Brett King

Posts Tagged ‘anger’

Bank IVR improvements: You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…

In Media, Retail Banking, Technology Innovation on March 5, 2010 at 08:15

IVR’s or Interactive Voice Response systems are for many customers the bane of our existence. There is nothing more dehumanizing than ringing a bank, airline, telephone company or service provider and having to navigate through a multitude of options that at best are confusing. Well all of that is about to change…

In the next few years IVR systems will integrate voice response. Already in some parts of the world voice recognition is starting to take hold with you using your voice to select menu options, say names of destinations, restaurants or businesses, etc to select the desired result. Today we are seeing more and more banks integrating voice recognition into their IVR systems—Citibank, Wells Fargo and HSBC, just to name a few. But let’s get this straight from the outset. Voice recognition rarely reduces cost on its own; it normally represents a nominal increase in cost. However, by the time we get this technology right, will we actually get cost improvements? In directory service utilisation and many booking systems, voice recognition has been shown to show reductions in total call times. In bank IVR systems, the gains are less certain.

IVR is a long-term viable solution for best practice. When customers can say what they need—for example,“help me with a payment” or “I’ve lost my credit card”—and we can respond appropriately, then not only will customer service perception rise positively, but bank costs will be reduced as calls get diverted quickly to exactly where customers need to go. Much of the problem with current IVR systems is purely that menu systems are not intuitive. More often than not, it appears like the IVR system is just a virtual menu representation of the bank organization structure and no one has actually thought of using this vehicle to help customers.

Perhaps the greatest criticism of IVR systems is that they take away the human element. When the bank IVR system responds in a more human fashion, then this perception will be reversed. This is undoubtedly where speech recognition is going over the next five to ten years, so the sooner banks get in on the action, learn the nuances of these systems and transition customers to the
new approach, the better.

A recent development in speech recognition, though, can immediately improve customer service levels. Imagine you are a customer with a complaint or an issue. You ring your bank only to get the dreaded IVR system. After having to navigate 16 levels of the IVR, you are hardly going to be in a better frame of mind to speak to a CSR and hear their possible solution. Yet this is what happens every day in most banks.

An angry customer dealing with an IVR system

IVR systems can make upset customers more angry

New technologies in voice recognition enable us to determine if a customer is angry or unhappy. Remember, tone of voice represents a very large part of our verbal communication capability. Thus, emotive voice recognition allows us to flag an unhappy customer and immediately transfer him to someone who is trained specifically to deal with such customers. It does this through the combination of four different types of Acoustic/Prosodic technologies, namely from Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), Natural Language Understanding (NLU), Dialogue Manager (DM) and Context features.

Just a tip with this technology though. After the system detects the customer is upset, it would probably be better for the IVR not to say, “The system has detected that you are upset; we are transferring you to a highly trained specialist who is used to dealing with customers like you …”


Bank Bonus – Expect Smoke and Mirrors games

In Groundswell, Retail Banking, Social Networking on January 12, 2010 at 10:56

With such a huge public backlash against Wall Street firms and Big banks as they unabashedly prepare for a big bonus season (At least $47Bn at last estimate), it is no wonder that these guys are having to think of some PR strategies that might soother the ire of the general public, shareholders and the politicians.

Some of the public anger stems from the idea that big bonuses are being given out after banks were bailed out with money from the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and other similar programs around the world. Even though firms aren’t use bailout funds to make bonuses, these banks benefited from borrowing funds from the government at almost 0% interest and then investing those funds to make a solid return – rather than lending it out to consumers as was intended.

There are two core strategies you will see the Banks deploying in the coming weeks to stave off criticism about the huge bonuses payouts:

Hey, we’re giving lots of money to charity…
JP Morgan has done extremely well throughout the crisis, so Jamie Dimon and the team there are preparing for a very healthy bonus pool. Dimon was very strong in his criticism of the UK windfall tax on bank bonuses and even threatening Chancellor Alistair Darling that if JP Morgan wasn’t exempted they might drop the plans for their £1.5Bn European Headquarters in London. Well JP wasn’t exempted and thus far there is no news over whether the threat to pull out will eventuate. Well JP Morgan has already started to send out messages to compete with the bashing they are getting over bonus payouts.

The three most recent corporate announcements from the bank include the following: JP Morgan Chase donates $2.25 million for security cameras at Chicago schools — 18 December; JPMorgan and Facebook to make $25,000 donations to 100 small and local charities— 17 December; JPMorgan gives $5 million to Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization — 14 December

Taking a leaf out of JP Morgan’s books Goldman Sachs is also considering expanding a program that would require executives and top managers to give a certain percentage of their earnings to charity.

Charity begins at home – how about we see shareholders getting some dividends and customers getting some fee relief I say!

It’s not really a bonus if it’s stock…
Banks justify their payment methods with large bonus schemes because so many of their top performers have their pay directly linked to portfolio or bank EPS (Earnings per share) performance type KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). They argue that top bankers will leave to go to the competition if they don’t provide the big bonus packets. Bankers at the top of the pay grade get most of their remuneration this way and thus have become dependent on it for their big ticket annual expenses like kids schooling, housing, etc

But in 2010 some of these guys won’t be getting hard cold cash. Banks are expected to pay more of their bonuses out in stock to executives this year rather than cash. Getting paid in cash circumvents ‘tax’ issues related to bonuses, and means that banks can list the cash component of the bonus as a separate item – reducing the ‘cash payout’ figure on the balance sheet and more importantly in the public domain.

Come on guys – we’re not stupid. We may not be able to understand credit default swaps or barbwire swap hedging contracts, but we do understand when you elect to simply change the payment method for executive bonuses!

The loan voices of restraint
Still, there are a select few on Wall Street and in the UK High Streets, including Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack, who won’t be taking any bonus this year. In fact, the Wall Street Journal says this is the third consecutive year that Mack hasn’t taken a bonus. Bravo!

Hey – I’ve got an idea…why don’t the banks who are considering massive bonuses restructure their remuneration systems and restrict the massive annual bonuses, instead of attempting the smoke and mirrors trick with already angry consumers, shareholders, MPs and Congress representatives…

Momentum builds behind customer-led campaign to displace big banks…

In Blogs, Groundswell, Media, Retail Banking, Social Networking, Twitter on January 9, 2010 at 07:14

When Huffington Post helped launch the MoveYourMoney campaign they probably had a small inkling of the momentum building on the basis of frustration felt by customers, but I doubt they expected the massive groundswell of support that has happened so quickly.

Let’s look at some of the groundswell against banks like Bank of America and others out on the web 2.0 landscape – it is building, and if banks don’t start to get it right, they are going to lose out to smaller, more agile competitors who are focused on serving customers better.

Citi and BofA targeted by Obama’s Special Investigator
A year ago as the Financial Crisis really started to bite, politicians and regulators were looking for cover and as the new US administration took over it was obvious that banks were going to be an easy target because they had been instrumental in the failure of the banking system and the creation of the sub-prime housing bubble

Public Anger Grows in the UK
In the UK the same was happening with MP’s blaming anyone but themselves for the trouble…

BofA Overdraft SCAM, BofA and Wells Fargo Overdraft Fees, Join-us-on-our-bank-anger-tour-across-the-blogosphere
11 months ago users on YouTube and Bloggers started to complain about hidden fees and outrageous policies that allowed banks like BofA to charge customers for things like Overdrafts, when their account was actually in the black. Have they been listening to this feedback? Well according to HuffPost ( it is still happening today

Back 8 months ago people like Roy De Young ( started speaking out on YouTube and blogs complaining about the cost of the bailout to BofA ($45Bn) and the total lack of support that resulted after the bailout. It was impassioned and heartfelt – as Roy says B O A = Bend over America. But as Roy said “If 500 people take their money out it’s not going to matter, but if 5 million do it…”

G20 Protesters Storm RBS Building London
About this time the G20 provided an opportunity for protesters to voice their unhappiness at the global governments handling of the financial crisis. This lead to riots across London and the very public storming of a Royal Bank of Scotland building.

Move by NAB in Australia moves competitors to yield on fees
In July in Australia the pressure on banks re overdraft fees built to extreme levels forcing the banks to abandon their opportunistic penalty fees

You would think they would have learned, but it appears bankers are afflicted with short-term memory loss issues
Sky News re Halifax
Canberra Times Anger at Westpac
USA Today

You see the #MoveYourMoney Twitter, Blog and Social Networking campaign has succeeded not only because of the effectiveness of social media in ensuring that customers are heard, but also plainly because banks still don’t get it.
ABC profiles Huffington’s awareness campaign for Move Your Money

Bank’s need to be listening to Twitter and Blogs as an essential source of information on how better to serve customers, and then they need to respond – visibly, and rapidly. Until they do, campaigns like Move Your Money will continue to gain momentum and banks will definitely lose customers and revenue. Right now if Google started up a Bank, imagine what would happen…