Financial Services

What happens when you deliver poor customer experiences and get complaints? You might ignore your customers — or worse, blame them — and lose them for life. Or you might fix their problems and earn their loyalty. What you and your employees will do depends on your customer culture.  In a global survey by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, 56 percent of companies described themselves as customer centric. Only 12 percent of their customers agreed.

This image illustrates the discrepancy in interpretation between how companies traditionally develop vertically into a number of distinct silos as growth takes hold – but that your customers will always interact with the company horizontally (they don’t care what business unit helps them with the product and/or service they require – they just want an exceptional overall experience.)

The financial services industry continues to face a number of challenges when it comes to the development of improved customer experience and services.   Gone are the days of the ‘bank/insurance company/credit card/investment firm for life’; switching providers can be completed at the click of a button, as consumers Google their way to a better deal.
Financial institutions have traditionally been “product driven” environments – selling both the existing and new product lines has remained at the heart of their offering to the public.  However, it is much harder to differentiate on rates and products these days; instead, service now holds the key to standing out in a crowded marketplace. As such, financial institutions have to think carefully about the customer experience in a way they have never had to before.

The initial solutions have been focused on building out and improving the IT infrastructure – but financial institutions are having a number of issues with that route with well-publicised blow-ups that have had far-reaching implications including government scrutiny.

Some of the additional problems are self-inflicted due to missteps and news reports of suspicious industry activities; employees who are not prepared, trained or authorised to provide what would be considered flexible solutions to specific customer difficulties; some of the problems have developed due to the lag in the development of business & customer strategy processes; and emerging technologies can allow for better customer-centric strategies are not implemented fast enough (if at all.)

Some of the challenges for financial institutions are how to:

  • Create simple structures to frame complex advice
  • Use digital services to optimise information delivery
  • Integrate multiple streams of information in ways that signal to users where to look
  • Create collaborative environments online

In truly customer-centric companies, all individuals (regardless of their roles) base their decisions and actions on the belief that what’s best for the customer is best for the businessNew evidence shows how a strong customer culture drives future business performance and supports market strategies.

New research, based on a recent quantitative study across more than 150 businesses, spanning various industries and functions, identifies seven cultural factors that drive customer satisfaction, revenue and profit growth, innovation, and new product success.

These are important predictors of future results and early indicators of risks and opportunities related to retaining customers and acquiring new ones. This research on highly customer-centric businesses like Amazon, Virgin and salesforce.com tell us that these factors are disciplines that, if practised and embedded, create superior value for customers and sustainable growth in value for stockholders. They can be measured and benchmarked for any organization:

If you take the example of the clambering for the need of social media within the context of the relationship between financial services institutions and their customers and the basic structures that seem to be missing:

http://www.brandrepublic.com/news/1213004/

Younger people (aged 18-24) in particular, want businesses to engage with them over social channels, with 41 percent indicating they want companies to provide customer support via social media. In addition, 39 percent reported that they would like companies to listen and respond through social channels.

This is just one example of many on how financial services companies must evolve to meet the changing needs of their customers.

There are numerous straightforward opportunities to quickly improve aspects of the customer experience for those in the financial services arena – be it retail, investment or commercial banking, insurance services or credit card companies.  Most of them can start to show immediate results in short order if the strategy and deployment are completed accurately.

Whether it is:

  1. Implementation or revision of Net Promoter® score (NPS®.)  NPS is one of the more common current key metrics deployed within large organisations in helping to measure customer experience.  The core problem with NPS is that it will attempt to tell you how you are performing in the eyes of your customer base through the use of a simple score – but not how to fix the root problems that customers encounter.
  2. The need to develop a comprehensive social media strategy that meets the internal privacy & legal needs of the institution while providing an engaged level of customer support;
  3. Reforming the processes and responses of call centre agents to meet the varied needs and improve the resolution of customer’s issues;
  4. Changing the sales process to not only improve the conversion rate, but also meet the evolving developments in technology and how both emerging markets and younger generations have adapted to use such technology;
  5. Improving overall customer satisfaction – traditionally an area found lacking for those in the financial services domain.  People have traditionally “tolerated” their financial institutions, rather than seen them as a core part of their everyday life that they are — and then leveraged that experience to recommend them to their colleagues.

These are just a few examples of the many ideas that can be quickly implemented within a financial services company — there are many areas to explore to develop a comprehensive customer experience strategy.

By “planting a flag” and showing that investing time, budget and effort in developing a core philosophy of meeting the fundamental needs of your customers, you are betting that this tact of developing a customer strategy is a winning business viewpoint (as companies like Virgin, Amazon and Apple have proven with their astronomical growth over the past decade.)

This is not only from the perspective of the bottom line on the balance sheet, but provides tangential benefits such as improved employee satisfaction, improved public relations opportunities, lower operational and marketing costs, brand recognition and loyalty, etc.

The logical first step is to identify the “quick win” opportunities – this will provide traction across the organisation to show the value of the investing & developing your customer experience strategy.

There will be an educational element to the initial discussions as well – providing insight and a list of different opportunities available to company leadership to improve your customer’s experience and interactions with the company.

You can find out additional information about how to connect with your customers with the following whitepaper that looks at developing “Customer Ecosystems” in the financial services arena here.

We can provide a comprehensive 30 day assessment on where to kick off and help develop a method to both develop & improve your customer’s experience with your company.  Please feel free to contact us and we look forward to helping your company.