As clients and consumers begin to experience longer term financial pressure in the wake of initial COVID-19 restrictions, banks and financial services firms across the world are having to prepare for stormy seas ahead.
In the UK alone, we’ve seen unemployment benefit claims rise by 70%, an unsustainable volume of mortgages become subject to payment deferral and over 1m consumer credit cards now with payment holidays in place; whilst debt charities face an ever-increasing volume of contact.
As singular issues alone, these would be extremely worrying, but as a collective, alongside the impending closure of the UK government furlough scheme, they give massive cause for concern.
So with this in mind, what should Financial Support functions now look like for banks and FS firms?
From our work to support and run operations for banks across the world, we’re seeing three key priorities emerge:
1. Managing demand and scaling capacity
As customer and client circumstances rapidly shift, many firms are anticipating at the very least a 50% increase in demand. While much focus lies in reducing the level of contacts and deflecting to other channels, the sheer scale means that pivoting resource from other functions becomes necessary to both meet demand levels and provide appropriate levels of service.
Putting in place operational frameworks to enable this, with the right training, technology and governance embedded are now a pressing priority. With many still working remotely, building resourcing models that can quickly scale up and down in real-time as demand dictates is now vital.
2. Keeping close to customers
Where poorly thought out customer journeys and processes were causes of inconvenience before; significant financial impact and emotional distress are now far more probable outcomes.
Decades of entrenched social and behavioural patterns have formed the basis of systems and processes that identify at-risk customers and provide targeted interventions. However, the unique economic circumstances brought to bear by COVID-19 have plunged whole new demographics into debt.
Recovery plans, anticipated write off levels and how at-risk groups are identified and supported with the right contact at the right time will need to be rapidly reviewed and reimagined, closing the gap between the business perception and customer reality before it’s too late.
3. Optimising for customer outcomes
When focusing on long-term customer satisfaction and retention, there is a heavy emphasis on forbearance, with many seeking to strike a balance between a human, empathetic response to customer circumstance and a need to maintain commercial resilience. Getting this wrong could lead to longer term customer attrition and irreparable brand damage at a time when switching to a competitor has never been easier.
How should firms respond?
With many firms now seeking to, or in the process of ramping up capacity, bringing in more people to support won’t be enough. Defining the appropriate levels of human contact, minimising the risk of resource scale up while improving outcomes for customers, will require a broader perspective across the entire customer journey. Whilst ramping up capacity, firms should consider:
- Reviewing sourcing models – Identifying how work and resources are allocated, with inherent flexibility to deal with both rapid scale up, or down.
- The customer journey context - How each channel and touchpoint support the customers broader objectives, with technology and people deployed where appropriate.
- A sharper focus of the transformation agenda – Ensuring every penny invested supports the wider context and being ruthless about pausing activity that adds little value.
Rethinking the operating model and distribution of work is critical to achieving flexibility in times of uncertainty. Now is the time for firms to re-baseline resource requirements and explore new options to deal with demand peaks.
Through our experience of designing, transforming, and operating Financial Support functions, we’re enabling firms to rapidly scale by providing transformational solutions, operational resource and operational support capabilities, while enhancing Customer Experience to promote long-term advocacy. Contact us below to discuss how our expertise can support you.