On Wednesday, Feb 27, representatives from some of North America’s leading insurance and financial institutions gathered in Boston, for one very simple reason: to learn how technology can benefit them and their customers. The event, Celent Innovation & Insight Day which was held at the Sheraton Boston, explored how insurers and financial institutions are leveraging technology in innovative ways to differentiate themselves in the increasingly competitive and challenging marketplace. Celent Innovation & Insight Day covers a variety of best practices and offers a sneak preview into the future trends of the industry.
The speaker line-up was quite impressive. A keynote address by Jeanne Ross, Director and Principal Research Scientist, MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research discussed how companies can develop a “proclivity for innovation”. However, one session that particularly stood out from a technology innovation standpoint was “Multi-channel Delivery: Raising the Bar”. This panel session was driven by speakers from BMO, Capital One, Bank of America, and EverBank and focused on the ever current topic of multi-channel retail delivery and how banks can optimize their channel experience in order to improve sales and service.
One of the speakers, Tom Poole, Managing VP, Enterprise Mobile and Social Media, Capital One noted in the sessions that customers prefer where possible to use digital channels versus speaking to someone on the phone or visiting a branch. This fact is echoed by studies done by Forrester Research as well. The simple truth is today, customers (and prospective customers) begin their search for answers online. That’s where banking customers are every day, checking their balances, transferring funds, and obtaining other account information among other things. Insurance customers are also online. In fact, there were 37 million online auto quotes recorded in one year alone, according to a 2011 Auto Insurance Shopping Report by Comscore.
However, in many ways, banks and insurers – while making great strides in providing online access to their accounts, balances and information – still cling to outdated, ineffective tools to help their customers truly self-service while online. For example, many banks and insurers still use static FAQs. For the most part, these aren’t really the most frequently asked questions at all. Besides, they’re rarely helpful. Another old school self-service tool is site search. Site search has never been a self-service tool for delivering answers as it was never designed that way. Banking and insurance customers go to these websites to get a quick, single, accurate answer to their question, so it no doubt infuriates them when they type in “order checks” into a site search box only to receive 353 results (this was an actual result I got, but I won’t say from which bank!). Most of the time, the customer will simply pick up the phone and call the contact center. That’s fine until you multiply that action by the thousands or hundreds of thousands of customers picking up the phone, driving your contact center costs far higher than they truly should be. There is a better way.
A better approach would be to implement a modern virtual agent solution that can provide banking and insurance customers with one right answer, so they can be on with their day. They just enter their natural language question, and instantly receive an answer. If they still feel the need to escalate their question to email or a live agent, options to do so are conveniently available to them. And to get back to the topic of the panel discussion above, virtual agents help multi-channel delivery possible by delivering the one right answer whether the customer is using your web, mobile, or social media channels.
So while the Celent conference brought together great minds, innovative ideas, and new technologies, now the real work begins of putting technologies like online self-service into action. Believe me, your customers will thank you. It’s what they want. Watch this video to learn more how virtual agents are helping banks and insurers deliver an outstanding online self-service experience.