Customer Experience in Financial Services

“Unify, Optimise and Personalise”

A bank’s vault was one of the “safest” places for keeping your money; it was protected with concrete slabs, metal sheets, bulletproof doors and security cameras. Today data centres, cloud networks and disaster recovery centres require even more protection than that. The definition of money is changing dramatically as we move from a cash reliant society to a cashless society.

The technology revolution is transforming financial services making the industry highly competitive, driving the need for change across the globe. The entire retail financial services industry must adapt to new challenges:

— Aggressive new entrants to the marketplace — some exclusively digital — making large banks followers rather than leaders;

— New regulations and infrastructure mean switching banks is easier, taking just a few days in certain countries (such as the UK);

— Products are no longer differentiators and often highly commoditised;

— The banking crisis in 2008 damaged many banks’ reputation and the relationship with their customers. Customers are now demanding more control and transparency in exchange of their loyalty.

Over the next few years there will be a number of new “digital-only” banks — in some countries it’s already happening (e.g. Atom, Number26 and HelloBank) — that have neither physical branches on the high street nor telephone call centres.

The financial crisis saw consolidation in the banking industry. But this trend looks set to reverse over the next few years, with competition from non-banking groups, such as Marks & Spencer and Tesco, as well as new challenger banks, including Metro Bank. Increased competition should be beneficial for consumers, both in terms of the range of services offered and how they are priced.

It’s not just customer expectations that are ever-evolving — the current banking environment is in a state of constant flux — there is a lot of “un-bundling” and “re-bundling” happening in this space. Banks are having to constantly rethink their proposition and customer strategies.

So banks should be much more focused on products and customer service, as this is where they need to differentiate. And good customer service now translates to “good customer experience” — across both digital and traditional channels.

A poorly integrated digital presence that confuses the customer is difficult to manage and will not retain today’s digital and millennial consumer — ultimately leaving revenue on the table. Banks are recognising the need to move from a transactional relationship with their customers towards an ongoing “trusted advisor”.

According to Forbes, successful organisations are delivering and fostering three key attributes — attributes that influence customer experience:

1. Trust: Customers’ and employees’ trust of a business are critical in its ultimate success. When a business builds trust, customers will beat a path to their cash register.

2. Consistency: Surprises should be left for birthdays, anniversaries and wrapped presents. A surprise shouldn’t come in the form of a price change, fit problems or confusion with style. Consumers need consistency in the company’s presentation of its product experience, brand, pricing and image.

3. Loyalty: There is a saying in retailing, “When a customer purchases the first product, overhead expenses are paid. When a customer purchases again, a profit is made.” The long-term success of a retailer relies on customers purchasing the “plus-one” and loyal behaviour. Customers will be loyal to a company as long as the company is loyal to its customers. Loyalty is a two way street.

These attributes easily apply to the banking world with digital playing a key role in achieving all three.

The problem arrises though that marketers need more control and flexibility, but IT wants stability — and there is a feeling that the 2 are not compatible.

— Usually financial services institutions have disconnected public and logged-in digital properties;

— Security, scale and performance are the most significant concerns and barriers;

— The authenticated space is a “battleground” between marketers (need for enhanced capabilities) and IT (maintain performance and control).

Customers expect a consistent banking experience; be it in-store, online or over the phone. As digital becomes the most popular and cost-effective communication channel, a common limitation of large retail banking infrastructure has become apparent — how to maintain a consistent conversation with customers and track/communicate with them as individuals.

For a majority of large banks there are two distinct sections of their digital landscapes:

— The secure banking services section, architected by IT, with bespoke security/infrastructure; and

— The public digital properties (e.g. websites, managed outside of IT using traditional publishing technologies and practices).

The public digital properties are able to adjust to the shift in customer expectations, integrating new personalisation and analytics technology. However many banks are finding it difficult to adjust to these new expectations in the logged-in areas of their digital properties, or are not able to join the customer journeys together. This causes a disconnect in the customer experience, especially as the majority of their online activity occurs in the logged-in area and therefore where they expect to be understood as an individual, regardless of their interaction with the bank.
Another point worth noting is that we live in an over-banked society; we live in over branched cities and towns. Banks have to reorganise their investment — they shouldn’t be following what other banks are doing. We are seeing this in some markets where the shift is already happening. The emergence of mobile technologies has led to customers not visiting the branches anymore. So banks must rethink their holistic strategy for both in-branch and digital customer experiences. 
The goal then becomes finding a realistic model, where technology is not just futuristic, but solves real problems inline with the bank’s objectives. It’s about balance. And that balance will take the bank to the new heights and create a new landscape.

At the same time, banks should be working on their core offering and delivering solutions, which pair the digital excellence with the offline customer experience. The role of branches must amplify the relationship and/or follow through the compliance objectives, the rest can happen digitally (Apple does this brilliantly). So in order to grow, the number of bank branches needs to shrink.

7 key considerations for banks moving towards the digital revolution:

  1. Empower marketers and business owners to control the whole experience whilst respecting key considerations around compliance, security, privacy and scalability.
  2. Look at the 360 degree customer experience foundation and customer journey rather than just one part of the experience.

3. Think outside-in rather than inside-out.

4. Become more customer led and think about how to become relevant for the customers.

5. Leverage the high volume of low value transactions and turn into a high volume of high value interactions.

6. Recognise the need to move from a transactional relationship with customers towards a “Trusted Advisor”.

7. Consider the balance of investment between offline and online.

Overall, the marketers, business leads, product leads, customer experience architects and technology experts must come together to achieve the following within the bank:

— Unification — of data, assets and the delivery of the 360 degree customer experience;

— Optimisation — of the experiences across all channels using data, analytics and machine intelligence;

— Personalisation — of customer experiences across all channels — online and offline

Written by: Anand Verma, CEO and Founder of Brilliant Basics

Anand Verma makes the strategic business decisions and runs the global business from London. He loves spending time with bb’ers as well clients discussing innovative ideas. Anand has over 17 years’ experience in the digital and tech business. He has built a successful career on consistently delivering digital strategies and service propositions that help clients maximise their digital impact and investment.