DALLAS – Imagine this nightmare scenario: you’re on a vacation, travelling internationally, liberally making use of the new bank card you got that rewards you for your travel activities – suddenly, you’re locked out of using the card. Why? Because you used it out of country, of course.

This and other unpleasant surprises are what Scotiabank is trying to avoid for its customers in the bank’s new push to focus on customer service rather than product promotion. And the Canadian financial institution is relying on data analytics to chart the way.

Scotiabank is looking at a long-term optimization of its customer engagement program.

“What we are working towards now is a one-to-one customer-focused strategy that is geared towards service,” said Tim Morris, vice-president of Scotiabank’s customer interaction management.

Morris spoke about how the Canadian bank is using analytics to drastically alter its customer engagement strategy here at the SAS Global Forum 2015.

As one of Canada’s big three banks, Scotiabank offers a broad range of products and services, including personal, corporate, commercial and investment banking to more than 21 million customers in some 50 countries around the world. Its operations encompass North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Central America. It employs more than 86,000 workers around the world.

Scotiabank has been using analytics tools to help it understand customer behaviour and come up with strategies and campaigns to leverage data assets and remain profitable. The bank has also been using SAS Marketing Optimization to determine which service offerings are most relevant for a particular customer at a particular time.

However, some of the most notable changes in Scotiabank’s practices in the near future will come from its customer contact centres.

Some three years ago, Morris said, the bank embarked on a project to re-evaluate its customer engagement practices and to identify better ways for its frontline staff to communicate with Scotiabank’s clients.

The traditional process involved contact centre personnel calling bank customers and offering them products they may or may not want. These phone calls also tended to occur during times when customers were just about to have dinner, a surefire way to annoy someone.

In the last few years Scotiabank has been working on altering this strategy, Morris says. To drive this transformation, the bank has been employing SAS analytics solutions to gain a clearer picture of what its customers need.

The idea, according to Morris, is to use analytics to a point where Scotiabank’s systems can provide customer contact agents with information that will give them a better idea of what other products and services the customer might need.

For example, when a customer accesses ScotiaBank’s website to conduct a transaction, they may be presented with options for other services. The customer might click on these services but decide not to pursue it at that moment. When the customer gets to interact with an agent, the agent, during the course of the conversation, might bring up other possible services based on the customer’s profile or perceived interest they may have signified during previous online interactions.

“There will be nothing intrusive with the offers and everything will depend on the customer’s decisions,” Morris said.

This entails a fundamental change on contact centre agent skills and how they interact with clients, he adds. Scotiabank’s future plans will involve a re-think of how contact centre agents interact with customers.

If agents were instructed to push products and services in the past, they may be trained to listen more intently to customer issues, determine what a customer’s specific needs are, and recommend the available services and products.

It’s a “context change” and “content change,” according to Morris. Contact centre agents will have to be trained to identify opportunities during their client contact to offer services and products that will “genuinely” be useful to the customer.

This is no easy task, according to Mark Peskir, solutions architect for the Carolinas operations of the American Automotive Associations (AAA). The company is an organization that provides an automobile towing service, membership service, towing service and even a loyalty program to members. Peskir was among the attendees in Morris’ presentation.

“I can see how the use of analytics in determining customer needs and the altering of customer service agents’ practices can bring benefits to loyalty programs like ours,” he said.

But he also realizes the challenges.

“For the most part, contact agents work from a ready-made script of that covers how they interact and what they offer customers,” he said. “This strategy will require them to adopt a new analytics-driven script. Some will be able to readily transition, but others will likely be told they need to undergo retraining.”

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