Improving the call centre experience in the financial services sector

Improving the call centre experience in the financial services sector


Microsoft’s Chris Caile explains how financial services organisations can develop approaches to better engage and empower their call centre agents to work effectively  

Alice Chambers |

British banking and insurance holding company NatWest Group serves 19 million customers across 12 banking and financial services brands via its network of call centres. To deliver the best possible service to customers while also protecting their data, NatWest relies on cloud-native biometric security solution Nuance Gatekeeper to monitor incoming calls and verify individuals’ identities.  

The Nuance solution streamlines the verification process. This allows contact centre agents to identify customers through natural conversation, removing the need for them to ask specific questions or request security codes or secret answers, and helping to verify customers quickly.  

NatWest Group is just one of many financial services organisations investing in Microsoft-powered technologies to empower customer service workers to work more efficiently and productively.  

“Contact centre agents who are properly trained on company policies and equipped with the right tools are able to deliver improved customer satisfaction and efficiency,” says Chris Caile, director of product marketing at Microsoft, and former director of solutions marketing and intelligent engagement at Nuance Communications, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2022.  

At the same time, customers have grown accustomed to personalised service in other industries and expect no less from their financial services providers.  

“As consumers, we are all similar,” explains Caile. “When issues arise with our bank, investment or insurance company, we call customer support and expect great service from the agents. Contact centre agents are the frontline to millions of customer interactions every day. Agents who lack the training and technology to instantly – and correctly – assist customers run the risk of hurting customer satisfaction and the business.”  

A study commissioned by Microsoft found that some UK customers are waiting for an average of eight minutes and 27 seconds to speak with a financial services representative when phoning a call centre. This is 25.35 times slower than the industry’s optimal standard for call centres, which requires agents to answer calls within 20 seconds, as reported by Caile suggests that financial services organisations should develop approaches to better engage and empower call centre agents for improved productivity.   

“Beyond traditional employee onboarding and training for contact centre agents, the leading financial institutions look closely at their technology strategy and ask themselves if they have siloed departments or data that prevents agents from serving customers,” says Caile. “If so, they need to work with a technology provider to find a solution that will successfully surface the right data to agents at the right time.  

“Other considerations include how to effectively gather and share information with context from different departments, encouraging agent collaboration, and ensuring that customer data is secure and has the right biometric authentication at the frontline to build confidence that the customers are who they say they are.”  

For example, public finance organisations are using Nuance Gatekeeper to authenticate callers. The Australian Tax Office has significantly enhanced agent productivity by using the Nuance solution to validate the identities of Australia’s eight million citizens whenever they call its contact centre. “The office’s previous authentication process required customers to provide personal details or have the correct documentation available,” says Caile. “This was time consuming for contact centre agents, amounting to a total of 75,000 agent hours annually. We’re helping to reduce every call by an average of 48 seconds, allowing agents to get on with assisting citizens.”  

Partnering for enhanced productivity  

To provide frontline financial services staff with the contextual data they need to serve customers, firms need to streamline their information retrieval processes. They must also implement advanced technology solutions that enable seamless access to real-time customer information.  

An open architecture enables banks to interact with their data better, according to Dmitri Sedov, global head of data intelligence at London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG), who explained how LSEG and Microsoft aim to reshape the future of finance at global financial services event Sibos in September 2023. Sedov highlighted how the two firms will deliver intelligent analytics solutions, available in Microsoft 365, to help financial services organisations improve the customer experience. In addition to developing artificial intelligence-driven self-service solutions to reduce incoming calls, banks will be able to unify their data by connecting with counterparts through Microsoft Teams and having access to data intelligence via Microsoft 365 Copilot.  

According to Microsoft, Copilot combs across an employee’s entire work data, including emails, meetings, chats, documents and more, along with the web, to provide a comprehensive view of their world. “Like an assistant, Copilot gets to know the employee, their job, and how they like to communicate," says Caile. “Copilot then saves time in areas such as summarising a meeting, searching for information and drafting emails. Contact centre agents should see improved efficiency with real-time coaching and prompts for the next best action, freeing them up to engage with customers.”  

One bank benefiting from Microsoft 365 Copilot is the United Overseas Bank (UOB), which is trialling the solution to increase the productivity of 300 of its employees. As part of the Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Program, UOB has begun to use the generative AI-powered tools to streamline processes for staff working across departments such as branches, customer service, technology and operations. The bank is already using Copilot capabilities to summarise documents and email threads in Microsoft Outlook and understand data in Excel.  

Alongside Nuance, LSEG and UOB, Microsoft has partnered with over 50 technology solution providers to empower workers in the financial services sector. Trade Ledger, for example, has developed a new AI-powered application, powered by Microsoft Azure, to provide financial services organisations with data quickly and effectively. Users will be able to ask simple natural language questions and the copilot will transform them into queries about the business and respond with the answers that they need.  

Leading by example  

Microsoft is using its own technologies to support its own customer service agents too.  

“Microsoft employees use the Microsoft 365 suite of applications including Outlook, Word and Excel to be more productive,” says Caile. “Additionally, Microsoft operates one of the world’s largest customer support teams with tens of thousands of support engineers. Its customer engagement is built on Dynamics 365 Customer Service.”  

Copilot in Dynamics 365 Customer Service helps employees to deliver faster customer care by drafting contextual and personalised answers to customer questions, and by providing an interactive chat experience over knowledge bases and case history. For Microsoft’s Customer Service and Support team, which assists more than one billion customers worldwide, the Copilot tools reduce the average handle time by 12 per cent to provide faster case resolution without peer assistance. This allows agents to spend more time on particularly difficult cases.  

Beyond AI-powered tools, continuous training enables financial services organisations to empower and engage their staff.  

“Ongoing training ensures employees stay in sync with changing customer and market conditions as well as company policy changes,” says Caile. “For contact centre agents, this is about ensuring their individual desktops surface the latest policy, product and offer update. AI-powered coaching also supports skill building by proactively offering insights into how to handle each situation, enabling the employee to both assist the customer and expand their knowledge.  

“For supervisors and executives, AI-powered technology delivers the latest dashboards and views into queue performance, agent effectiveness and call resolution. This allows them to understand where agents are struggling to meet customer expectations and to improve processes.” 

Partner perspectives 

We asked a selection of Microsoft partners ow they are using Microsoft technology-powered tools to help financial services organisations upskill employees and boost productivity. 

“Avaya builds on Microsoft Azure to equip financial services organisations with AI-powered solutions that increase workforce productivity and upskill staff,” said Giselle Bou Ghanem, senior director and product marketing lead at Avaya. “By integrating machine learning directly into agent workflows, Avaya transforms customer service representatives into highly efficient ‘bionic agents.” 

“Crestron Desk Scheduling solutions make it easy for financial services organisations to effortlessly transition to hot desking by enabling remote workers to book a space via software on their laptop before they come in to the office,” said Toine C. Leerentveld, director of product management for cloud and controls at Crestron. “Meanwhile, office-based employees can reserve a space by using the compact touch screen or quickly scanning a QR code, with highly visible LED status indicators displaying which desks are available to save them valuable time.” 

“ITSCREDIT provides an omnichannel platform that prioritises the digitisation of credit processes, offering flexibility, rapid time-to-market and complete control of the entire credit lifecycle,” said Paulo Pinto, chief technology officer at ITSCREDIT. “Our entire development is based on Microsoft technology, and we believe that leveraging modernised services such as the cloud, Azure AI and machine learning, security, and compliance tools, are crucial for financial institutions.” 

“Modern businesses are refocusing their attention to meet employee needs by integrating automation technology,” said Andy Birkey, marketing communications specialist at Metafile Information Systems. “Financial services organisations are providing a comprehensive, automated accounts payable solution that works seamlessly with Microsoft Dynamics 365, such as MetaViewer, to empower their workforce, leading to significant gains in productivity.” 

Read more from these partners and others in the Winter 2023 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription. 

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