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On an average day, there are around 4000 calls to the Barclays contact centres that service our mortgage customers. In late September 2022, the number was closer to 7000.

The UK Government’s mini-budget on 23rd September had generated a strong reaction in the markets. The fall in Sterling and related impact on UK bond markets quickly created the prospect of heavy increases in mortgage rates.

By 29th September, 40% of mortgage products had been withdrawn from the UK market, as banks and building societies found it difficult to predict how high interest rates might rise over the coming months and years.

Understandably, this left a lot of mortgage holders confused and concerned, especially the ones whose fixed-rate mortgage period was coming to an end soon. Call volumes to our customer care teams increased by 30% almost overnight.

When it comes to improving the experience we offer to Barclays customers, sometimes a project is critically important and sometimes it’s acutely urgent. This was both.

The mortgage task force was put together to create solutions that would help our customers and colleagues access the information they needed as the situation changed rapidly. It included a whole range of skills and knowledge from tech to legal, strategy, product, marcomms, customer care and copywriting. And it was led by someone who has spent most her career making customer service work better for customers.

Laura Patino is a Product Owner in our Customer and Colleague Platforms team. It’s her job to create better experiences and more seamless journeys for our customers and the colleagues serving them. Her drive and leadership on the Mortgage Task Force won her a Customer Centricity award at the 2022 Barclays Group Technology Awards.

The award was well deserved. Together, Laura and her rapidly expanding team of experts pulled together the Mortgage Support Hub in just three days. It was viewed over 30,000 times in the following two weeks.

Laura started her career on the phone at a Contact Centre. From there, she became an expert in the way that customer service journeys work or, sometimes, don’t work.

When Laura started at Barclays, she worked with the leaders of our contact centres to ensure that Barclays was accurately auditing and managing performance against compliance and control measures. Then she moved into Barclays UK’s Transformation team, looking for ways to simplify and integrate the mix of specialist service teams that had grown up around specific products and customers.

By this time, Laura was an expert in capturing and analysing data. Someone with years of experience in streamlining and improving user experience. And a leading voice in transformation. Despite all that, she would never have considered herself a tech person.

When I returned from maternity leave, my team had been restructured and my role was now part of Global Technology. With the type of experience I’d had, I wouldn’t have felt confident putting my hand up for a role in tech. But I’m really glad to be here. I’ve been really successful, and I feel like I belong in customer care tech. It was serendipity.

At the end of March 2022, Laura was asked to lead a feature team to review the help content within the Barclays app and deliver a much more effective experience. “We saw a big opportunity to give more support to customers and help them fulfil their needs in the app.”

Making information work harder for our customers was no small matter. There were around 1300 FAQs across the Barclays app and website. “We started by looking at contact data. Once we knew the most popular topics that people were talking to us about and had studied the journeys they’d been on, we could see where information needed to be added, enhanced or amended.”

By the end of September, Laura had worked successfully with teams across the bank to optimise FAQs across our digital estate, ensuring information was easy to understand and giving customers clear steps to resolve their queries. The work also saw the introduction of journey deeplinks within FAQs for the first time. “Our goal was to empower customers, with clear information and clickable links that took them where they needed to go. Ultimately, we delivered a reduction of around 6,500 calls and chats per week.”

So, when the mortgage crisis came, Laura was the natural person to lead the new task force.

I’d learned a lot from the FAQs project. But most of all, I’d built a brilliant network of people across Barclays who I could call on for help.

The team started with around 20 people, ranging across strategy, products, marcomms, content, legal, compliance, copywriting, production, the app and online banking. And it grew quickly. “We brought on experts wherever we needed them. And we had Team Leaders from the contact centres feeding us up-to-the-minute data on the questions customers were asking for.”

The task force identified the pockets of existing information available for customers on the app and website and brought them together on to a dedicated Mortgage Support Hub, with a new URL. They created new bespoke content to round out the information. Marcomms content, UX and design teams worked out what level of detail was needed and what order everything should be in. Meanwhile, other members of the task force scoped out the new tools, like the Early Repayment Fee Calculator, needed to cater for more complex enquiries.

When the support hub launched there wasn’t a simple way for customers to see what their current mortgage interest rate was and the end date for that rate. We remedied that and then built a whole new dynamic flow to support rate-switching.

The new flow guided customers who were interested in switching their mortgage rate through the process. By answering a few simple radio-button questions they could find out their rate, discover when their deal ended and book a call with a mortgage adviser at the right time to make a change.

Beyond the hub, there were 51 separate digital pages that needed updating, as well as 29 new app and website FAQs to create. All the while, the clock was ticking. “The scope and impact of change we had to deliver was huge. And the speed with which we had to react was daunting. But we got it done in just three days.”

Normally, such fundamental changes would take months to deliver. “There’s never a quiet day in tech. There’s always something going live. But we couldn’t afford to wait in the queue. Customers needed our help right away. So people from across Barclays worked together to put other projects on hold and make the Hub happen,” explains Laura.

Just 72 hours after the task force was formed, the Mortgage Help Hub went live. It was a huge feat of teamwork. And a proud moment for a lot of people.

When it comes down to it, this project was all about collaboration. We were able to get the right people in the right place, at the right time to create a hugely useful resource at a time of national crisis. When the hub launched and we saw the number of people using it, we could all see that we had made a real difference.

Customers weren’t the only ones eagerly using the new resources. The hub also made information more accessible for the colleagues still servicing customers by phone and chat.

Of course, the work of a true customer champion is never done. So now Laura is working on a programme with even bigger implications. “We are creating a new customer and colleague digital help journey both online and in the Barclays App.”

The Help Hub will revolutionise the help journey for everyone. For colleagues, the programme will use automation and real-time transcription software to proactively deliver relevant help topics direct to their desktop, as a conversation with a customer develops.

On the customer side, the aim is to create a single, seamless linear journey that triages a customer problem, explores the self-help options and, if they need to speak to someone, identifies the best chat, phone or video call channel to route them through.

Tech that delivers help when and where it’s needed most. It’s happening here.

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