May 30, 2018

Nine Out of Ten Credit Cardholders Are Enrolled Online – Here’s What That Means for Issuers’ Contact Center Operations

(New York, NY):  As market adoption of online banking reaches a saturation point, some financial institutions are revisiting their assumptions about digital servicing and the future of contact centers.

Among major credit card companies, ninety-three percent of cardholders are now enrolled in digital account servicing platforms, an increase of 25% since 2015, according to data from Auriemma Roundtables. And as the ranks of online users swell, those cardholders are logging an average of 4.6 online sessions per month, performing key account servicing activities online.

It’s no surprise that digital penetration and engagement are growing. Consumer expectations for digital servicing have increased with the rise of e-commerce and “digitally-native” brands like Amazon and Uber, and credit card companies have enhanced their range of online service offerings in response. New functionality including card controls, access to credit scores, and personal financial management tools have become table-stakes, and many issuers are also making the foray into breakthrough technologies such as artificial intelligence and chatbots.

But as digital transformation changes how consumers engage with financial institutions, new trends are testing the conventional wisdom about how customer contact will evolve. Here are three trends to watch as online usage increases:

  1. Rising digital engagement doesn’t mean fewer calls.

As digital servicing grows, it may be reasonable to expect fewer calls coming into the contact center. But even as consumers log hundreds of millions of online sessions per month, inbound call volume has largely held steady, according to Auriemma. This reflects that many customers still prefer to call their financial institution when they have an issue – and that digital access translates to increased consumer awareness of issues they may want to call about.

Thanks to new tools and resources, consumers are more aware of their personal finances than they were even 10 years ago. For example, free credit score access can encourage consumers to investigate errors or take steps to improve their credit profiles. But while increased awareness can bring about these positive outcomes, it also leads to more customer inquiries – and inbound calls – for financial institutions to handle. Online self-service has also created new call volume for digital servicing-related issues, including navigation difficulties, customer education, and temporary outages.

“Digital servicing doesn’t necessarily unlock efficiencies in the contact center,” said Kathy Castle, who manages several of Auriemma’s business-to-business information services groups. “A well-trained and well-staffed contact center is still mission-critical.”

  1. Digital servicing is contributing to longer and more complex calls.

Consumers increasingly use online platforms for core account servicing activities like reviewing transactions and making payments. In fact, cardholders made two-thirds of payments through online and mobile channels in the fourth quarter of 2017. As these routine tasks migrate online, calls to the contact center tend to involve more complex questions and issues that take longer to resolve. In fact, average call handle time has increased by nearly 20% over the past five years, according to Auriemma.

As the nature of calls shifts, so has the role of important measures of productivity. For example, issuers are relying less on traditional efficiency metrics like call handle time and more on measures of quality, such as first-call resolution, when measuring agent performance.

“A laser focus on handle time can cause agents to manage calls to a number, leading to unresolved customer inquiries, repeat calls, and complaints,” Castle said. “The focus in today’s contact centers is on fully addressing customers’ questions, being more predictive, and identifying opportunities for first-call resolution.”

  1. User experience – not just features – will be a key competitive advantage online.

Digital tools are now central to the customer lifecycle. Beyond routine tasks, customers can activate new cards, transfer balances, or “freeze” purchases with the click of a button. But the cardholder experience can be negative if these features are inaccessible or difficult to navigate. While digital platforms continue to add functionality, the cardholder experience is increasingly viewed as an important opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. That means clear and intuitive design, user interfaces that are easy to navigate, and innovations that add value. Issuers are investing in technology to ensure a consistently good digital experience and meet rising customer expectations. For example, issuers are rolling out chatbots and virtual assistants to make online platforms more intuitive and predictive.

“Issuers understand that technology is most powerful when it’s accessible and easy to use,” Castle said. “Good design and useful features are critical as consumer expectations continue to grow.”

For more information, call Kathy Castle at (212) 323-7000.

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