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​MERJE Insights: We explore customer service in the Financial Services arena

In our latest instalment of MERJE Insights, our Front-Line Talent (FLT) Managing Consultant Sally Cordwell gives us the lowdown on the future of customer services in the Financial Services (FS) arena. This includes the latest industry trends and which roles and skills FS businesses should be hiring to meet their needs.

This is because, in the current climate, two key trends are driving the evolution of the customer experience delivered by FS brands. The first is the rise of agile new rivals, often in the Fintech realm, which is increasing competition and disrupting traditional banking models. These new players frequently base their whole business model on offering a personalised, responsive customer experience.

Secondly, digital channels are growing fast, with more and more customers moving away from face-to-face and telephone interactions, a trend fast-tracked by the pandemic.

However, many interactions within FS are complex, meaning that customers want the reassurance of speaking to an actual human.

So without further ado, Sally shares her thoughts on the current market state of play.

When you speak to FS clients, what do they normally say their FLT needs are?

They tend to want to find a candidate who has previous FS experience as it's a complicated market to both inhabit and navigate. However, some clients do offer a robust training programme so are happy to accept customer-focused individuals whom they can mould into the perfect Customer Service Advisor, Sales Agent or Collections Agent.

Most of the Financial Services clients that we deal with need the candidates to pass a DBS check, a credit check and sometimes a CIFAS check. It’s worth noting that this process has become slightly more lenient post-Covid, as long as candidates can prove they have a payment plan arranged.

Why are good FLT staff important for FS businesses?

Good FLT staff are crucial to any business, not just within FS. They are the first port of call and represent the voice of the overall company when a customer gets in contact. Great FLT staff leave people with a lasting and positive impression of a company.

Have you noticed a change in what FS institutions need from their FLT staff since the pandemic?

Whereas historically, the FLT team would have been busy dealing with customer service and sales roles, we are now seeing a much bigger demand in collections and complaint handling positions.

This is because there is currently a national shortage of candidates, which means that contact centre customers have more to complain about after feeling that their query isn’t being dealt with straight away or is being put in a queue. This has the knock-on effect of creating more of a backlog for the complaints team to get through.

Is recruiting FLT staff into Financial Services a busy area for you?

We have become very busy recruiting collections jobs for FS clients since the pandemic. I think that the demand for collections staff has increased due to people not working, being made redundant or being placed on furlough as this meant they couldn't keep up with their payments. Then there are the after-effects of Covid, along with the increase in cost of living, food and fuel prices and inflation.

Which roles and skills should FS businesses be hiring to meet their needs?

As FLT staff are the forefront of any business, FS organisations should be hiring staff to fit in with the culture and who can provide the best service to their customers.

My advice would be to hire “will over skill” and train any FLT candidate up to suit their business and its requirements. The skills needed for any agent-level role, where they are speaking with customers on a daily basis and thinking about collections, customer service and sales, would be - and is not limited to - patience, empathy, resilience, confidence, and positivity.

What sort of vacancies do you have at the moment?
  • Collections Agents

  • Complaints Handlers

  • Customer Service Advisors

  • Recoveries Agents

  • Sales Support

  • Claims Advisors

How is digitalisation changing the customer service experience in Financial Services?

AI can help businesses generate more meaningful market intelligence, including realtime information and insights to improve efficiencies and performance. This means that it works well as a back office function, along with streamlining customer-facing operations, providing instant access to peoples’ up-to-date history and interactions.

Is AI disrupting the face-to-face model?

We are moving into an increasingly online world within contact centres where organisations are embracing digital transformation and AI.

However, as intelligent as AI is, customers do still want to speak to a real person for any niche queries. AI cannot offer the bespoke, personalised service that many customers wish for.

As mentioned earlier, certain key skills are needed to make your customers feel like they are being properly looked after. You just cannot get all of this from AI and it can result in people merely feeling like a number, rather than a valued customer.

How can FS organisations overcome the challenges posed by AI and digitalisation?

AI should be used for simple functions, rather than overcomplicating processes, for example, multiple call options where people are encouraged to “press one” for this and “press two” for that. It needs to be user-friendly and ask more quickly if people want or need to speak to a real person.

AI gives the opportunity for the easier questions to be answered automatically, while the more skilled and detailed queries should be routed to the advisors.

Are traditional FS institutions keeping up with more nimble Fintechs when it comes to satisfactory customer service delivery?

The truth is, it’s difficult to cover the entire market with one answer, as some FS institutions will be better than others on service and the same goes for Fintechs.

However, I would say that most Fintechs are giving outstanding service as their USP is about making everything easier for the customer with better technology in the background, leading to a more seamless service.

I guess to summarise, the Fintechs tend to be smaller in size and may be better positioned to offer a more personal service at this stage. But the big businesses have the buying power to keep up, it may just take them a little longer to achieve the same level as quickly.

If you’re searching for the right FLT talent for your organisation, get in touch with Sally: