by Vipul Vyas, Senior Vice President, Strategic Consulting
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How Banks Can Transform Chronic Callers into Self-Service Champions Using AI

This article details how a leading U.S. credit card company used machine learning and AI to encourage frequent users of the call center to instead set up automated account alerts to reduce call volume. More precise and engaging language encouraged 146% more customers to sign up for account alerts.

Not all customer service calls require the same level of interaction

Customer service leaders know there will always be some interactions that require the hands-on focus of a human agent. According to Accenture research, during times of crisis, more than half of all customers want to speak to a person. Yet millions of calls are made every day by customers who simply need a piece of information about their account. These informational calls can be handled through self-service channels — channels that also have the benefit of providing multiple retention and up-sell opportunities.

More precise and engaging language drove a 146% increase in account alert signups by “chronic callers” and decreased the volume of customer service calls.

A large U.S. credit card company refers to the customers who call in two or three times a month with informational inquiries as “chronic callers” (also known as “lonely hearts” by many in banking). The interactions rarely bring additional value to the firm and are viewed as transactional to the customer, but they occupy agent time and attention that would be better spent on complex or sensitive issues requiring a human touch.

drive more digital self service

In normal times, those informational calls create additional costs. In the times of the coronavirus, they add strain to customer service volumes and overwhelm agents who are already handling a daily deluge of calls from stressed customers. It’s no longer only helpful to the bottom line to reduce unnecessary calls; it’s an imperative to prevent serious declines in customer satisfaction from long waits and poor problem resolution. Better customer experiences through better digital self-service could become a source of competitive advantage in this “new normal.”

AI for customer service produced more effective messaging

When analysis revealed that many of these customers didn’t have account alerts set up, the credit card company saw a way to tackle the challenge of chronic callers. Aiming to proactively shift customers’ behavior, the credit card firm turned to Persado to craft an email campaign that promoted digital account alerts to chronic callers, with the goals of increasing account alert adoption and ultimately decreasing call volume.

The control message was good…

Persado’s AI analyzed the credit card company’s control message to categorize the language elements used, as well as visuals and layout. The control message offered a clear and straightforward value proposition with the message, “Save yourself a phone call and manage your credit card account with free alerts.” Who wouldn’t want to save time?

Chronic caller control messageChronic caller Persado message

…but the AI experiment produced better results

Persado analysis of the millions of messages in its language knowledge base has shown that language that is more invitational leaves agency in the hands of the customer, and often produces better results.

That was certainly the case for the credit card company. Persado revised the firm’s control message with the headline: “Hello Will, please finish your enrollment. We recommend enabling free credit card account alerts.” The longer message with a congenial greeting, invitational language punctuated with the word “please,” and a personal recommendation outperformed the shorter, more imperative-focused message.

An additional 25% of customers opened the email, and 146% percent more signed up for account alerts, compared to the credit card company’s control message.

How financial institutions can offer proactive self-service alternatives

Given the increase in volume and complexity of calls during a crisis, it’s critical that call center leaders leverage AI and customer analytics to shift simple calls to simple digital self-service interactions, focusing human agents in the call center on more complex issues.

AI for customer service can address key service needs, including:

  1. Increase self-service adoption to reduce costs and create follow-on opportunities
  2. Improve language used in email, text, and IVR campaigns to prevent calls from landing with an agent in the first place 
  3. Leverage ongoing communications both to motivate customers’ continuous engagement and use of digital self-service and to generate the resulting retention and up-sell opportunities inherent in digital channels

With the right language, businesses can improve the experience exactly when customers need it most.