Hosted by top 5 banking and fintech influencer, Jim Marous, Banking Transformed highlights the challenges facing the banking industry. Featuring some of the top minds in business, this podcast explores how financial institutions can prepare for the future of banking.
An Aberdeen Research report shows that improving operational efficiencies is now taking a back seat to customer experience in back-office operations. This should not be a surprise, especially in financial services.
Companies that create greater synergies between service and back-office are more successful at transforming their back-office into a strategic differentiator supporting their CX objectives. The question is, where do you start?
I am excited to have Nicole Nevulis, Global Senior Director at Verint on the Banking Transformed podcast today. Nicole shares how banks and credit unions can transform the back-office to become a competitive differentiator for long-term customer service success.
This episode of Banking Transformed is sponsored by Verint
Verint® helps the world’s most iconic brands build enduring customer relationships by connecting work, data and experiences across the enterprise. We help financial institutions eliminate inefficiencies created by organizational and data silos and consistently deliver differentiated experiences at scale across every interaction. With Verint, brands can create One Workforce to best leverage their resources to deliver exceptional customer engagement.
Jim Marous: Hello and welcome to Banking Transformed, the top podcast in retail banking. I'm your host, Jim Marous, founder and CEO of the Digital Banking Report and co-publisher of The Financial Brand.
Jim Marous: A recent Aberdeen research report shows that improving operational effectiveness is now taking a back seat to customer experience when we're talking about back office operations. This should not be a surprise, especially in financial services.
Jim Marous: Companies that create greater synergy between the service and back office functionality and the front office experience are more successful at transforming their entire operation and for making a better customer experience. The question is, where do you start?
Jim Marous: I'm excited to having to Nicole Nevulis, the global senior director at Verint, on the Banking Transformed podcast today. Nicole shares how banks and credit unions can transform their back office to become a competitive differentiator for long-term customer service success.
Jim Marous: The role and value of the back office has reached new heights. What was once perceived as a support function and a cost center is now the integral part of making a better customer experience and the overall success metric for a financial institution.
Jim Marous: Banking leaders must expand their focus on back office activities from being purely operational in nature to becoming a key component of their customer experience programs and their financial health.
Jim Marous: So Nicole, before we start, can you share a little bit about yourself and how Verint works with financial institutions to transform their back office into more of an integral part of delivering a better customer experience?
Nicole Nevulis: Sure, Jim. So I have been a part of the financial services industry and engaged with them for almost 30 years now. I started off in back office operations. I was 19. I was one of those, I want to get some experience first before I go to college. So coming in and transitioning into the technology world really helped to bring that real world experience to identify how can we help our financial services customers' needs.
Nicole Nevulis: And we've worked globally across with in Australia, in APAC, in Asia itself, Russia, and many major banks in AMEA and right here in the US. So we've had a broad set of experience that we can bring in, not just from a branch banking and contact center perspective, but also what's near and dear to me is the back office. So our products really are around creating that one workforce.
Nicole Nevulis: Quite often people are investing in how can I automate giving a customer self service? How can I automate tasks? How can I automate processes? Really focused on the work item itself. And we have some great tools around self-service, chat bots, you have real-time agent experience tools that really bring together what a customer's journey looks like end to end.
Nicole Nevulis: And one of the areas that I really focus on is the whole workforce management side of things. And we have a one workforce mission where we're really looking at the people aspect of it, how do the people make a difference and how do we make them available and get those economies of scale?
Nicole Nevulis: The world is changing quite a bit and we want to make sure that we're effectively using our staffing well to meet those customer needs. So workforce management, request management, productivity is about really making it easier for the managers to be able to coordinate the people to the work and coordinate people to customer needs.
Jim Marous: So it's always interesting, while we've in certainly the financial services industry, but most industries have really gone to the digital channels much more aggressively than they would've done without COVID. And the humanization of the digital experience really is transformative as far as the customer experience is concerned. But back office employees usually don't directly engage with the customer. So how can they contribute to the customer experience?
Nicole Nevulis: Sure. We recently did a banking index survey and over the top 10 banks in the US provided us with feedback. And of the contacts that aren't being met by self service, 44% of those are calls that relate to the back office. So it's this cycle of what we do well in the back office to service the customer. Even if they're not talking to the customer, they have a huge impact on the customer journey. Are they processing things on time? Did they process it with the right quality?
Nicole Nevulis: And that can be in a retail banking world, but just as much so in an institution and custodial banking world where we're dealing with mutual funds where perhaps that B2B customer, their end customer is a person. So it's important for the back office to not only prioritize the work to get it done, but get it done right and even create good customer service by getting it done faster.
Jim Marous: So what are some of the typical issues that you see in the back office that create negative customer experiences?
Nicole Nevulis: Sure. So one of my experiences I'd love to share is when it comes to products, so credit cards or debit cards, not missing things like an address change. So I had moved. I'd moved five years and it was time for the new debit card to come. Everything was in the new address.
Nicole Nevulis: And I figured out my card wasn't working when I was standing at the supermarket line trying to pay for my food and it got declined. And the worst part was is people I knew were in line. So I knew I had money, but I was still super embarrassed.
Nicole Nevulis: And when I called the bank, they advised me, well, we sent it. And well, what address did you send it to? They sent it to the wrong house. I wasn't even there. So beyond the embarrassment, there was also that risk and that concern because data privacy is so important. Fraud is one of those things that's top of mind.
Nicole Nevulis: So when we're not making account updates properly, when we don't have a seamless link across all of our back offices, when we enter in a transaction incorrectly, and whether it's in the front office or whether it's in the back office, processing a wire transfer or setting up ACH payments for payroll, even processing or having a gap in ACH can impact somebody getting their paycheck.
Nicole Nevulis: And from a consumer perspective, there's a real impact there. It can easily become like Monopoly money, but if I'm living paycheck to paycheck, that sometimes can be the choice in, what sacrifice do I make for my quality of living? Maybe if I have kids I have to choose to feed them over feeding myself.
Nicole Nevulis: And when we look at those quality issues, whether it's getting your processing to make sure the right product gets out, making sure that we are inputting the right information, making those updates, those are quite often the errors. And it's due to a lack of focus on the work, which conversely means getting things done in a timely manner.
Nicole Nevulis: So if I need to have my debit card or if I need, and people still amazingly do use checks, I need to get that on time so I can pay bills or so I can pay, for example, maybe I have to pay for my child to be in a summer class or a sporting event. So lots of real impact there from a back office perspective.
Jim Marous: Well, it's interesting, the back office problems that you mention are not new to the banking industry, but what is new is the ability to automate certain processes and integrate the human aspect to those automated processes.
Jim Marous: When you're looking at a financial institution, you're starting to engage with Verint, how do you draw the line between what should be automated and digital and what's human? I mean there's got to be some things you go, really, we've got to automate that to enable our humans to do more impactful work, but is there a delineation that's easy to determine for back office?
Nicole Nevulis: So automation is about augmenting the human. So we're really at this precipice with the automation, the straight-through processing, getting rid of the paper, even improving communication channels. We used to wait for the interoffice envelope and we'd get it and then we'd get our paper and then we'd review it.
Nicole Nevulis: The pace of technology has accelerated, but it's all about, how can I make faster and more accurate decisions as a manager? So instead of trying to juggle fire drills, I can focus more on creating great experiences with the employees and customers. I can make better decisions and that automation can make it in a more timely manner.
Nicole Nevulis: So by drawing that line is really around looking at what requires knowledge, what requires being able to have empathy at looking at a situation. I've seen credit unions, for example, will look at a situation and they'll have a conversation and then they'll look at, well, should I approve a loan or even pursue this for somebody starting up a business? And conversation creates empathy, conversation and human element gain context that you can only have as a human.
Nicole Nevulis: So it's really important to look at what's the easy stuff to go ahead and automate and make everybody's lives easier, maybe improve employee engagement. As an example of what we do here is we have a mobile app and I can easily take from my phone, I can look at my performance remotely, I can sign up for a shift in the back office, I can ask for time off, all from my phone.
Nicole Nevulis: So that then allows instant information to the employee. At the same time, it's freeing the managers up from Excel. Like you mentioned, digital transformation has been going on for a while, but when you get down under the covers, you still see business processes being managed by Excel and silos, et cetera.
Nicole Nevulis: So there's so much opportunity, but freeing up humans to be more impactful to serve the customer and make decisions is really where you need to draw that delineation.
Jim Marous: Well, it's interesting, because a lot of people believe, especially employees of financial institutions believe that the digitalization and automation of processes is going to equal the elimination of jobs. In our experience, the research we've done, I'd like to know from your standpoint if you've seen the same thing, it's not about the elimination of jobs. It's about the upgrading of jobs to being more impactful and actually more meaningful for the employee.
Jim Marous: So it really is automation really allows employees to have the tools to do more of what they were really hired to do, which was help the customer. And again where you're saying the automation, the augmentation of the information is to be able to use data so we can give them better roles that are even better than they were before and have more meaning.
Jim Marous: Is that what you've seen as well? That it's really not about eliminating jobs, but it's really about changing the job functions to work in conjunction with the automation?
Nicole Nevulis: That has also been my experience. The whole reaction about automation is going to take my livelihood away, I really see that as the amygdala coming in and really hijacking that thought process, that whole fight or flight thing, oh, this automation will keep me from having a job so I can enjoy the standard of living that I have.
Nicole Nevulis: It may be the person could have a great situation or maybe they're again, living in that paycheck to paycheck, whatever their fear is, having empathy towards that is important through the change management process and helping employees recognize that, but also enlightening them about the history, especially newer generations coming in that this is really about more opportunity.
Nicole Nevulis: Most of us that have been veterans in the industry with automation, this conversation about automation taking away jobs and there'll be no more people having to do the work, we've been having this for years and that hasn't come to fruition. It really has been about, how can we free people up? How can we make it easier? How can we compress time to service? How can we create margin?
Nicole Nevulis: At the same time, employees have been freed up to do more meaningful work. They're working more on exception items now or more ... Companies are able to provide a broader breadth of services to their customer and more complex or more sophisticated and more bespoke to customers.
Nicole Nevulis: So what that has created is employees to do more engaging work, more meaningful work, as well as organizations are seeing maybe not as much of a distinction between back office and contact center work. People are now able to expand their skills to engage in more channels or have more variety.
Nicole Nevulis: And I can absolutely say, when I started off it was very repetitive, very transactional, there wasn't a lot of variety to hold my attention, until I went to a role that required investigating, fixing things, trying to help a customer out.
Jim Marous: And it's interesting, I would imagine that for those organizations that are doing this well that have really embraced moving from automation and task assignments to digital, that they're having a better time avoiding the whole issue of Great Resignation and probably also finding it easier to find qualified new team members because the jobs have more meaning to them. Is that true?
Nicole Nevulis: Yes. And organizations that are building in resiliency to keep their employees engaged, those are the ones that are standing out above others. So for example, when I look at the work being done, am I able to look at somebody and look at their skills and say, how can I talk to them about leveling up? How can I give them real-time information so they can even make decisions to go to their managers and say, I want to have this opportunity to try a different type of job or skill?
Nicole Nevulis: It's really pivoting away from that, managing and coaching people with a ruler, to talking about how can we be supportive and how can I use the tools and automations to create that culture of continuous improvement, that culture of lifting up my employees versus lifting them down.
Nicole Nevulis: At the end of the day, if my manager comes to me and says, why? Why didn't you write the sentence this way? Why didn't your productivity hit 90%? Immediately whenever somebody asks why, that defensive mechanism goes up.
Nicole Nevulis: But when you change the cultural conversation and you're investing in the tools to support that conversation and it's about, how could I help you out? How can I make you be successful? How can I educate the employee and give them that visibility to customer experience, that's partnership. That's partnership.
Nicole Nevulis: And it's also recognizing people in the back office, we add value. And I always say we, because I've just felt like I've never left the back office, but I've always felt like-
Jim Marous: I know that feeling really well.
Nicole Nevulis: Yeah, right? So I always feel like we get no credit, we get no credit for the customer, but the sales people, the ones bringing the accounts in, the people in the contact center, man, they're getting all these tools to help them out and I'm like, and people are still like, "Well what about us? Don't you recognize what we do?" Recognition, that just makes a huge impact in making people feel valued.
Jim Marous: It's interesting, your organization has done some research on this, but we've really as an industry moved from automation and back office being a cost center and being something that we try to drive efficiency out of, we try to squeeze blood out of a beet or whatever that saying is, and employees can read between the lines. They can see if you're really living what you're saying as opposed to not doing so.
Jim Marous: And I think your research showed that organizations across every industry, but especially in the financial service industry, have really embraced the back office now as being a way to differentiate the customer experience as opposed to simply trying to get as much out of people and technology as possible from an efficiency and a cost standpoint. Correct?
Nicole Nevulis: Yeah, that's correct. And we've done some studies which we've pulled together the information into what we call the engagement capacity gap, which because of all the innovation and because we can offer more to our customers, customers have new demands now. What we see is those expectations are going up, but our resources to support them are here. And you can't hire your way out of that problem.
Nicole Nevulis: So you have this gap between the resources you have and customer expectations. And so how do you handle that? Well, it is, organizations are really forced now to look at the whole organization and that's really bringing them to look at the back office.
Nicole Nevulis: I see it at an analyst level talking about operational efficiency is a big thing, talking about looking at reframing, reimagining the way that we think about customer experience. And so I'm excited that the back office is finally getting its due. It's taken a long time, but it's great to see the companies that are most innovative, they're investing even more.
Jim Marous: So it's interesting. This all makes sense. It's interesting how many interviews I have on this podcast where we talk about things that I would say are just common sense. Okay, seem to be very common sense. Yet not every financial institution embraces what we're talking about. They know it makes sense, there's a common knowledge there, but they don't move forward.
Jim Marous: So when you're looking at when you visit financial institutions, what usually stands in the way of an organization improving their back office for a customer experience rationale? Is it data? Is it technology? Is it leadership? What stands in the way of people doing what's necessary to make a better customer experience as opposed to just lower cost?
Nicole Nevulis: There's a number of dynamics, Jim, and I like to think about it sometimes as the silos, the Game of Thrones mentality where I have to defend my kingdom and I have built this, this is what we do, this is why we're successful. And this sometimes gets in the way of making decisions that are best for the company.
Nicole Nevulis: So sometimes it's culture, sometimes it's relationships, that agency problem of somebody focused on their benefit, but often budget becomes an issue. Where do I spend it? I have scarce budget and I have to be smart where I spend it. And if I'm not smart about where I spend it, that's going to come back and bite me.
Nicole Nevulis: So most often decisions are made based upon whatever is in trend at the moment and what I feel safe with. So RPA for example, great, you made a great investment in RPA, it's really good. But earlier in the year I was lucky to have a conversation with Ellen Carney of Forrester and she represents the insurance services industry, but there's a lot of parallels between the two.
Nicole Nevulis: And based on her research, RPA has not panned out to be the great silver bullet, to quote her, that people expected it to be. And it's true, I often look at RPA has become more sophisticated, but back in the day we were writing our own automations. We used to call them macros, and we found ways to try to eliminate some of the tedious activities. And granted it was more rudimentary in nature.
Nicole Nevulis: RPA has really, what it's done is it's gotten rid of, taken the risk out of some of the rogue stuff that used to happen, but it's also been very impactful at processing transactions, it's elevated, but at the end of the day there's still people getting work. And organizations are very, very orientated on their process systems, my workflow, all right, let me get the next piece of work to somebody, but even those are siloed.
Nicole Nevulis: Every back office, the big problem is there's a plethora of systems and there's maybe one system that they've invested the most in and it's cost millions of dollars, it's already in flight and they really, really need to keep investing in that to show the value.
Nicole Nevulis: And it's really simple, you can give somebody a piece of work all you want, but it doesn't mean they are processing it at the velocity that ... It doesn't even mean that they're focused a hundred percent on it. Things like chat distract people, or lack of skills make them take longer to do.
Nicole Nevulis: So it's like you've told somebody that they have to go participate in a race. And so you're going to go participate in this race and you have to get in the boat and here's this oar, but you're not doing anything about making sure, not only are people rowing that boat at the right way, but are they rowing it even the same way? Did they even show up at the right river? So great, you gave them a piece of work to do.
Nicole Nevulis: My other favorite analogy for those of us that remember is the cartoon, Family Circus, one of my favorites growing up, it was like the first thing I read, but little Billy, and if you don't know, go look it up, little Billy would be given something to do by his mother, go put the mail in the mail mailbox, but Billy would go everywhere else and then he'd miss the mailman.
Nicole Nevulis: So great, you gave somebody a piece of work, but how are you going to make sure it really gets it? The system's really, even if it does have a prioritization mechanism, it doesn't guarantee they're fully focused, which is really where we see problems like quality manifest. And for I think many technology folks really getting them to make decisions that have balance is important.
Jim Marous: It's interesting you bring this up because so many things you mentioned ring a bell. And we always say that simply automating current process and procedures is not the right answer, because if you get into the true automation and modernization of your back office technology for the customer experience benefit, you really have to rethink the way you did things because if you simply do them faster, it doesn't mean it's going to be better and it's not going to be able to be at scale. And you also talked about existing technology.
Jim Marous: So how important from your perspective do you see the collaboration between third party providers such as Verint to transform the business at speed and scale over and above what can be accomplished by possibly existing partners because that's not necessarily their key business quality, their key business advantage?
Nicole Nevulis: Right. It's really about partnering to say how do we overlay what you have, or how can we take a load off, because it's a double edged sword. If you have multiple different capabilities in place, whether it's homegrown or disparate use of tools like Excel, your core competency really is about trying to serve the customer. How are you creating revenue for yourself?
Nicole Nevulis: So letting organizations like Verint say, how can we give you something to improve your customer experience? That's our core competency. Managing people, helping, we're consistently investing in those things and we're getting feedback from multiple financial services organizations. So we're able to look at their feedback and create something that's best of breed and eliminating that internal bias that you get internally.
Jim Marous: Well, it's so important because you look at Verint, you specialize in a component of the overall banking technology back office. You're very good at what you do, but you also have the ability to bring case studies and examples of where you've made mistakes, but also where you've done things that are extraordinarily powerful with other financial institutions that if a person tries to build it from within or tries to build it with an existing provider that this is not their specialty, usually, you're not going to optimize scale and you're certainly not going to optimize speed because you're going to get a blend of what's out there.
Jim Marous: And it's so important, especially now when there's so many priorities on the table to know, what do you spend the money on? What kind of impact can it be? And Verint I'm sure can go to a financial institution and say, here's what the return's going to be. Here's how we're going to impact customer experience.
Jim Marous: And we talk about this all the time, that if the back office is not efficient, you can't make the front of the screen be a good customer experience. You can only put lipstick on the pig for so long before it impacts you negatively.
Jim Marous: So let's say I'm a financial institution struggling to modernize my back office with the focus being on customer experience, where should I start?
Nicole Nevulis: You should start at looking at the visibility, where are they spending their time on production? It's so, so simple. And the most common response I get back is, well, I see they're working, I know they're working. Look, they're logged into the system. It's usually point in time.
Nicole Nevulis: We're in a world we can't do virtual walk around management anymore. And as organizations have become more distributed in their back offices, you can't be every place at once. So looking at how can I bring in technology and use it in a positive way, almost use it like a Fitbit for employees, what does my desktop activity say I'm spending my time?
Nicole Nevulis: My phone or my little watch here is going to tell me how many steps I took and desktop analytics is going to give me an idea of where am I focusing. And that allows me to self adjust, but it also allows me to say, but I'm out of work, so can I be proactive and get some more work? But at the same time, analytics does not go far enough on a desktop. And this has always been where our customers like to see that balance.
Nicole Nevulis: It's really about, well, what kind of plans have I made and am I intentionally setting up for my resources to spend 40% of their time in non-production activity with 60% in production, and these resources were planned to be in production 80% of their time or 90% of their time, when they're supposed to be in production, not when they're in breaks or lunches. So of course you planned resources and you're taking them out. Well, no wonder why you're falling behind.
Nicole Nevulis: And then there's the on-the-fly taking them out. And this is always a challenge because depending who the leader is, somebody may come up and say, hey Jim, I need you to work on this special initiative and do that with a few other people. So there's that hidden, we're just not aware of it.
Jim Marous: Okay, so final is, as we look forward, what do you see as a trend or a couple trends that financial institutions are going to see as they try to integrate their front office and back office for improved customer experience?
Nicole Nevulis: So I see organizations embracing that one workforce approach, which is in looking at the fact that customers want to interact on their own channel of choice and they want to be able to pick up conversations where they left off. They're going to look at how their employees want the tools to get the job done well. So that real-time support, but centralized knowledge to quickly answer questions and really bolster their confidence.
Nicole Nevulis: And then organizationally, they want to look at ways that they can attract and retain some of the top channel and engage and make it more seamless for humans and bots to work together. Really having a fully connected experience is where these organizations are going.
Nicole Nevulis: And so it's about one company, how do we become that employer of choice? How do we make that job mobility? How are we improving collaboration? How are we bringing in the right candidates? Are we optimizing our resource plans? And can we make sure that we're giving those employees the right things for a source of truth?
Nicole Nevulis: So what it distills down to is AI powered platforms, looking at making sure that we have a best of breed platform that can actually provide all those things and talk to each other, because siloed systems create even more complexity. So what do I have around orchestration and knowledge with that customer experience? What am I doing with quality and compliance?
Nicole Nevulis: So more quality and compliance solutions, not just your typical, oh let me do a quality check in the back office, but can I actually see how somebody processes some work as they're doing it? And can I look for best practices that I can scale across the organization?
Nicole Nevulis: But compliance is even becoming more important too, especially as global organizations and even state size, different states, they have their own data privacy rules. But also we see institutions, we're probably seeing more restriction around what type of transactions are we engaging?
Nicole Nevulis: OFACs been around for a while, but perhaps that there's other financial institutions that are going to look to make sure that we're complying with those standards because non-compliance can really cost a lot of money.
Nicole Nevulis: Analytics, what analytics do we have to pick up not just customer sentiment, but as I mentioned, desktop activity? How do we know? And very much, especially without one workforce is that hiring, forecasting and scheduling so ...
Nicole Nevulis: Organizations, when I say one workforce, we've always been very siloed in my contact center. People do contact center work, back office does operations work. And even we use the term back office, but people even say that's quite antiquated. What do you mean? There's nobody in the back of the bank doing stuff.
Nicole Nevulis: That's going to be operations, that's going to be service delivery. Even things, we hear terms like retirement services, funds flow, different terms like that. And then yes, even the branch side. Well, when you have that capacity gap, all of these people have different perspectives about the customer and different perspectives about doing the work. So you can get economies of scale.
Nicole Nevulis: And using forecasting and scheduling solutions can help you see, well, when does the contact center have downtime? Hey, we're free from calls, so what kind of work can I ask them to do? And organizations are starting to do that with their workforce management solutions.
Nicole Nevulis: But now they're also looking at the back office in the branch and how can I load balance that work? And those are the companies, when you start to look there, great, then you can use systems that maybe organize and prioritize work and allocate that work based on skills. You can look at holistic productivity.
Nicole Nevulis: So it also gives employees a real appreciation to what their counterparts do because it's always easy for the contact center to say those people in the back office, it's always their fault. But they then get to see what we deal with. Conversely, the back office person gets to see what it's like for that branch person to get a upset customer, or their contact center.
Nicole Nevulis: So they're going to think about that and be more intentful in how they're approaching that work. So when they all come together, now we're focused on the customer and we're focused on each other and we're creating that more uplifting environment. Happy employees create happy customers, and happy customers come back and they invest more in your organization.
Jim Marous: Nicole, it's been great having a conversation with you. Thank you so much for sharing with us some of the ways that organizations can really transform their back office or operational system, all the other names we want to make that, into more of a customer focused organization and support team. So thank you again for being on the show.
Nicole Nevulis: Thank you very much, Jim. It's been a real pleasure to be here with you today and really converse with somebody else who loves, not just the technology, but really understanding what business users' needs are. So thank you so much. Have a wonderful day.
Jim Marous: You too. Thanks. Thanks for listening to Banking Transformed podcast, the winner of three international awards for podcast excellence. If you enjoy what we're doing on the show, please be sure to give our show a five star rating on your favorite podcast app. In addition, be sure to catch my articles on The Financial Brand and the research we're doing for the Digital Banking Report.
Jim Marous: This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to our producer, Leah Haslage, audio engineer, Sean Rule-Hoffman, and video producer, Will Pritts. I'm your host, Jim Marous.
Jim Marous: Until next time, remember, customer service should not be a department. It should involve the entire company, including the back office.