Many organizations still view customer service as a cost of doing business. As a result, they focus mostly on improving the speed and efficiency of customer care. But about one in five are taking a different approach to customer service: They view it not as a cost center but as a value creator 

We have observed that these organizations are achieving 3.5x more revenue growth while spending about the same percentage of their revenue on service. These are among the findings of new Accenture cross-industry research on End-to-Endless Customer Service—and the banking industry is no exception. 

We found that banks that lead in the provision of services are moving beyond the traditional, reactive “service center” model. They are embedding service when and where it’s needed to create value and drive higher growth.  

A fast-forward to digital requires banks to reposition customer service as an enabler of sales. And having a digital sales flow relies on effective and seamless customer service. Banks that have pushed products and services into digital channels without reimagining their service have experienced significantly more bounce-back to their branches and contact centers. 

The key takeaway? If you’re still focusing solely on service speed, efficiency and cost, it’s time to explore a new mindset.  

Banks that embrace service as a value creator see it as more than a problem-solving function. For them, service is a mindset that empowers the institution to anticipate and address issues before customers reach out for help.

As in all customer relationships, initial interactions—from the first offer to opportunity origination—is about setting expectations. Everything during and after sales should be about delivering the brand promise and experience.  

Three service-led pathways to higher growth and greater innovation 

How can retail banks emulate the success of the service innovators we identified through our research? Accenture’s analysis points to three pathways to end-to-endless customer service: 

1. Grow trust with proactive, predictive service 

 Banks that embrace service as a value creator see it as more than a problem-solving function. For them, service is a mindset that empowers the institution to anticipate and address issues before customers reach out for help. 

 Accenture’s survey found that B2C customers place a high value on proactive service but are being underserved by their banks. For example, 73% of customers consider it important for their bank to anticipate a potential issue before it becomes a problem. Similarly, 70% believe their bank should proactively communicate with them about such issues. Yet customers reported that their banks are less effective at delivering these proactive services (49% and 51%, respectively).  

Banks have many opportunities to become more predictive and proactive. One example is “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) point-of-sale financing. In this case, great service isn’t just about a fast, efficient loan closing process. It’s about sensing when a customer is making a purchase, determining loan affordability and making the funds available at checkout. It saves the customer time and effort and, more importantly, helps prevent unintended consequences. The BNPL proposition has enjoyed rapid uplift because it addresses the contextual need. But if customer care and service aren’t properly designed, many BNPL customers can end up with daily paybacks due to different-day purchases. That, in turn, will complicate their cash management. And if they miss paybacks, they will also create credit risk issues.  

Another example is the ability to detect when a customer’s credit card is blocked in an ATM. Rather than requiring a call to customer service, banks can dynamically create and send a QR code to enable the customer’s transaction at the ATM. 

A greater focus on customers is essential to defining these and other common triggers for service—and then activating advanced monitoring to get ahead of these needs. The goal is to deliver service that’s so predictive and proactive that it seems “invisible” (and becomes invaluable) to your customers. 

2. Grow usage by helping customers get more value  

The Accenture study affirmed that B2B and B2C customers alike want the support of a “trusted advisor” who helps them get more value from the services and products they purchase. In fact, we found that B2C customers are twice as likely to purchase more from a provider whose service organization helps them maximize the value of their products. 

Among retail banking respondents, 92% of B2B customers reported having a dedicated resource working on their behalf. By contrast, just over half of B2C customers (53%) said they have access to a dedicated resource; 55% said they would like that option.  

Data is essential to serving as a trusted advisor at scale. It helps in understanding not just the what and when of customer needs but also the why. That context can inform more relevant and effective recommendations and support.  

Being data-driven can be a source of differentiation. But a bank won’t differentiate itself unless it harnesses data for the benefit of customers. Consider using data for credit risk scoring as opposed to helping a customer improve their risk score. Though driven by similar data sets, these require totally different mindsets and positioning for customer service. 

Another example: when a customer makes a payment toward a vacation, there is an opportunity for the bank to step in and help orchestrate other aspects of that experience. By being the embedded banking service provider in a hotel or flight booking, a bank can have visibility of upcoming vacation plans and can propose more personalized offers. It might be an alert that asks the customer if they want to start saving more in the weeks leading up to the trip; a proactive service related to the customer’s temporary location; or services related to fraud prevention and lost/stolen cards. 

3. Grow possibility with service-generated insights 

Every day, banks generate terabytes of data—information from transactions, loan applications and more. Even a simple interaction like depositing a check at a local branch creates a data point which a bank can use to better understand customer needs and identify marketplace trends. 

Our research found that some banks are leaning into service-generated insights as part of product development and innovation. In fact, the more often service is involved in product development, the greater the potential for revenue growth. About one in five service leaders from retail banks indicated that they always use their service channels to influence product development and new offerings. Another 35% said they often do so. 

For banking players, non-linear models (think: embedded finance, super-apps and banking as a service) will be key for future growth and will enable the capture of data and customer intent. Banks need to understand the intent of the customer and respond accordingly. The ability to configure products and services aligned with the customer’s need in a cost-effective way will be key, no matter which business model the bank adopts. Consider an embedded finance provider behind a bigtech. Imagine a customer encountering an issue as they try to pay for an item using consumer lending. In that case, the banking player’s customer service should be ready to solve the problem.  

In the past, sales and service were separate functions; today they collectively deliver on the brand promise. Being contextual in the moment and enabling hyper-personalization will require an end-to-end view of all interactions. This will also result in differentiated engagements and experiences. The question is no longer which organizational function is delivering these differentiated experiences, but rather to whom and when they are being delivered.  

To explore how your financial services organization can embrace this new service mindset to grow trust, grow usage and grow possibility, reach out to me. To learn more about the research, read the full report, End-to-Endless Customer Service: 

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Disclaimer: This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our professional advisors. Copyright© 2022 Accenture. All rights reserved. Accenture and its logo are registered trademarks of Accenture.