News & Events State of Play: Why Financial Services Needs A+ Customer Service Now More Than Ever




March 15, 2024


It all tends to come at once in the financial services industry, doesn’t it? Macroeconomic volatility. Game-changing (and somewhat controversial) new developments in AI. Not to mention a widening competitive landscape thanks to new digital-only players. Analysts at Deloitte suggest that this year, in particular, might indeed be an inflection point—“the year the future started to unfold”—that will test every organization’s agility.

In this bold new future for financial services, you can count on one thing: customers will remain a central catalyst. They’re the backbone of these particular economies of scale, and they‘ve never had more agency. In an industry known for setting the edge when it comes to customer service, how we meet this demand is more urgent than ever. Here’s why.

Vector graphic of a man and a woman shaking hands

Omnichannel, But Accelerated

Omnichannel, But Accelerated

All the way back in 2019, thought leaders like McKinsey were touting the criticality of omnichannel. They wrote of the tremendous upside—20% growth in YoY sales, in some cases—seen by some of the financial services firms that fully embraced omnichannel optimization. That is, the ability to be there for customers wherever and whenever they need it. 

20% growth in YoY sales thanks to omnichannel optimizations

Fast forward to present day, just five years on, and the tech driving that optimization has proliferated with abandon. New developments in artificial intelligence (AI) come to mind. In Generative AI Chatbots vs. Human Agents: Why Contact Centers Need Both, we referenced a MIT Technology Review prediction that generative AI chatbots, capable of use-case-specific training and highly proficient multi-tasking, would soon permeate many customer experiences. 

And we already know that customers expect the utmost from service agents: know who I am, which products I use, and my entire interaction history with your company—before you pick up the phone or join the chat.

Which is all to say that the leaders in the financial services industry have unprecedented means for deeply enhancing each omnichannel services experience. Wherever and whenever a customer raises their hand for help, firms need to be there and they need to bring the receipts—as predictively and proactively as possible.

An Industry Replete with Idiosyncrasy

An Industry Replete with Idiosyncrasy

The big ‘O’ word (omnichannel) embodies myriad idiosyncrasies within the financial services industry. There’s more to it than your physical branch, digital app, and website. What are you going to do when, all of sudden, a target customer demographic wants immersive, in-branch customer service interactions—via Meta Quest 3? Here’s Will Weidman, Senior Vice President at Mastercard, exploring the state of so-called wearable banking.

Even supposing that this degree of omnichannel is still a ways away, it speaks to the proliferation of channels and, by extension, opportunities for stellar service. In an industry where customers not only expect a lot of customer service, but rely heavily on self-service, there are endless opportunities to improve around every corner—to personalize, predict, and proactively provide the right answers.

The question is, does your firm have the underlying solution infrastructure in place to adapt and, in some cases, re-tool on the fly? Perhaps more importantly, is that infrastructure as future-proof and scalable as you’ll need it to be?

Illustration of a man thinking

ROI: The Customer Service Upside

ROI: The Customer Service Upside

Historically speaking, financial services has been ahead of the curve when it comes to customer service tech. It has to be: when orchestrating such large economies of scale, every second of every interaction counts.

What’s more, consumers are getting smarter about the financial products they choose. Winning and retaining those consumers means delivering seamless customer experiences. Often, it means taking even the most complicated banking, finance, and insurance products and “making it easy.” 

An international financial services provider understood this reality when they decided to invest more heavily in voice AI. The insurance giant’s 15,000 agents service 122 million customers in 70 countries, with 90% of interactions taking place over the phone. Just by implementing voice AI, the company has automated 15 million customer dialogues and realized a 27% decrease in Average Handle Time.

Another global leader in insurance, AOK Nordost, invested in a more comprehensive contact solution, comprising Cisco UCCE Unified Contact Center Enterprise, Cisco Finesse Agent Desktop, and Cisco Customer Voice Portal (among others). They needed a flexible solution capable of simultaneously improving customer service and reducing costs—and they went live within four months of commissioning the solution.

What has worked for that large international insurer and AOK Nordost may look different throughout the financial services sector. In a way, that’s the central point: which innovations are best suited to enhance your contact center, how quickly, and what’s the potential ROI? Executed the right way, these solutions can deliver impressive ROI.

Be Great or Be Gone?

Be Great or Be Gone?

Let’s stay with insurance for the sake of conversation. By some estimations, subsectors of the insurance industry are facing the “hardest market cycle in a generation.” Surely that volatility is finding its way into other areas of financial services. For many industry subsectors, the answer to this volatility has been a greater investment in communication technology that can offset the consequences.

What does that investment look like? A more complete communication stack, for starters. The Webex suite offers an integrated and holistic solution that caters to various needs: it facilitates internal communication, supports outbound automated messaging and marketing efforts, and enhances customer engagement, satisfaction, and support. This robust package is designed to streamline and optimize all facets of communication within and beyond the organization.

It’s a double-edged sword. To the extent that banking has “mastered digital,” that mastery often comes at the detriment of “close customer relationships” (Accenture). Then again, GenAI alone stands to “increase productivity by 20–30% and revenue by 6%.”

In one of the most competitive industries out there, it’s the firms that can find a way to do both that will prevail. And now’s clearly the time because as quickly and diversely as a customer can initiate contact, or ask for help, they can just as soon take their business elsewhere. 

Indeed, financial services needs A+ customer service now more than ever.

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