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Why your service needs proactive SLAs

Why your service needs proactive SLAs

Scott Andrick, Log in to subscribe to the Blog

Mention service level agreements (SLAs) to most contact center managers and in addition to “service levels” (typically defined as X% of calls answered within Y seconds), key performance indicators (KPIs) such as average speed of answer or abandon rates typically come to mind. While those are easy to measure, another type of SLA can have an even more significant impact on your business.

Digital self-service has been largely embraced by both consumers and banks since the pandemic, but not everything is easily handled “digitally”. In fact, research by Pega found that: 82% of consumers are willing to use self-service, but 46% don’t expect it to work.

Customer expectations today have been set by Big Tech companies

Big tech companies (like Amazon and Google) have set the bar high for customer service. Even “low tech” providers (ex: Dominos and US Postal Service) can tell you where something is and when it will arrive. With 75% of customers indicating a fast, final resolution as the most important aspect of service, how can you ensure you deliver on your brand promise to service your customers to completion? And what is the impact when things don’t go as planned?

Here’s a personal (non-banking) cautionary tale as an example:
My dishwasher died. Although we had a great “sales” experience with a convenient Big Box retailer that included installation, they missed two installation appointments -- all managed digitally by the way. So, we started calling. And calling. And calling. We placed over a dozen phone calls to the both the retailer and installer but were largely met with indifference. Only one person EVER called back, but they didn't fix the problem either. We had to find an alternative installer and so I formally complained all the way up to the c-suite.

In the end, this appliance retailer lost quite a bit on this mishandled installation. Because while that drama was unfolding, I was also starting construction on an unfinished basement. So, let’s pause here to count the hard cost to date:

  1. Over a dozen phone calls to contact centers = increased expenses of ~$100 ($6 average cost per call, plus escalations)
  2. Refunded installation fee = lost revenue #1 ~$100
  3. After the c-suite complaint, a gift card as a “retention” offer = lost revenue #2 ~$300
  4. No purchases for the basement - lumber, flooring, wiring, and a full set of kitchen appliances went to a competitor = lost revenue #3 in the thousands…

On the “soft side”, I am a “detractor” by NPS (Net Promoter Score) standards which means there is even more future risk for this retailer as plenty of family and friends have heard my tale of woe. Additionally, where will I go when I need other appliances and flooring for the main level of my house in the next few years? Although the revenue model of Big Box retailers isn’t the same as banking, you can see a long-term customer is worth so much more than a single “transaction” or account.

In my mind this all could have been avoided with proper escalation for a missed SLA to contact the customer, acknowledge the delay, and own fixing the problem.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen similar issues around long-running service processes in banking even before COVID sent everyone home. This is the work that typically requires a hand-off from the front office to the back office such as merchandise disputes, fraudulent activity, or account actions for bereavement. As my dishwasher story illustrates, it’s not about “the transaction”, it’s about customer lifetime value and the ability to retain and grow the relationship.

Banks don’t fix this with just aging reports either – it’s about having systems work on your behalf to proactively avoid big, expensive problems. Pega can help avoid this and it can even be managed in a low-code, citizen developer environment using service level agreement rules.

SLAs have amazing flexibility about where, when, and what action to take.

In Pega’s App Studio, you can apply an SLA at multiple levels: Case, Stage, Process, Assignment, and/or Approval Step. Additionally, you get to define both a goal and deadline. For a goal, you may want the suggested time required to resolve work while a deadline is your ultimate time for resolution.

They key capability Pega provides is being able to define escalation actions that your application performs when a goal or deadline expires. This is my personal favorite platform capability. You can:

  • Increase the Urgency so the work rises in importance in a queue - so better visibility,
  • Send a notification to the work owner or manager – even more attention now,
  • Reassign work or move it to the next step – keeping the work moving automatically, and
  • Execute any business rule or process to execute automated actions – the Holy Grail where the system could automatically save you from being late on a piece of work.

Using SLAs could help you avoid expenses and poor NPS scores by proactively notifying the customer that you are still working on their request, bringing the issue to light at higher levels, or even automating the work to completion. In an article by PwC on contact center modernization, they noted the following:

  • A 26% increase in loyalty by providing immediate relief when there is fraud on an account
  • That 33% would stop doing business with a brand they liked after one bad experience, and
  • 75% indicate their experience influences whether they purchase new banking products

You can also use this to keep you in compliance. We use this approach extensively in our Smart Dispute application. In the US there is a consumer protection law – Regulation E – that requires banks to complete several actions within defined time frames. Smart Dispute has several SLAs to manage all the timing aspects and one of them is around “finality”. When the clock runs out - and if a chargeback has not been represented - the SLA can:

  • Handle the suspense accounting to finalize the previously “provisional” credit
  • Send a letter to the customer indicating the credit is final and the case is closed
  • Close the case

This is all done automatically and in compliance with the regulation without requiring a bank employee to monitor or follow up.

As we all settle into whatever the “new” normal is, I think we can all agree that SLAs can be proactively and systemically managed to prevent work from going late. Why? Because when you can’t solve a problem immediately, the experience of getting work done in a “timely” fashion has a direct impact on retention, revenue and brand loyalty. It’s good business. And I think we can all agree washing dishes by hand night after night isn’t fun…

Resolution revolution: Customer service insights

Read our report to learn what else matters – and what 80% of businesses admit is a shortcoming of their service today.

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Deploy self-service that actually works

Contain calls, reduce cost to service, and improve the customer experience using AI and workflow automation.

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Industry: Financial Services Product Area: Platform Topic: Low-Code Development Topic: Workflow Automation

About the Author

With more than three decades of Financial Industry experience, and in his role as Senior Director and Industry Principal for Pega’s servicing solutions in Financial Services, Scott Andrick helps clients around the world strengthen customer relationships and accelerate digital transformation.

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