The customer service of tomorrow in the financial sector: an interview with Henning Ratjen, Head of Customer Management at comdirect bank
Making customers’ lives easier
comdirect bank – open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for over 2 million customers – but without a single branch. How does the customer communication of the bankers from Quickborn differ to that of others? A conversation with Henning Ratjen, Head of Customer Management at comdirect, about the trends and customers of tomorrow in the finance sector.
How does comdirect’s customer communication differ from that of a traditional bank? How do you create your customer dialog?
Henning Ratjen: We do a variety of things. We offer our customers all the communication channels – from phone calls to video calls to chat – and win them over with our constant availability every day of the year. If a customer requires a loan, they can contact us just as easily at night as during the day. We always give fast, high-quality responses. That sets us apart from the competition.
Who greets your customers – a real customer advisor or a machine?
Henning Ratjen: Actually, the customer is initially greeted by a spoken dialog system, but a customer advisor takes over as soon as they enter their customer number. The advisor then displays all the information about the customer on the screen. Current information can also be viewed by the customer advisor – for example, when the customer’s bank card is put into an ATM. This way, the customer advisor can quickly help the caller. We are constantly working on improving the initial contact with the system and introducing additional features.
The modern customer is at the heart of your digital services. Who is that for you and what are their specific requirements?
Henning Ratjen: We focus on those who enjoy digitization regardless of their age and want to get the job done intuitively with just a few clicks. We are the bank for people who don’t want to waste time. Therefore, we streamline our processes continuously to make everything as straightforward as possible for our customers, regardless of whether they’re at their computer or on the move. If it takes too long for a customer to find the information they require, then we’ve done something wrong.
But it is no easy task to make everything as simple as possible for the customer…
Henning Ratjen: Yes, that’s true. That’s why we always involve our customers right from the start and let them test our prototypes. For example, we’ve developed a new app that allows our customers to pay their bills by taking pictures of them. Another example is the new facility to transfer money over chat, which makes bank transfers as easy as writing a text message. Here, too, we have involved our customers right from the start.
How do you meet specific customer requirements along the customer journey?
Henning Ratjen: That’s a work in progress because customer needs constantly change over time. If we find that processes we implemented years ago are now out-of-date, we ask ourselves, “How can we change this and improve it?” This way, the customer always comes first.
And how do you improve it?
Henning Ratjen: We’re constantly on the lookout for new ideas. For example, take the example of video identification procedures. A clever idea, but the external solutions offered at that time were not to our satisfaction. So, we developed our own solution that improves the customer journey for our customers.
Do traditional banks still have to learn that the customer is always at the center of the digital world?
Henning Ratjen: No, I don’t think so. Most banks now also think along the same lines. Few customers actually go to a branch to do their bank transfer anymore. Nowadays it’s quicker and more comfortable to do it over the internet. That means the bank has to come to the customer and find out what they need. I am convinced that an increasing number of banking activities will be done at home in the future and that bank customers will pay a bill for their holiday home in the kitchen using language assistants like Alexa, for example.
What are the up-and-coming trends in digital customer communication?
Henning Ratjen: From my point of view, there are three trends: 1. Voice control – anywhere, at any time. 2. Even more pictures and videos that explain the products quickly and simply to the customers. 3. Intelligent chatbots that will also be able to answer and deal with more complex inquiries by 2020.
And what are the biggest challenges along the way?
Henning Ratjen: The biggest challenge is the quality of the data. For example, the customer will only be willing to talk to a chatbot if they believe it will be able to deal with their request as effectively as a real customer advisor. It will be just as tough to try and enthuse and convince our customers that this will have real added value for them. We also have to get our employees on board because we need them more than ever – not only because of the lack of specialists but also to handle the complex processes.
Where do you see potential to make improvements to gain more customers?
Henning Ratjen: We have to be even more intuitive when we’re developing apps if we want to reach younger target groups. Our new facility to transfer money over chat is just the beginning. Additionally, we need to excite our customers even more about our products and forms of investment by reacting quickly and proactively to the individual life situation of the customer. This can also be done through services that simply fit their situation well.
And all of this in real time?
Henning Ratjen: Yes, that will happen in the future because it’s a real asset. But the trick is to offer the customer exactly the right added value and services for him personally in real time.
Will banks offer further services besides financial services in the future?
Henning Ratjen: The modern customer expects extensive help. It is important to make financial matters as simple as possible and to seamlessly integrate them into our customers’ lives. This also includes support for finance-related issues. Because we want to make our customers’ lives easier and more straightforward.
Author: Editorial team Future. Customer. Image: 3dkombinat – AdobeStock