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Transforming customer service in the commercial banking environment

Unlocking value
By Jonny Davis - Vice President of Global Client Management - Partnerships

Client expectations around the commercial banking experience have changed. Customer service means much more than knowing the branch manager; a bespoke service is the key to competitive differentiation.

The answer to providing this is typically through automation and data. But the irony is that customers no longer accept an automatic decision based on some algorithm working in the background. Individual circumstances mean everything, even in B2B.

Findings from our white paper, Regional Banks: Transformation and Growth, suggest that regional and super regional banks are turning to customer experience as a key point of differentiation. Flexibility and bespoke configuration of products and services are in demand.

In particular, individual attention from banking providers is most sought-after by small to medium-sized companies. They are the ones who tend to lack the experience and internal capacity to set up payments systems like commercial cards and integrate them into their existing technologies.

Excellent customer service is a proven growth driver for banks. Many are taking advantage of the growth in commercial cards to use this as a lever to deepen customer relationships. This is taking the form of providing, particularly the smaller, more inexperienced enterprises, with turnkey products and personalised service wrapped around them.

“Customer service. I truly think it’s the relationship builder. We have a unique group with a lot of sales experience that works with lenders and treasury reps. If they need to service that client, they work the system inside out,” explained one research respondent.

Remove client hurdles

One Missouri-based bank improved its customer service approach using the Fraedom card management platform. Previous platforms didn’t create smooth transitions between actions, creating hurdles for clients who had to navigate the fragmented experience and multiple portals to complete their tasks.

As well as building systems that are sympathetic to enterprise client needs, banks need to address the data challenge that their customers’ face if they hope to deliver market-leading service. Many of the banks interviewed for the paper revealed that customers could be challenging to work with due to unclear expectations:

“We have had programs sold and implemented that died because clients didn’t understand the data side. They bastardize check processes, but they don’t have the technology, or an old ERP system, or they don’t want to spend money on it… We now have small teams that support these clients. We have good functionality so we can integrate into these ERP systems.”

Being able to support data needs is critical to a bank/customer relationship. One super regional US bank was looking to expand its data-driven customer service capabilities to grow its overall commercial cards portfolio. Being able to give its customers transactional data in new and more useful ways ­- that go beyond traditional reporting - adds value to their commercial cards proposition and deepens their overall relationship:

“Our clients are at the point where they are asking for the same experience as a B2C environment. But you can’t just flip a switch. There are additional controls in place for routing, for approvals and seeing statements. We’re investing heavily here.”

It’s still at an early stage for B2B customers, but providing flexible, data-driven services is looking set to be a central pillar of customer service delivery in commercial banking for the future.