In order to increase customer loyalty and boost customer satisfaction, today's financial services companies must serve their clients through a variety of channels, including phone, email, Web chat and SMS. In addition they must provide "personalized" service through each of these channels, on a 24/7 basis - otherwise customers can easily defect to one of the vast multitude of other firms operating in this highly competitive industry.
The challenge for financial services companies is to achieve this cost effectively. As a result, many financial services organizations are turning to business process automation solutions to automate customer service processes, as well as certain routine people-centric "back office" processes.
What is interesting is that the corporate communications system - including phone, email, Web chat and other communications channels - is increasingly being utilized as a framework for automating business processes. More precisely, corporate unified communications systems offer new opportunities for financial services organizations to automate traditional, back office or "paper-based" processes, as well as customer service processes.
These systems are already used to interconnect corporate headquarters with regional or global offices, divisions, subsidiaries and departments, and in some cases to the systems of corporate affiliates and partners - therefore in many cases the network architecture is already in place to be exploited. By integrating or overlaying BPA technologies, companies can use their communications network to automatically trigger processes and manage the flow of work through each step of a process, from beginning to end, thus streamlining operations and cutting costs.
Through the implementation of business process automation solutions, financial services organizations can gain increased personal and organizational productivity. By automating business policies and best practices, removing manual tasks, and eliminating error-prone reentry of information, business process automation boosts individual and team efficiency, which enables organizations to deliver results faster and with greater predictability.
Business process automation can also facilitate better decision making. By providing real-time insight into key business metrics and providing proactive alerts and notifications, today's business process automation solutions offer broader insight into essential processes critical to the organization, and provide real-time analytics that enable management to make better decisions faster.
Call center software provider Zeacom offers a unified communications platform that can be readily integrated with other applications, including Microsoft's (News - Alert) market-leading business software solutions. In addition it offers business process automation technology which, when integrated with the UC platform, can be used to automate certain processes, depending on the organization's needs. Through the integration of what is called Communications Enabled Business Process (CEBP) software, companies can reduce operational costs and increase revenue, while at the same time getting more value out of their unified communications infrastructure investment.
Through the integration of UC and CEBP, financial services organizations can optimize communications and remove bottlenecks in existing business processes. What's more they can speed up and automate a wide range of time consuming manual tasks.
Zeacom (News - Alert) offers business process automation in five core areas: Activity queuing, enhanced routing, screen pops, IVR and custom development.
Activity queuing entails using switching and routing capabilities of the unified communications platform to control the flow of work in routine, "people-centric" business processes. Much the same way a contact center platform intelligently routes calls and other contacts to the appropriate agents, based on who is calling and what their needs are, Zeacom's activity queuing can route routine tasks, such as the processing of a financial transaction, automatically to the appropriate "back office workers" who handle the "paper work" or processing of such tasks. Basically it is a way of routing documents to workers in the same fashion as a UC system routes calls and emails. In the event the "most appropriate" worker is not available to handle that task when it comes in, the system will automatically re-route it to the next available "appropriate" worker. This way the task doesn't sit idly at someone's desk until they have time to get to it. The beauty is that it harnesses the power of the UC system and the IP network to route tasks to any end point throughout an organization, based on pre-defined rules.
Enhanced routing falls more on the customer service side or "external" side of process automation -- however, that's not to say organizations don't benefit internally from enhanced routing. This enables organizations to intelligently and efficiently route customer communications such as calls and emails to the most appropriate agents or reps, based on their unique skill sets. A key feature delivered through enhanced routing is the ability to segregate customer service based on customer type. For example, "premium" customers can be automatically moved to the front of the queue, for each channel type, thus allowing them to get faster customer service - whereas "bad debtors," for example, would automatically be routed straight to the accounts team before they can talk to support staff or the helpline. What's more, financial service organizations can re-direct calls based on real-time data like account balance, purchase history etc. By extending enhanced routing across the enterprise, an organization can ensure that every contact is dealt with as efficiently as possible.
Altura Credit Union is a good example of a financial services company that has benefited from Zeacom's enhanced routing. Prior to deploying the solution, 51 percent of calls in its Loan Servicing queues and 33 percent of calls in its Sales queues had to first sit and wait in the generic Member Service queue before getting transferred to the right agent. With Zeacom's enhanced routing, callers with overdue accounts are immediately transferred to the appropriate collections agents -- while those waiting on loan information are routed directly to the "right" processing agents, based on their customer profiles.
Screen pops have been around for a while and are widely used in the contact center - nevertheless their value for automating customer interactions shouldn't be underestimated. Screen pops automatically display important customer "meta data" to the agent the moment a call arrives. Through integration with CRM systems and other databases housing important customer information, agents can have key pieces of information right at their fingertips. In the case of financial services firms, agents can have access to data such as recent transactions, including payments and balance transfers, as well as basic customer information, such as customer "type," name, address, and other ID management information. This saves time, since the agent doesn't have to log in to separate, silo'd systems and then go "hunting" for the correct account information while the customer waits. In the case of Altura Credit Union, if a customer is overdue on their account and is therefore automatically transferred to collections, the agent can have information such as how much the customer is overdue - and for how long - instantly screen-popped to speed customer service.
Of course, no one would really consider a financial services company to be fully automated if it wasn't using an IVR or Interactive Voice Response system. These systems are proving their value in financial services every day, as they provide customers with a range of "self-service" options: For example, customers can get account balances, recent activity and more, simply by selecting options from the various prompts. With their advanced speech recognition capabilities, customers can either "say" what they want, or alternatively, select options using the telephone keypad. These systems have become practically standard for financial services companies, as they help preserve costly live agent resources for more complex or "higher value" interactions. This, in turn, helps drastically reduce call hold times which in turn boosts customer satisfaction.
While activity queuing, intelligent call routing, screen pops and IVR combine to form an impressive arsenal of contact center automation solutions, it can be just as important for financial services organizations to explore their own custom integrations of these solutions in order to differentiate their customer service. For example, many organizations are now carrying out integrations that allow them to "personalize" the customer service experience - for example, the IVR system might be able to acknowledge a customer by name or by customer type, using caller ID as well as other customer metadata. Similarly, the IVR system might be able to provide more "personalized" options based on a customer's past preferences ("Would like to transfer these funds to your savings account again Mr. Jones?") Financial services companies are therefore well advised to seek contact center technology vendors such as Zeacom that have the expertise and resources (either in house or through third parties) in place to carry out these more complex integrations.
Zeacom offers an Integration Software Development Kit (ISDK) that enables customized Process Automation. This SDK serves as the foundation of Zeacom's CEBP solutions. It has been designed for easy integration with most database contact management applications, helpdesk software packages and Microsoft Windows based applications. Combined with Zeacom's proven methodologies, the SDK ensures successful implementation. With Zeacom's SDK, customers build their own applications or use third-party developers if preferred.
Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard