Customer-centricity: Key to success at bank contact centers

QuickLook Blog

While digital transformation has influenced banking, customer satisfaction and the human touch remain important in the future of banking contact centers.

March 13, 2019

A blog post by Richa Wadhwani, assistant manager, Deloitte Center for Financial Services.

The accelerated pace of digital transformation in banking has raised several questions about the future of contact centers.1 However, our 2018 global digital banking consumer survey suggests that these centers continue to maintain their value proposition because customer service plays a key role in customer satisfaction. It’s time that banks position contact centers as experience centers amid heightened competition from traditional and nontraditional players.

Customer satisfaction with banks’ contact centers is important but remains subpar

Our global digital banking survey indicates that satisfaction with contact centers and branches influences customers’ overall satisfaction twice as much as satisfaction with digital channels (read Recognizing the value of bank branches for more details on the analysis). Perhaps it’s the magic of human touch: Contact centers remain customers’ most preferred channel in the negative moments that matter (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Contact centers remain the primary channel for negative moments that matter
(Proportion of users of individual services who prefer the channel)

Source: Deloitte Center for Financial Services analysis

However, our survey also showed that customer satisfaction with contact centers is the lowest among all bank channels (see figure 2). While concerning, this doesn’t come as a surprise. The never-ending interactive voice response (IVR), the need to authenticate oneself and explain the problem from scratch time-and-again, and the long issue-resolution time could tire out many customers.3

Figure 2: Customer satisfaction with contact centers globally is lower than their satisfaction with digital channels
(Proportion of users of individual channels who are very satisfied or satisfied with the channel)

Source: Deloitte Center for Financial Services analysis

How can banks enhance customers’ satisfaction with contact centers?

Contact centers have traditionally been viewed as cost centers providing customer service.3 For that reason, many banks are launching chatbots and digital assistants to handle simple queries and replace some human roles. Faster resolution of such issues could satisfy customers on the one hand while lower the cost of servicing on the other. For instance, Citigroup expects machines could handle as many as 30 common queries currently managed by its human contact center agents.4 Some banks are also moving away from the standard IVR to visual IVR to manage customer interactions in a more engaging and efficient way.5

With bots resolving simple issues, banks’ contact center agents can master critical, more important problems. Robo-advisor Betterment also recognizes the role of human agents in its contact centers to manage customers’ complex problems.6 Further, artificial-intelligence-powered systems can separate the “wheat from the chaff” and route only critical or important calls to human agents. Moreover, these systems can augment human intelligence. For instance, US insurer Allstate is using Amelia, a natural-language-processing-based digital assistant, in its contact centers.Through its understanding of customer sentiments and context, Amelia provides information to the contact center agent to better resolve phone-based customer queries.8

But digital is not a panacea. Banks may want to enhance focus on the human touch and position contact centers as “experience centers” with a relentless focus on customer centricity. Humanizing the contact center experience will require banks to make bigger, bolder changes to the way they operate this channel. For instance, a customer-centric contact center would reduce emphasis on “average call handling time” and instead target measuring the effectiveness of customer service. In one example, Citizens Bank decided to minimize the number of calls it took for a customer to reach to a full resolution, targeting a “first-call resolution.”9 The bank also trained its customer service representatives to better understand and resolve customers’ issues.10

Drawing from an example outside of banking, T-Mobile’s initiatives present a notable win to build customer-centric contact centers. Among other changes, the telecom provider built cross-functional teams and assigned them to manage a dedicated pool of customer accounts in specific regions, thereby building more accountability and reducing anonymity between agents and customers.11 In addition, the company added metrics on team performance in individuals’ performance assessments. As a result, senior team members had an additional incentive to help junior staff resolve customer issues and improve the overall team performance. Within three years of moving to the new model, T-Mobile experienced a rise in its customer net promoter score from 43 percent to 63 percent.12

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What do you think?

Are banks ready to raise their bar on customer satisfaction with the contact centers? What more can they do to strengthen customer centricity in their contact centers’ culture?

Join the conversation on Twitter: @DeloitteFinSvcs.


Digital, Branch and Call Center Metrics; Are We Making Progress?, OrboGraph, January 31, 2018.
Customer Satisfaction with Contact Centers Remains Low, CFI Group, July 11, 2017.
Norbie Schickel, “Why Banks Should Stop Managing Call Centers Like Machines,” American Banker, April 2, 2014.
Laura Noonan and Patrick Jenkins, “Citigroup CEO says machines could cut thousands of call centre jobs,” Financial Times, February 18, 2019.
Paula Bernier, Israeli Bank Invests in Visual IVR, Contact Center Solutions, October 19, 2017.
“Call Center Commerce Tracker,”, February 2019.
Chris Baraniuk, “How talking machines are taking call centre jobs,”, August 24, 2018.
Mark Riddle, “Improving the customer experience with journey mapping,” BAI Banking Strategies, March 19, 2016.
10 Ibid.
11 “Reinventing customer service: How T-Mobile achieved record levels of quality and productivity,” Harvard Business Review, November 2018.
12 Ibid.

QuickLook is a weekly blog from the Deloitte Center for Financial Services about technology, innovation, growth, regulation, and other challenges facing the industry. The views expressed in this blog are those of the blogger and not official statements by Deloitte or any of its affiliates or member firms.

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