Over the years, regulatory reform has led banks to become increasingly transparent, allowing these institutions to meet higher standards of service. But, as the demand for individualized support continues to grow, many firms are looking to move outside the traditional contact center in an effort to provide superior customer care and drive down operational costs.
By implementing an at-home associate model, banks have the opportunity to develop expanded contact centers that are no longer limited by the four walls of the physical site. Such strategies enable financial institutions to scale up or down with flexibility and speed so they may deliver responsive support with minimal difficulty. However, while this trend continues to gain momentum, many banks are still hesitant to adopt said strategies, as they’re unaware of the underlying benefits of this approach.
Here are the top four ways in which banks can use an at-home associate strategy to their firm’s advantage:
1. Increase efficiency and effectiveness
While companies aim to boost efficiency and deliver consistent customer experiences simultaneously, the traditional banking contact center model isn’t conducive to both. In most cases, financial firms solve for the lowest common denominator, compromising service to reduce spend. Thus, while most banks can track demand and predict call volume down to the hour, few are willing to add staff during those periods. The home associate model, however, allows banks to scale up or down as needed, thereby eliminating customer experience variances. Home associates are available part-time, so companies can add and remove staff as volume dictates, ultimately enabling service flexibility and alleviating budget concerns.
2. Expand the talent pool
When determining the location of the firm’s contact center, banks must consider numerous factors: real estate costs, utility prices, and available talent. Physical sites require associates to travel to work; therefore employees are typically local to the area, ultimately limiting the amount of talent or experience available. Home associates, however, are not bound by said recruiting radius, as banks have the power to bring in talent from across the country. This expanded pool allows financial firms to be more selective during the hiring process and create an alternative workforce. While the majority of full-time associates are young, at-home employees are typically older, more experienced, and socio-economically diverse. Thus, flexible schedules allow these individuals to work within the requirements of their given lifestyle.
3. Enable business continuity
In the event of an unexpected problem, financial firms often find it difficult to maintain seamless business continuity across one or more physical contact center sites. Unplanned volume fluctuations can occur at any time, but few companies are prepared to handle such issues because their resources are already fully utilized. Unforeseen circumstances may also impede operational and customer experience mandates, as natural causes may hinder the bank’s ability to deliver superior service in times of need. With the home associate model, companies can staff up capacity by 50 percent in less than an hour, as this virtual workforce remains on-call in various locations, thereby enabling such individuals to take over if dangerous storms or power outages prevent other areas from providing assistance in times of crisis.
4. Boost internal morale and external perceptions
Flexible workforce models impact external and internal morale, for these freedoms influence both customer perception and associate retention. For instance, externally, banks can promote the fact that they employ U.S.-based employees, thereby establishing their brand as an effective job creator. Many have even brought offshore jobs back to the states by developing their at-home service strategy. Home-based strategies also allow banks to employ veterans, disabled workers, and retirees who may have trouble finding jobs elsewhere. Thus, internally, these appreciative employees demonstrate higher morale and retention, ultimately reducing talent acquisition and training costs, because said freedom empowers them to deliver quality care in line with the firm’s mission.
Of course, banks will find themselves grappling with new security issues, as breaches and identity theft pose serious threats throughout the industry. But, by not taking such risks, banks are in position to lose even more with respect to their overall business. Thus, financial firms must be sure to establish workplace privacy provisions and confidentiality agreements, just as they would within the physical contact center. Formal risk assessments and technology controls offer added security, but by engaging in an increasingly selective hiring processes, banks now have the ability to take on associates who exhibit the most important quality of all—trust.
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