By Nick Cole, Managing Director, Go Inspire Solutions, explains how financial services businesses can reduce some of the pressure on contact centres by redesigning documentation – and save significantly in the process.
Restrictions on face-to-face contact has placed greater pressure on contact centres during the pandemic. In the US, for instance, overall call volumes to the contact centre climbed 300% in the early stages of the health crisis. Higher pressure may be affecting adviser attrition, which increased from 15% to 21% in the UK, through 2020 and into 2021. Maintaining strong customer experience while managing greater demand and worries about agent capacity must be a priority for businesses, to avoid the prospect of dissatisfied callers looking to competitors for their services. In the financial services sector, an additional challenge is the complexity of queries, which means agents may require a certain level of expertise and calls may be longer than in other sectors – driving up overall costs.
Solutions for reducing call centre costs
Businesses looking to bring down overall costs and improve efficiency are likely to consider digital tools as their first port of call, such as solutions powered by artificial intelligence. This is certainly important and worthwhile; one provider cites the case of a credit card company which was able to cut call volumes by 30%, through introducing a virtual assistance and chat solution. However, it is also valuable to consider how efficiencies can be made at other touchpoints in the customer journey, outside of the contact centre itself.
Where do customers go before picking up the phone? If customers are able to get the information they need as early as possible, they are less likely to need further assistance, or at least they may have a more precise question following initial research. Information that is easy to find and as clear as possible can reduce call volumes and duration, allowing agents to spend more time supporting customers with more complicated questions, or those who prefer to speak to someone directly. Conversely, a lack of clarity in information documents may lead to customers needing more explanation or support.
It may seem obvious, but many businesses are likely to invest in new technology before thinking of redesigning their documentation. Yet reassessing information documents has a significantly lower financial impact than digital tools, while producing an immediate return on investment.
Redesigning documents: a case study
To ensure this argument could be supported with hard data, Go Inspire carried out randomised control trials (RCTs) with financial services clients. The example below outlines the experience of one general insurance client, which had 1.55 million customers across the UK at the time of the study.
Documents to review: The company had an application process which could be considered as complex as applications in personal loans, mortgages or credit cards, and required a similar level of accuracy checking.
- Analyse documentation for applications for clarity and comprehensiveness.
- Test multiple design options to find a format that made the information easy to read and absorb.
- Begin using the new selected format.
- Compare outcomes to the ‘control’ of the original document format and contact centre call volumes.
Results: A 9% reduction in inbound call volumes, representing a baseline net saving of some £270,000 per annum and a rapid return on investment of over 15 times.
The results of RCTs carried out with Go Inspire clients were used to create a model for the wider financial industry, specifically, the general and life insurance, mortgage, credit card and personal loan sectors. According to this model, financial services businesses could be reducing contact centre call costs by over £47 million every year by redesigning documentation. In fact, this is a conservative estimate, since it does not include other savings that are made by optimising documentation, such as reduced letter production.
Post-pandemic customer service
Many commentators expect post-pandemic behaviours to remain to some extent, meaning that contact centres will need be at the top of their game. Alongside intelligent investments in technology, revising documentation is a simple, low-cost solution for simultaneously improving customer service and reducing pressure on agents. The pandemic has triggered multiple behavioural changes within the customer base, such as greater use of online channels, and so strengthening customer service across all possible touchpoints is likely to have a positive impact on retention, particularly in the highly competitive financial sector.
Find Go Inspire’s report, Enquiries Down: A study on reducing call volumes with information redesign in the UK financial services sector, here.