Accenture Banking Blog

One of the things I hear most from our banking clients today is that, as they increasingly adopt digital technologies, they are concerned about losing personal connections. Historically, banks have been relationship-based organizations that understood customers on an individual level—and while technology is opening up new opportunities across the ecosystem, it is also removing the personal touch from the relationship. What’s more, we notice that organic growth is stronger in markets where banks combine digital with human channels. So what can banks do to help ensure customers don’t become mere points in a dataset, and that they remain distinct individuals recognized as having their own goals and status?   

In our work at Accenture, we’ve helped many leading banks unlock the potential of technology to better understand customers. Through this, we’ve identified core steps that can be taken so those customers feel that they are seen, appreciated, and understood, all while facilitating a more streamlined banking experience, reflective of the world as we know it now. In my last post, I looked at the first two—anticipating customer needs at the zero moment of truth and building empathy into your digital skillset. But there is more that can be done, namely:  

  • Transforming contact centers into empathetic customer care hubs; and 
  • Reinventing branches as empathetic experience centers. 

Creating empathetic care hubs

While technology is allowing for broader customer access, the risk remains that customers will wind up waiting for service in long phone queues or interacting with a different agent each time they contact the bank—experiences that weaken the empathetic touch. To resolve this, several leading banks are transforming their contact centers into empathetic customer care hubs. To do this, we’ve identified three key success factors:

  1. Click/tap on image to enlarge, Source: Accenture’s 2021 Banking on Empathy report

    Shift conversations to (human) chat as the primary way that customers interact with the bank. (Human) chat is more convenient for customers because it spares them extended phone queues and allows for an asynchronous experience—and for the bank, it’s more scalable than voice calls since agents can handle multiple service requests at once and it allows a larger opportunity for automation.

  2. Augment customer care centers with digital capabilities to promote an empathetic banking experience without requiring physical face-to-face interaction. Virtual agents can help advisors quickly access customer information while enabling them to offer recommendations that show they are listening and understanding the customer’s problem.
  3. Combine customer care staff and resources from the back office, service center, branch and contact center into a unified customer care capability. These virtual customer care hubs will be able to help customers in a more seamless and agile manner, reducing wait times and allowing effective routing to improve first call resolution.

As product differentiation is increasingly difficult, banks that get their customer engagement responses wrong could see their market share shrink, while those that make the right moves could gain share, building lasting customer relationships.

USE CASE: Recognizing emotion through technology

A subsidiary of Société Générale uses emotion recognition technology at its call center for real-time emotion analytics and analysis of consumer behavior. The bank also collects and processes behavioral data and can detect customer satisfaction by how they speak, which is used to drive the call and help make decisions.

Reinventing branches into empathetic experience centers

The branch of the future will be far from the most important distribution channel for most banks. However, the customer interactions that take place here will be among those that matter most to the customer’s experience with and perception of the bank. Our Global Banking Consumer Study revealed that just 8% of consumers trust neobanks “a lot” to look after their long-term financial wellbeing, while 29% still trust their current bank to do the same. The main difference is the “physical” presence and the brand value it drives.

Some empathetic banks are reinventing their branches as experience centers where customers and community members can learn, network and connect in a comfortable and inspiring setting. Customer engagements in these hubs might focus on improving access and financial inclusion. Additionally, some banks are creating hubs for the local small business community, or personal finance education centers in neighborhoods where fewer people have bank accounts.

Empathetic experience centers present the opportunity for banks to create branches that serve their customers on a deeper level, re-establishing the personal connection that many people desire. They are a chance to engage, learn and deliver on the promise of empathy.

USE CASE: Empathetic care hubs in action

Capital has expanded its Capital One Café concept from the early days to now more than 55 outlets across the country. The concept is pretty simple: providing a more casual environment that helps people be more at ease when discussing finances, which for most is really stressful. Moving the focus of the branches away from transactions and financial chores towards a winning combination of a great digital experience and the in-person connection has been the key to the success of the concept.

Banking on empathy

The growing maturity of today’s AI solutions, paired with customers’ increased willingness to use digital channels even for complex interactions, gives banking leaders the opportunity to not only offer more personalized services and experiences, but to do so at scale. By accelerating their transition to a single, unified model, these banks will be able to gain a sustainable competitive advantage.

To learn more about our services and our research on the subject, please register to read our full report “Banking on Empathy: Engaging with customers in a more human way”. Read report

You can also contact me here to discuss empathetic banking at your organization.

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