The Bendigo and Adelaide bank wants to become the bank of choice for Australia within the next five years. Megan Papadopoulos, head of consumer connection, explains how their Customer Experience (CX) and digital transformation strategy is critical to the bank achieving its goals.
The bank was formed by the merger of Bendigo Bank and Adelaide Bank in November 2007. The separate brands still exist where Bendigo Bank is the retail brand that deals directly with customers and Adelaide Bank is the brand that services mortgage brokers and third-party partners.
Papadopoulos, who is in charge of the bank’s contact centre operations, comments, “In the contact centre we service customers from both Bendigo and Adelaide Bank brands. We handle around a million inbound calls a year. We also provide product fulfilment, which includes the inbound and outbound sales of home loans, credit cards, and personal loans andwe look after social media messaging and web enquiries, as well as email interactions.”
In her role, over the last four years, Papadopoulos has led the contact centre through the COVID pandemic as well as a significant digital transformation program. “We’re no longer just about answering phone calls or simply viewed as the department that handles enquiries. Now we’re really seen as a strategic driver for customer engagement within the bank. We refer to the transformation that’s taking place and where we want to be as an organisation as ‘digital by design – and human when it matters’”.
“The beginning of our transformation journey required a thorough examination of what it meant for the bank to move into these digital channels and how we retained our brand values and of course, the customer experience across those channels”
Papadopoulos also works in the Enterprise Transformation Program for Bendigo and Adelaide Bank as a co-charter lead for the operational excellence charter. “Through this program we look at what we need to do to really be there for our customers and to be an efficient and effective business into the future through customer engagement, workforce optimisation and process excellence.”
Digital by design and human when it matters
Bendigo Bank was established 163 years ago. Due to its origins as a community based financial institution, according to Megan, customer-centricity is part of the bank’s DNA. She says, “We’re one of Australia’s most trusted brands. In a recent Roy Morgan survey we were again rated in the top 20 most trusted brands in Australia. In the financial services industry, I believe trust is absolutely critical. It’s about aligning your values as an organisation and your actions. Customers can really see if you are acting according to your values – or not”.
“That’s not to say that the Bank has not faced challenges. There are plenty of challenges”, observes Papadopoulos, “One of the main challenges we face is trying to find a balance between meeting our regulatory obligations and having processes in place that are easy for customers to navigate and simple to understand”.
Another challenge for Papadopoulos’s team is being able to provide a better customer experience while keeping costs to a minimum. “We have an ongoing commitment to the market to reduce our cost-to-income ratio, somy team needs to invest in win-win solutions where we are efficient and cost-effective in the way we do things, while simultaneously providing a better customer experience.”
“One of the things we’re finding that’s really working is the provision of self-service functions. These days a lot of customers prefer to self-serve at a time that suits them, though we’re still here if people want to speak to us. Making sure things are as simple as possible and that we’re constantly reducing the hoops customers have to jump through is of paramount importance. As such we’ve managed to reduce calls to the contact centre while maintaining high levels of service and customer satisfaction.”
Get it right the first time
When it comes to service and customer experience, people want to have their problems solved the first time they contact an organisation. Brands who get it right the first time, not only retain customers, but will also increase their efficiency and reduce costs. That’s why Bendigo and Adelaide Bank focus on measures like first call resolution.
“We’re really focused on first call resolution. Let’s have a quality phone call and get it right first time – and this approach applies just as much to our digital and self-service channels as it does to phone calls. So, processes like card controls within our app, self-service password resets, and delivering authentication within our messaging service – so that customers can be serviced through messaging if they don’t want to call, are all approached in the same way”.
Customers increasingly expect more personalised service
“Customer expectations around personalisation are increasing right across the board. They’re experiencing it when they’re interacting with organisations like Amazon, Uber and Netflix and they’re increasingly expecting it from their financial institutions. It’s something we’re certainly thinking about in terms of future trends and our technology investments.”
“As a bank we have lots of data. The question is, how do we use that data to provide a better experience while complying with data privacy and other regulatory requirements? One thing we aim to offer is a more proactive customer service. For example, if something’s going wrong with someone’s banking, or maybe they’ve locked themselves out of their app or their card, we’re working on how we can proactively send them an SMS with a link to unlock it.
“Personalisation also allows us to recommend products and solutions better suited to customers’ needs and requirements and of course to ultimately build new products and better solutions.”
Happy and engaged employees means happy and engaged customers
“A happy workplace is a wonderful thing in its own right, but there are a lot of commercial reasons that you want your staff to be happy and engaged: it reduces turnover and absenteeism and you get increased productivity from people who feel they add value at work, know that they are valued and love where they live and what they do”. While many of our staff these days work from home our contact centre locations in Adelaide, Ispwich and Bendigo are also a big draw card enabling us to attract great talent in regional locations.
“Making things simple for customers is also about making things simple for staff. Customers and staff often have aligned outcomes. During COVID, ensuring employees were happy and engaged was a challenge. With people working from home, where we couldn’t see them as often, it was difficult to always provide them with the support they needed.”
The impact of COVID
COVID has changed forever the way our Bank and the contact centre work. “I believe COVID changed people’s perspective of the value the contact centre brought to the organisation. Employees were not working in physical offices or branches and consumers were doing a lot more online and via digital channels. The role of the contact centre, therefore, has become far more significant as a result.”
“Another thing we’ve seen grow is customer concern and care about environmental and social issues – and wanting to deal with organisations that care about the issues that are important to them. That has lead to an increased awareness of diversity and how we service vulnerable customers to make sure the contact centre has a positive social impact.”
COVID has also led to the rapid adoption of digital and cloud-based technologies. “Technology is moving really fast. Things such as cloud contact centre solutions mean that more contact centres have access to technology that, only a few years, was expensive and only available to very big industry players. That’s going to lead to an overall uplift in service across the contact centre industry and drive the need to adopt strategies for continuous improvement”.
The road ahead
“The role of the contact centre is to ensure that it’s really easy for our customers to do business with us by providing them with a ‘choice of channel’ approach – so that they can deal with us in any way that suits them. We still have customers for whom getting a debit card is a big change – and we have younger customers through our Up brand who may have never even been into a branch – but I think, when dealing with our organisation, people are going to expect a digital option first,but they want to know that caring, understanding people are still there if required.”
Papadopoulos feels that the organisation is well on its way in achieving its goals and that the contact centre is playing a crucial role in delivering on Bendigo’s vision to be Australia’s bank of choice. “We’re loving watching our customer numbers grow andin two to five years, I expect to be able to say that 10% of the population sees us as the go-to bank in Australia. That would be absolutely fabulous”.
Megan is speaking at CCW Customer Contact Week being held on the Gold Coast 24 – 25 February 2022.