hang-ups or what is termed “abandon rate.” Intelligent call routing is one option to address this: If customer X usually calls about issue Y, the system can automatically route customer X’s call to an appropriate representative. Or, the incoming call can trigger a computerized check of the customer’s accounts to flag the most likely reason for the call. Intelligent redial is another option, one that allows a customer whose call drops inadvertently to call back and get the same representative, instead of working back through a series of menus only to reach a different representative and start over from the beginning. And when it comes to security, it’s hard to beat voice printing — a type of voice biometric that allows a customer to be securely identified by speaking a sentence already on file.

Moving Beyond Customer Engagement as a Buzzword

Of course, call centers are only one of many channels that financial institutions offer their customers. Finding the right mix of channels requires asking the right questions. When I speak with bank representatives about their goals, we have to get past the jargon. “Branch of the future,” for example, sounds great, but what it means for an individual bank depends on its expectations around historic customer demographics, who is served now, and who will be served in the future.

Banking is, by nature, a conservative field, meaning the adoption curve for new technologies is sometimes slow and calculated driven by the role security and customer perception play in their business. Ultimately, though, as we figure out how to incorporate a range of technologies into banking, financial institutions will reap the rewards of stronger customer relationships. I for one am excited about direct-to-customer video conferencing. Adoption is just underway, and it links customers straight to a representative, like OnStar for your savings account. It’s a great example of how technology can create a better, more human relationship with customers. When you’re asking to be trusted with a person’s money and data, relationships are critical. I love helping banks find ways to build those connections.

Click here to check out the different ways that CDW is moving financial services forward.

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