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Friday, April 19, 2024

ANGER management

There’s no better test of a company’s customer service than when things go wrong – which is why banks need a sophisticated, scalable case management platform, says Aptean’s General Manager of Compliance Solutions, Martin Wagstaff, and Chief Technology Officer Jenny Peng

You’ve a problem accessing your bank account online. You call telephone banking for help and listen to some Mozart for 10 minutes. When you get through to an adviser, their system is down, so they can’t see your details. You’re passed to another department and have to start all over… the problem is at last resolved, only for you to be locked out again and you’re obliged to repeat the whole thing from the beginning. It’s the worst kind of Groundhog Day.

This is the sort of nightmare customer service that might prompt a rational customer to switch banks – which, since 2013, has been made a whole lot easier in the UK, thanks to the Current Account Switch Service.

Eighty thousand TSB customers decided to do just that when they were frozen out of their accounts for days following the bank’s disastrous IT migration to a new core banking system in April 2018. Despite adding more than 300 complaint handlers to the customer service team to deal with the crisis, high call volumes, long wait times and inadequate responses couldn’t stop the bank haemorrhaging accounts. The saga eventually cost TSB £330million and chief executive Paul Pester his job.

Inevitably, customer anger following the meltdown spilled out on social media. But in an era of instant venting even one person’s poor experience can cause long-term reputational damage to a bank.

“Most banks provide the same products and services, so one of the big differentiators is the experience customers get from their bank,” observes Martin Wagstaff, general manager of compliance solutions at US-based enterprise software specialist Aptean. And it’s when things go wrong, of course, that the quality of that experience is truly tested, which is where Aptean’s complaints handling solution Respond comes in.

Though not exclusively developed for financial services, the software, which can be run on premise or in the Cloud, has gained traction across the industry, including in the UK, where banks are now forced by regulators to disclose system outages. That applies as much to the  challengers as established financial institutions, but the app-first challenger banks’ focus on customer service has left many traditional providers in the UK and elsewhere scrambling to catch up.

One of the key advantages of the Aptean Respond software is that it gives complaint handlers an instant overview of the customer’s case notes, which are attached to the complaint journey, so any member of staff can immediately assess the problem. Questionnaires that are specific to the customer’s issue follow its resolution to gain feedback on the process. And the software generates data analytics to hopefully avoid a recurrence.

Aptean’s clients range from small businesses with a handful of users up to Tier 1 banks, according to Aptean’s chief technology officer Jenny Peng.

“A key ingredient for having a great customer experience is consistency across the various ‘grabs’, so the experience is as good with customer service person A as it is with person B,” says Peng.

“There is a predictive element, too; the system can flag up the severity of a problem before a handler picks up the case so that they understand the customer sentiment, and can assess the degree of frustration  and engage in a conversation in an appropriate way.”

Wagstaff adds: “The key difference between the customer surveys we issue after a problem has been dealt with and those issued by some of our competitors is that ours are contextualised to the problem. So, when a survey is sent out to a customer, more insight into how the issue was dealt with is gained in order to improve processes.

“Secondly, the survey information is aligned with the complaint and case data. Root cause analysis is one of the key things that we drive from Aptean Respond. We make sure we understand what the learnings are from each complaint and consolidate them. This information is then provided to management so that changes can be made.”

Once the data and feedback is gathered, the numbers can be crunched to spot trends and make predictions on complaint patterns. This may pinpoint specific problems, or identify larger trends based on time or geography.

Peng says: “There’s so much you can learn from the data gathered. There may be seasonal patterns to the complaints coming in and you could use that to predict complaint volumes so that the workforce can be adjusted accordingly.

“Or you could use the data to spot a regional pattern. That could become an indicator of a national index, in terms of satisfaction in the banking industry, or for certain institutions or services.”

Aptean also provides a feature for managers to analyse staff performance in complaints handling. Its Quality Accelerator module for Respond is billed as a ‘risk-based, real-time quality assurance process’ and can ensure teams are providing satisfactory service.

“It gives the managers the ability to see that best practice is followed, and identify any mistakes so that training plans or improvement measures can be implemented,” says Peng.

“On the flip side, it also gives managers the ability to spot the employees who are doing a fantastic job – the ones providing a superb customer experience and really driving the company’s brand. Being able to highlight those individuals and provide proper recognition is a method of retaining top employees. And it’s done through having tangible measurements that can then be used as an example of best practice for other staff.”

Aptean Respond can be employed alongside other software to boost a company’s knowledge of its customers, as Wagstaff explains: “Customer issues come through multiple channels, whether that’s social media or self-service, or  through call centres and so on, and by bringing that together through Aptean Respond, and consolidating it with your customer relationship management solution, you can build a 360-degree view of the customer and analyse their interactions with you. That provides real insight.

“We often find the big banks are leveraging both a traditional customer relationship management (CRM) system and complaints management solution, and building an interface between the two that allows them to maximise the power of both.

“As an example, if a staff member is using a CRM to validate a customer through the call centre and the customer then raises a complaint, from the CRM the employee can launch straight into Respond but pull all the details through. Likewise, through the case and complaint journey, Respond will update back to the CRM on the status of these interactions.

“Both the CRM and Respond are used to their full potential and the company builds a complete picture of the customer.”

But what happens when things go catastrophically wrong, as happened with TSB?

With the Aptean Cloud solution, which is based on Amazon Web Services (AWS), comes the potential to rapidly scale up in response to major outages when, for whatever reason, complaint
volumes soar.

Peng concedes that the escalation in complaints, such as the one TSB experienced would be ‘very challenging for any business to take on’, but a Cloud option provides such elasticity. The software can handle and combine multiple communication channels, such as social media, phone or a customer self-service portal. And it can communicate out, via email, ‘social media post, text or the traditional posted letter.

“When there are peak hours or major complaints, we’re able to scale and adapt to the business needs at the snap of a finger,” says Peng. “That’s the advantage of working with vendors like us, to be able to address business needs depending on the season, or specific things that are happening for the business, and be able to expand or reduce the service as necessary.”

She adds: “Aptean Respond is targeted at specialist complaint handlers and we’re seeing a lot of them moving to the Cloud. Approximately 20 per cent of our customers have adopted the Cloud solution and it accounts for about 80 per cent of our new business.

“Being hosted on AWS gives us the scale and the storage, and takes care of a lot of the certifications we need. A Cloud-based solution has a lot of advantages for a business, too – they don’t have to worry about a lot of the IT and infrastructure for a start and staff are freed up to invest their time on what really matters, which is tackling their own particular business challenges.”


This article was published in The Fintech Finance Magazine: Issue #12, Page 24 & 25.

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