Maximising the relationship between customer and staff retention
The UK’s insurance industry is renowned for poor customer service and churn is increasing. However, with customers holding an average of five products across numerous insurers, the potential to generate profit through cross and up sell at the call centre is significant, says Stephen Haighton, VP, Sales Northern Europe, Chordiant.
The financial services industry in the UK is renowned for its poor customer service and nowhere is this more apparent than in the insurance sector. Insurers have traditionally prioritised customer acquisition over retention and this has caused high levels of both customer and employee dissatisfaction. To this end a recent article in a national broadsheet highlighted the plight faced by insurers, stating “A huge backlog of policy administration problems has backed up. Staff turnover is so high – because wages are so low and customers so disgruntled – that almost no one knows how to resolve queries…Something like 80% of customers do the obvious thing and switch to another company: customer “retention” is almost hilariously low.”
As it stands the insurance industry is evidently missing a trick. Customer churn is increasing and with call centre staff unable to handle calls, there is little way for insurers to prevent consumers jumping ship for a cheaper deal. However, with customers holding an average of five products across numerous insurers, the potential to generate profit through cross and up sell at the call centre is significant. Consequently, insurers should be enabling employees to offer relevant products to customers in order to provide higher levels of customer service, maximise profits and reduce customer churn.
Other industries have begun to adopt this view and are moving away from customer acquisition in favour of retention strategies and a focus on maximising Customer Lifetime Value – that is the long term value of each customer as an individual to the organisation. This is a strategy that insurers could do well from adopting in order to increase long term customer wallet share.
Generally speaking, if staff are happy, customer service levels will be improved and employee and customer churn reduced. Similarly, when call centre staff are unhappy, customer service levels fall, leading to low customer and employee retention. Staff morale is in large part dependent on their ability to provide high levels of service and maximise sales opportunities so investment in either is likely to generate ROI for the company.
Successful customer retention and cross- and up-selling firstly requires call centre staff to have all relevant information on a customer, such as their history, past behaviour and likes/dislikes, in front of them when conversing in order to ensure an intelligent conversation between the two parties. It is only with this level of information is available that call centre staff will be able to consistently provide a higher level of customer service which is tailored to the individual. In this way, call centre staff are able to offer products which are targeted to a consumers individual needs, thereby increasing the chances of effective cross- and up-sell.
In order to provide staff with all the relevant customer information to ensure that they are able to do their job and be rewarded accordingly, insurers must invest in customer experience technologies that support their staff and equip them with the right tools to carry out their job effectively. Intelligent Conversation Management technology is one such tool and allows companies to amalgamate all information held on a customer so call centre operatives can achieve a Single Customer View and converse with them appropriately in real-time.
This is a significant step away from the scripted and transactional conversations traditionally used by call centre staff which historically fail to meet customers needs.
Similarly, Next-Best-Action technology helps to ensure that call centre staff hold relevant and meaningful conversations in which each customer is treated appropriately and uniquely. Because conversations are based on an individual customer’s profile, even the most inexperienced call centre staff are better able to hold appropriate conversations by looking at detailed guidance and recommendations to find the right proposition for the customer.
Technology that proactively guides call centre operatives in this way will not only increase the ability of staff to build a rapport with the customer but also improve cross and up-sell success rates, in turn increasing employee morale.
Of course, technology alone is not enough and must be supported by rewarding successful operatives and boosting morale through achievable targets and bonus schemes. However, when successfully combined with tailored reward schemes, technology can act as the critical foundation to success and retention of both staff and customers.
Ultimately, a call centre environment where customer interaction is positive and where cross and up-sell opportunities are maximised will not only support staff retention but also customer wallet share and in turn an insurers bottom line.