Maintaining quality customer service and quickly scaling the contact center in an emergency
For the past 18 months, Alfa-Bank Kazakhstan has been working on digitalizing their banking services. This includes providing customer support over chat apps.
A key priority of their strategy in 2020 was moving all retail banking support services over to chat apps. Although management planned on meeting this goal by the end 2020, their hand was forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Contact center requests doubled following the government-mandated quarantine in March 2020. As a result, Alfa-Bank required additional specialists to maintain service quality.
Additionally, a work-from-home solution became an immediate necessity. However, the existing telephone-based platform could not scale quickly enough to adapt to the new reality.
Alfa-Bank made the decision to abandon calls and move over to WhatsApp as their main customer support channel.
Moving contact center support to WhatsApp
Having already launched WhatsApp Business API in the fall of 2019 with Infobip, Alfa-Bank was positioned to quickly adapt.
By February, 50% of customer support requests came over WhatsApp, thanks in part to Alfa-Bank’s promotion of the channel. In addition to that, nearly 70% of mobile users in Kazakhstan have WhatsApp installed on their devices. A bank survey even showed that 99% of their clients use WhatsApp.
The number of contact center agents grew from 110 to 200, together handing nearly 250,000 monthly customer queries.
In April, Alfa-Bank entirely phased out call contacts, moving the entire contact center team over to chats.
Internal resource allocation aided this rapid growth, as bank employees at closed branches transferred to customer support. Here, they quickly learned how to work in the contact center, thanks to the simplicity of chat apps.
While customers expect immediate responses during support calls, contact center agents using chat apps can consult with colleagues or scripts. This helps even new agents provide excellent customer service.
Promoting the WhatsApp customer service channel helped clients anticipate the transition. Alfa-Bank advertised the move on their website, bank cards, posters, and leaflets – even removing customer service hotline numbers from these.
To support the WhatsApp initiative, Alfa-Bank built an IVR menu that would let bank clients choose to receive an SMS containing a link to the WhatsApp chat. This campaign resulted in 15-20,000 monthly WhatsApp requests from bank clients the period leading up to the quarantine.
Higher efficiency at a lower cost
Switching the contact center to remote mode helped Alfa-Bank Kazakhstan to maintain high-quality customer service under extraordinary circumstances. Experienced agents became even more efficient than before, processing up to 130 requests per day – an increase of 15%.
Customer service over WhatsApp costs 30% less than the telephone alternative. This is because the monthly fee is based on the number of monthly active users.
In addition, agent quality improved thanks to the ease of monitoring chats compared to calls. Thanks to this, contact center managers could provide more targeted and improved coaching opportunities for their agents.
Alfa-Bank Kazakhstan is considering further strategic development of the contact center and digital channels – namely, WhatsApp for the corporate banking market.
While a complete shift from telephony to chat app customer service isn’t likely, Alfa-Bank expects to increase the number of WhatsApp requests to 50% by the end of the current year.
The advantages of the WhatsApp Business API over the voice communication channel are obvious to me. In addition to reducing the cost of customer service in the retail banking segment by 30% and increasing the efficiency of operators by 15%, it increases customer satisfaction and engagement. The messenger turned out to be a flexible, reliable and convenient way of interacting with our customers. I am sure that digital communication channels are the keys to providing instant and high-quality customer service in the long perspective.