It's Time to Kill the Call Center — and Make Way for the Virtual Branch
Part II in the BVS 'The Branch in a Digital World' Series.
Call centers were developed to support bank and credit union account holders outside of the branch. Yet, call centers often embody what's failing with the self-service model in financial institutions.
In line with the philosophy of self-service, call centers are built on convenience and speed. The performance of call center staff is measured almost solely on volume — how fast can they get the inquiry resolved, and how many calls can they field on a given day.
Call centers are the antithesis of the connections that retail financial institutions yearn to have with their clients. This is especially true as the pandemic accelerates disconnection from the physical branch, where face-to-face interactions help strengthen relationships.
The call center is obsolete. What banks and credit unions really need is something like a Virtual Branch.
The Virtual Branch is a natural evolution of the call center. It brings together the call center's convenience — which remains desirable, given individuals' comfort with mobile/online channels for most transactions — with the service, trust and care that the in-branch experience provides.
In this new model, success is measured not by volume, but by the quality of each interaction. Quality is subjective of course, but ultimately these interactions need to reflect the values of your institutions.
In the spirit of convenience and quality, a Virtual Branch should be built around various methods for account holders and prospects to reach the human expert they need through text, email, phone or video. This is about meeting the consumer where they're most comfortable connecting with the businesses they trust.
Given the familiarity that most individuals have with the likes of Zoom and Google Hangouts after various lockdowns, video connections may end up being the most promising route. Nonetheless, offering a variety of different contact points will be a more valuable, responsive approach.
For retail financial institutions, the call center is essentially a clearing house where callers hope the person on the other end will be able to help them. As Forest Gump reminded us about a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.
On the other hand, while a Virtual Branch can handle general inquiries, its success is based on having well trained experts available who can handle various specific service and product needs.
As with in-branch interactions, customer engagement through a Virtual Branch needs to be based around knowledge and relationship. This then begs the question: who should be staffing a Virtual Branch?
Think about that and join us for our next blog.