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Why empathy needs to sit at the heart of BBLS and CBILS customer service


By Siddharth Parashar, Chief Revenue Officer, CRM, Firstsource

Many businesses are staying afloat during the pandemic by relying on the Bounce Bank Loan Scheme (BBLS) and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). These government-backed loans are offered through financial services organisations, meaning businesses need to apply to lenders, who in turn process, check and service thousands of customer loans.

The unique challenges of CBILS and BBLS

CBILS and BBLS are unlike other commercial loans – they are taken out by businesses in distress – and this needs to be reflected in how lenders serve customers. Lenders need to focus on providing services rooted in empathy throughout the entire process. Because leading with a human-centric approach is likely to secure long-lasting relationships and minimise the risk of negative interactions that could impact lenders’ brand reputation.

Enabling empathetic interactions

Initially, the biggest challenge for lenders was the overwhelming amount of loan applications. One bank reported webchat interactions increasing by nearly 50 per cent, and call volumes rising by 25 per cent, when the schemes were announced. To date over £64 billion has been issued through BBLS and CBILS and recently the government predicted that 35 to 60 percent of these could end in default. This means lenders have to be prepared to navigate sensitive conversations around fraud, payment delays and nonpayment. This is why empathy must sit at the heart of all dealings related to CBILS and BBLS.

The first step is ensuring that customer facing teams are able to handle conversations with sensitivity while spotting risk and supporting vulnerable individuals appropriately. Usually this requires additional training such as sessions on empathic listening and issue recognition. One major UK bank providing BBLS loans was able to reduce fraud losses by 62 percent and improve quality assurance by providing employees with training around identifying and responding to ‘red-flags’ in account activity.

Using technology as a support structure

By their nature, sensitive conversations take longer. To ensure customer servicing agents have the time need to focus on these lenders are integrating digital channels such self-service portals, chatbots and email to reduce call volumes. These technologies are now sophisticated enough to integrate human language, including phrases such as ‘I’m here to help’, or checking whether a customers’ query has been solved. This means customers receive the personal touch, as well as time-efficient service reducing call volumes, and most importantly freeing up agents to tackle delicate conversations with empathy.

CBILS and BBLS customers represent a different, and much wider, demographic to business loan customers. Having an agile, personable approach is essential for lenders dealing with these unique customer profiles and their preferences. Deploying AI and analytics tools can help. Data analysis can be used to predict ebbs and flows in customer call and chat numbers and resource appropriately. While combination of AI and analytics can help to proactively understand customer response patterns and tailor contact approaches. Importantly, all of this can be done while maintaining essential human interactions by funnelling more complex enquiries to customer service agents.

Turning challenges into opportunities

Lenders are in a unique position to support customers through the difficult times ahead. However, with sensitivities running high it is equally as easy for them to alienate customers with poor servicing. Financial institutions need to find opportunities to improve customer services, this may require providing valuable staff training as well upgrading systems and processes.

Serviced well, CBILS and BBLS accounts can be converted into valuable long-term customers. With a holistic approach to empathy, from direct contact through to the technology used, lenders have an opportunity to build better customer relationships.

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