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How to Communicate with Customers During and After an IT Outage?

by internationaldirector

By Puneet Taneja, Head of Operations,  Teleperformance DIBS 

The UK’s retail banking sector has a crucial role to play in ensuring individuals across the UK have access to the finance they need. Consequently, customers require the retail banking industry to be consistent and reliable, a mandate that was left lacking after a report by Which? revealed there were 302 operational incidents that potentially prevented customers from making payments in the last nine months of 2018. These figures, which indicated incidences on a daily basis, revealed concerning weaknesses in banking and financial institutions, leaving digital banking services to suffer.

An operational incident is a broad term which can be classified either as a core system failure or a service delivery outage. Core system outages generally occur when the user interface (UI) goes down, whereas a service delivery is typically an application that revolves around the core system, such as automated SMS or email.

Given the nature of digital banking, outages and IT failures are all but inevitable, and the key to mitigating the damage these mishaps generate lies in how banks and lending providers communicate and reassure their customers on the impact on their accounts. When a service delivery outage does happen, simply fixing the problem isn’t enough. Customers expect to know the nature of the outage, if it affects them and how and when the issue is expected to be resolved. The onus now falls on banks and lending providers to proactively communicate with customers, and how well this is done can directly impact customer satisfaction levels and ongoing loyalty.

Loyalty among banks and financial service providers has become a very topical issue in recent years. The swathe of new challenger banks and smaller, more agile fintechs have changed the nature of the market, with over a quarter of millennials choosing to bank exclusively with small challenger banks. Traditional legacy banks are now in competition with new entrants to the market to not only encourage more customers but retain existing ones.  It is imperative customers are communicated with proactively and with speed and efficiency with the view to building and maintaining customer relationships, especially during tumultuous times.

During an IT outage, back office systems are typically overstretched and pressure is placed on live agents and communication channels, putting customer service at risk. Communication needs to include additional updates, additional support and pre-emptive reassurance both during and after an incidence.

Overhauling back office systems to provide additional support to customers is not a straightforward undertaking. Prompted by changing customer demands, and the expectancy for updates in real time around the clock, retail banks are exploring next generation digital solutions such as chatbots to boost customer service levels. According to estimates, 67 per cent of consumers worldwide used a chatbot for customer support in the past year and this trend is only set to increase. Using multiple channels of communication serves to safeguard against communication gaps when mishaps occur, and streamlines back office operations so resources can be more efficiently allocated to other front facing activities.

Looking ahead, chatbots are being developed to become more sophisticated, with new features being added on an ongoing basis. These additions include sensors that measure human sentiment, emotion and behaviour with the view to becoming more effective in serving the customer, and providing a much needed boost to the financial service sector’s customer engagement levels.

Personalisation, however, is one context that must be carefully considered when automation takes the forefront of customer interactions. Customers are demanding an increasingly personalised and bespoke service which cannot be fully taken on by technology. The best customer engagement invariably comes from a collaboration between technology and humans. Real-life human agents have the capacity to bring a real world context while the back-office technology offers the ability to speed up the resolution process.

In the face of digital turmoil, retaining customer loyalty is of critical importance. Providing an experience, whether an outage has occurred or not, that is low effort and low stress for customers will ultimately result in legacy banks being able to compete more effectively with challenger banks as customer trust has been preserved. 


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