This article originally appeared in The Jakarta Post.
Customer service at retail banks often resembles an arcade game called Whac-A-Mole, in which players use a mallet to pound a plastic mole popping up from different holes. Banks launch initiatives to eliminate the 50 to 70 percent of call volumes that typically are bad or avoidable - those generated by errors or that should go to lower-cost or higher-service channels - only to find that the total call demand stubbornly remains high. Take out call demands here and watch new call demands pop up there.
Unlike the arcade game, this dynamic at banks is not fun. It creates a doom loop where an imbalance between workload and capacity triggers futile management interventions, degrades the customer experience and burns out frontline employees.
Swinging more mallets - by adding initiatives and project teams - can be expensive and usually doesn't work, because by the time the mallet comes down, the target has changed.
Leading banks have taken a more effective approach that has produced sustainable reductions of 20 percent to 40 percent of total demand within two years, worth US$20 million per year on a $100 million annual cost base. Effective demand management can be achieved through four actions.
Michael Woodbury is a partner based in Bain & Company's Melbourne office, and Edy Widjaja is a principal based in the firm's Jakarta office. Both are members of Bain's Financial Services Practice.