A Customer View

The key thrust of the strategies and technologies identified in Banking Operations Strategies and Technologies is to reduce the cost of activities “behind the scenes” by

  • Getting computers to do more of the work
  • Centralising and specialising activities; and in many cases
  • Outsourcing the activities

We think a lot of this change can be effected without causing a change from the customer’s perspective. However there are two important aspects that would appear to impinge on the customer;

  • The Centralisation of the customer support function
  • The increased role of the customer in inputting data

These changes would be expected for all customer segments (i.e. branch based personal customers, small business customers, corporate customers and high net worth individual customers). Select one of the two impacts above to read a description of the likely effect of the strategy from the customer’s point of view.

Centralisation of the Customer Support Function

For a given brand, the customer today is asked to put up with a long list of phone numbers and help desks. If banks follow the strategy of separating service and processing, and outsource the latter, the service layer will be spread across multiple product engines (see “Clearly delineate Service and Processing and make Service Multi Product” in Banking Operations Strategies and Technologies). We divide the customer base into two classes, those that are relationship managed and those that are not. The next two sections consider the centralisation of customer service across multiple products for these two classes of customer.

Personal (not relationship managed) Customers

These customers are typically personal customers who are not considered high net worth and the bank has decided that strategically they are to be serviced by a branch. The branch relationship is normally supplemented by (or confused by?) a range of additional contact points even though they relate to the same brand. Thus such a customer would have a different phone number and mail address for each of the following

  • Current account related matters
  • Credit card matters
  • Online banking queries
  • Mortgages
  • Pensions and Life Assurance
  • Personal Insurance
  • Personal Lending
  • Investments
  • High Value payments
  • Stock broking

In most banks today a customer has not only a different phone number for each of these services but also a different means of identifying themselves. We would expect the branch to continue to be the key point of contact for service for these customers and so this means the branch service staff (as opposed to sales staff see “Separate sales from service” in Banking Operations Strategies and Technologies) must have the capability to provide service on all these products (i.e. access to the relevant systems).

We would expect the branch service staff to form part of a pool of service staff dedicated to the customers of that branch according to the following model.



In our view the first priority for the branch service staff are those customers who have taken the trouble to walk in through the doors. They would however be expected to take customer phone calls if they are free. Thus the customer of branch X would telephone branch X and often be answered by staff in that branch. If they cannot get through (perhaps because of the time of the night or because the branch is busy) the call is re-routed to a service rep in a centre dedicated to that branch or a small number of branches; again for a wide range of products. If the service request is complex, the branch person or call centre operator re-routes the call to a product specialist area. This specialist area may be in the call centre or might be in the product processing centre.

The Relationship Managed Customer

These customers can be small businesses, corporate customers or high net worth individuals. The key feature they have in common is that they have all been separated from the bank branch as the fundamental point of the relationship. Nevertheless they are typically asked to endure the same range of phone numbers and contact points as the branch based personal customers with some additions such as corporate customers having

  • International Trade Products
  • Leasing and Asset Finance
  • Market Related Deposits and Lending
  • Currency Accounts

As a result the Relationship Manager is often used as a first point of contact for all these different areas. We would expect a call centre based contact point, outside the branches, different to the Relationship Manager, to cover all product areas, with the possibility to hand off to a specialist area if the service request is complex.

The increased role of the Customer in inputting data

For “Only electrons move in the bank” (see Banking Operations Strategies and Technologies) it would be very helpful if information landed in electronic form from outside and therefore saved the bank the cost of keying it. How will this come across to the customer? Here are some of suggested ways that the changes might look.

  • When a customer contacts the bank with a request that requires a form to be completed, instead of getting the answer “The pack will go out in the first class post today” the bank person will ask if the customer has an email id and then send the form electronically.
  • The online banking services will have a “How do I” function which leads to a section with the relevant form for completion, emailing, printing, etc. This will cover all form based interactions.
  • Secure email will be regarded as a legitimate instruction by the bank, not requiring written confirmation.
  • In the branch, rather than completing a paper form, customers (with assistance) will be asked to complete the form on a PC at booths in the branches, where it can be printed and signed. This currently happens for account opening and loan applications in most banks but would be extended to cover all forms. Customers can also take forms away and bring them back on diskettes.
  • Many aspects of existing form filling and online banking data entry would be enhanced to give better data validation (e.g. real time lookups to check account numbers are valid).

We would expect these changes to apply to all customer market segments.