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The Bank of Ireland (BoI) is cutting down on the types of questions customers are allowed to ask on the phone. Asking for a balance or asking to check the last three transactions on your current account was recently banned (Feb 2017) for telephone callers. All calls to local branches and the central contact centre for everyday enquiries will now be refused as the bank follows a strategy of forcing customers to automated and other digital channels.
To some, this sounds like a sensible strategy. BoI has over 250 branches around the country and over 70% of all customer interactions are now automated. In fact, the number of counter transactions inside a branch has been just 4% of all customer interactions so it looks like their approach is justified.
But there are always customers who depend on some of the older channels and struggle with automation or digital channels. Clearly, it makes sense for banks to make it easier to use the digital channels, but this is the first example I have heard of from a major retail bank where a customer on the phone asking for service will be turned away.
However, it’s only a matter of time before we see exactly the same scenario at every major retail bank. The past decade has seen an explosion in digital channels and most customers are demanding to be served at anytime from anywhere using whatever digital tools they can access on their smartphone. The days of the branch closing up for the day at 3pm really should be numbered.
The real question for executives here though is which customer channels should be prioritised. Which should receive investment and which should be dropped?
It’s too simple to presume that traditional banks with large branch networks should focus on personal in-branch service and answering the phone while new financial startups scoop up the digitally aware customers. The new banks want to offer the best possible service across all channels and the traditional banks are actively exploring new channels.
We are at the beginning of an enormous change in how retail banking services are delivered and customer service is right at the centre of this debate, defining exactly how customers will interact with their bank in future. What changes do you think retail banks need to make to be more customer-centric? Leave a comment below, or get in touch on LinkedIn, and let me know.
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