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How do you provide customer service to the underserved populations in banking?

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Author: Uthaman Bakthikrishnan

Let me begin with a few problem statements.

  1. Banks usually consider only their best customers – those who do high-value transactions. When it comes to customer experience, they only want to provide the best service to their customers
  2. Banks don’t always lend to everyone. They charge unfair rates and fees and often won’t answer your calls
  3. Emerging markets have millions of poor people who are underbanked or completely unbanked. These people cannot get loans, open bank accounts, receive loans, and other services
  4. Today, the number one problem for the business is creating a targeted customer experience. The same applies to the customers. Customers do not have a share in the business because they don’t understand the product
  5. Banks have millions of customers, but some do not have access to financial services due to the lack of distribution networks and bank branches in most rural and semi-urban areas of the country

What if you want to offer a quality customer experience across all your customers as a strategy?

To offer quality customer experiences, banks began by enabling online channels like websites and mobile apps. This made things easy for the customers to access products online and decide what would make sense to them and what wouldn’t.

However, the underserved customer segments aren’t very savvy in using the online channels to understand the products and opt for them. So, they still depend on the physical branches and the call center for all their needs.

Given this situation, how do you provide great customer experiences?

Now, you have access to customer data, products, target segments, and the targets for each of your product offerings.

This knowledge will have to be made available to every customer-facing resource at your physical branch and the agents in the call center.

Let me give you a scenario.

Now, let us assume that a customer calls up the contact center and asks about his eligibility to seek an overdraft facility. The agent goes through the details and tells him that he is eligible for a 200,000 overdraft, provided he meets some of the eligibility criteria – good CIBIL score, IT returns of the last three years, and ability to collateralize the overdraft.

The agent fills up most of the customer’s information on the application form and stores it online. He then directs the customer to visit his home branch to make an application for an overdraft.

When the customer visits the branch, the official prints out the pre-filled application and asks him for additional information like the collateral. Once that gets filled, he then sends the application to seek legal opinion and valuation of the collateral given by the customer.

The bank receives the valuation report and the legal opinion within three days. Then the bank sanctions the overdraft amount and informs the customer.

An overdraft facility that would have taken three weeks to approve took only three days now with the digital and physical channels working together.

What should the customer experience function be equipped with to offer such experiences?

  • A single view of the customer across all channels – voice, email, chat, SMS, social, website, and mobile apps
  • Ability to access customer information and map them to different products that you offer
  • Providing intelligence to your outbound teams to target specific customers for specific products of yours based on historical data
  • Enabling every customer-facing resource with extensive product knowledge to help the customers choose the right product for their needs
  • Integrating the customer experience function with your internal systems like CRM, helpdesk, mobile apps, and website

The last two years have taught us that digital transformation is vital in serving your customers. It even extends your ability to reach out to people you probably haven’t considered as a prospect earlier.

With the current infrastructure and the willingness of banks to add more channels and integrate internal systems, they can easily reach out to underserved customers and enhance their revenues.


About the Author: Uthaman Bakthikrishnan


Uthaman believes in the power of creation - it gives him a high to grow something from scratch and make it sustainable. Uthaman is the Executive Vice President and helps set the strategic direction and roadmap for ClearTouch, a pioneering provider of a cloud-based call center platform for enterprises, contact centers, BPOs, and financial services companies in India.