eGain: Rules of engagement

With the inexorable rise of digital channels, banks are re-evaluating how they communicate with their customers. Yet, while the likes of Facebook, Twitter and chat apps can be invaluable platforms for interaction, financial institutions have their work cut out in adopting a more connected, multifaceted approach, says Dennis Fois, vice-president of sales EMEA at eGain.

As a proximate result of the financial crisis, today's customers are undeniably savvier when it comes to the services and relationships they demand of their respective banks.
Such is the status quo, many leading financial services players are in the process of deploying new customer experience management (CEM) technology as a means of retaining patronage and bolstering wallet share. Traditionally, banks have been accused of being slow on the uptake when it comes to implementing new customer engagement software, but of late there is manifest evidence that the sector is shedding its conservative reputation.
"They [banks] have been very receptive to new technologies and software as a service," says Dennis Fois, vice-president of sales EMEA at eGain. "The notion of banks being reluctant and holding onto archaic legacy systems doesn't necessarily hold true anymore."

Holistic CEM

eGain provides multichannel customer service infrastructure solutions to financial institutions, including live chat software, email response management and social media apps. According to Fois, it is imperative that banks take a holistic approach when leveraging such channels. "Our core solution is to provide organisations with a multichannel platform," he says. "This needs to be connected to brand experience and part of an overall vision. Ultimately, the glue of all those channels is knowledge management, and knowing the values and beliefs of your customer."
However, this is no small undertaking. Adoption of disparate channels, whether it is social media or chat, rarely occurs at the same time or speed. According to Fois, this has led to something of a technological imbalance across the industry in relation to CEM.
"It has been a bit stop-start," he says. "While more banks are dipping their toes into multichannel adoption - and there is certainly a momentum - they are not moving in the same direction and at the same pace."
Progress has also been stymied by banks predicating their business cases for CEM solely on driving down costs rather than optimum engagement with consumers.
"We have observed several cases where cost drivers have led to organisations going down the wrong channel," notes Fois. "For example, a chat service shouldn't be used to lower the volume of calls coming into a contact centre, it should be a complementary channel. Unfortunately, cost reduction appears to be the central focus of some of these initiatives."

Social media and demographics

In other verticals such as retail and telecommunications, social media has emerged as the prevalent conduit for a company-consumer interface. However, the banking industry, with its reams of red tape and strict mandates on confidentiality, has been relatively loath to tap into the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
"In all honesty, we aren't seeing a huge amount of progress being made by banks using social media," says Fois. "Sure, banks can get a sense of what their customers are saying about them on Facebook and Twitter, and can engage with them in real time, but we see it more as an interaction channel than a CEM barometer."
The nub of CEM has always been to ensure that each customer is afforded a service relative to their individual needs. According to Fois, banks have to be aware of their demographics and tailor their offering to the letter, rather than address than CEM en masse.
"For banks, more than any other sector, the demographic is so diverse," he says. "They need to be able to identify their most loyal and profitable customers, who use more products than just a current account. The majority of these customers also tend to be fairly digitally savvy and have high expectations, perhaps as a result of their experiences with the likes of retail companies.
"Financial players need that same multichannel approach to deliver an individual experience."