This new role is not a traditional sales approach through outbound telemarketers
or direct sales agents. Instead contact centers are being challenged to reinvent
themselves as dynamic, agile sales organizations while conducting ongoing customer
service. This challenge is one where the frontline must have an integrated,
unified view of each client where it really counts the most – at the point
of contact with the customer.
The Issue: Reinventing Contact Centers for Sales and Service
Driven by intense competition both locally and globally, financial services
organizations continue to reinvent themselves through new customer and channel
strategies. This transformation is creating a pressing need to align changing
business models with today's dynamic technology services in contact centers.
The market forces for this transformation are globalization, technology and:
- A compelling need to do more with less: to increase profits while reducing
operational, staffing and IT costs,
- An increase in expectations to deliver consistently higher returns on current
IT portfolios and more closely align business, technology and human resources
to better reflect new business dynamics,
- A growing necessity to exploit the power of the Internet and other channels
to deliver a new generation of compelling, personalized services directly
to valued customers; and significantly reduce the cost of providing an attractive
range of core services to the average client.
Across the industry customers are demanding flexible, sophisticated financial
solutions, timely advice, and more personal services. These demands are already
redefining the landscape for financial institutions and adding competitive pressure
on them. The result places emphasis on just how these companies will improve
service to existing customers through better management of customer relationships,
to leverage these relationships to generate revenue opportunities, and to expand
the customer base through new products and services.
The transformation of the contact center from a service organization only to
both a service and sales organization continues to test financial institutions
not prepared for the shift. Despite ongoing investments in new technology, the
efficiency and effectiveness of financial services’ contact centers, which
comprise nearly 23% of the entire U.S. contact centers market, lags behind most
other industries (Anton, Dr. Jon. “eBusiness Best Practices for All Industries,”
Benchmark Portal, February 2004). In addition, the annual American Customer
Satisfaction Index summarizes the customer satisfaction across industries and
found that by the end of 2005, the customer satisfaction index for financial
institutions dropped 2% to 73.4%, lower than several other industries in the
Numerous industry factors that impact contact center operations include:
- Labor Costs – U.S. contact centers spend nearly 70 percent of their
budgets on personnel; whereas, agents in the Philippines and India make up
60 percent of operating costs. (“Transformation in the Contact Center
Environment.” IBM Executive Brief. 2004).
- Mergers and Acquisitions – Ongoing M&A require contact centers
to adapt to new products, services, processes, and technology to provide service
- Compliance and Legislation – New rules and procedures from Do Not
Call legislation and other regulatory measures are required in financial services.
- Training and Agent Productivity – The cost of hiring a new agent for
a financial services contact center is higher than other industries at an
average of $15,280. (Anton, Dr. Jon. “eBusiness Best Practices for All
Industries,” Benchmark Portal, February 2004.)
- Multiple Contact Centers – Management of contact centers need to continue
to manage business processes and infrastructures between contact centers parallel
with organizational changes.
The Challenge: Finding a Unified, Enterprise View of Each Customer
A major contributor to these problems is the lack of a unified, comprehensive
view of each customer in the contact center caused by an infrastructure incapable
of supporting such a view. In reaction to these problems, financial institutions
have spent nearly $7 billion dollars on customer-focused solutions such as Customer
Relationship Management (CRM) projects according to the Fineos Group (“CRM:
Getting It Right, At Last,” January 2005). Although it provides a better
picture of their customers, in some instances CRM products and services have
added to the complexity of existing systems within the organization and in many
cases, CRM has not been fully integrated into the infrastructure.
In addition to CRM, other legacy systems such as those acquired through M&A,
developed in-house, or purchased in the past, add to the complexity of the infrastructure
further constraining service delivery. The contact center agent is required
to learn numerous applications and navigate through additional screens to complete
tasks in order to provide quality customer service. The end result is longer
calls, fewer satisfied customers, and less sales revenues.
Many organizations have focused on creating a unified view of their customers
through integration. Although some systems are integrated over time, there are
limitations and drawbacks to some solutions:
- Time – Typical integration projects tend to take months or years to
complete thus limiting their effectiveness. The technology or business processes
may change making the integration effort obsolete.
- Cost – Efforts to integrate systems can be very costly to begin, implement,
- Application Specific – Integration technology may be limited to address
specific platforms and/or applications.
- Invasive – The integration effort may involve initial and ongoing
modifications to application codes or new applications may need to be developed
to complete the effort.
- Downtime – Server-side integration efforts require complicated network
infrastructures and increase downtime when integrated systems such as portals
are not available.
- Risk – In server-side and composite integration solutions, you are
emulating the behavior of legacy applications in a new composite client. These
types of integration require that that all business processes and data components
at the server be captured. If you leave something out, the old processes are
- Flexibility – Solutions that integrate systems must be agile to meet
ongoing operational needs and changing business requirements. The tools agents
use must respond quickly to service issues and be changed in a timely manner
when necessary. In the same manner, the technology must be quickly configurable
to meet business needs when new products and services are offered.
A Desktop Solution: Integration at the Point of Contact
A better solution in addressing these limitations and drawbacks is to integrate
applications where they are used – at the agent desktop. Desktop integration
is a more effective approach to organizing the agent work environment, streamlining
processes, and reducing the amount of time the agent spends to complete tasks.
In addition, desktop integration is non-invasive and does not require any server-side
integration thereby reducing integration costs and lowering implementation time
from months to weeks.
Figure 1 - An Integrated Desktop with Disparate Applications creates a Unified
Desktop integration improves customer service by eliminating redundant data
entry, streamlining processes, and organizing application screens logically.
Fortune 500 financial services companies that use desktop integration have also
addressed major organizational and training issues related to mergers, acquisitions,
and other changing business needs. This type of integration has proven invaluable
in reducing agent call times, allowing them to focus on cross-sell and up-sell
opportunities with customers. Desktop integration also provides a method for
enforcing rules related to compliance and business requirements, reducing call
transfers, and increasing first call resolution. Finally, desktop integration
allows financial institutions to be more agile in regards to how technology
is implemented and used. New applications can easily be integrated with legacy
systems while only exposing certain screens, data, and processes of those applications
for the agent. Consequently, the agent desktop is organized in a task-oriented
environment focused on providing a higher level of service.
Figure 2 - A Customized Integrated Desktop
Desktop integration has a proven track record in financial services contact
centers in improving the use of technology, improving customer service, reducing
costs, and improving revenue opportunities. In one contact center where desktop
integration was implemented using Cicero, a unified integrated desktop was implemented
in just six weeks to three hundred agents. The average call times were reduced
on average over three minutes allowing agents to spend more time with customers
and take more calls. At the same time the call center rolled out a new application,
Cicero was used to integrate it with other applications minimizing training
and impacts to contact center operations. The savings due to improved agent
productivity and shorter call times in a single contact center are approximately
$1.5 million in a single year.
The Future: The Integrated Service-Sales Contact Center
As financial institutions continue to search for technology solutions that
provide integrated, unified views of customer information in addition to other
sales tools that will allow them to improve customer service and expand sales
opportunities in the contact centers, they will be faced with more challenges
by not examining the agents’ working environment. Oftentimes, new technologies
such as CRM are installed on the agent desktop along with additional training
in the hope that these tools will improve productivity and provide new revenue.
These new applications:
- Add to the complexity of the agent working environment
- Increase the training need for agents
- Are costly and take months to implement
- Are not fully integrated with existing legacy systems and across lines
- May not provide the flexibility to adjust to changes in the business
- Are oftentimes not rules-based to ensure compliance and ascertain that
cross-sell and up-sell opportunities are fully exploited
Desktop integration eliminates these drawbacks by integrating and empowering
CRM systems and other sales tools with the existing infrastructure. For example,
at the optimum point during a customer interaction, screen-pops or other actions
could force the agent to offer the customer a new product or service. Legacy
data, IVR, real time, and other applications across channels and lines of business
can also be integrated with the CRM or existing systems to reduce data entry,
navigation, and processes. Finally, desktop integration reduces training by
only providing the information, screens, and procedures necessary to provide
customer service. Routines and other context-specific help can be integrated
into the desktop to guide agent through specific processes and screens.
Desktop integration takes advantage of each interaction with every customer
by improving productivity and providing the information to sell new products
and services where it has the greatest impact – at the point of contact.
As financial institutions integrate service and sales into their contact centers,
the technology that not only focuses on business goals but also how the agent
works will be the most profitable.