The Year of Customer Experience for Financial Wellness

Customer Experience in Tech (Image -  Markegist )

Customer Experience in Tech (Image - Markegist)

As a critical business strategy for executives in the financial services industry, Customer Experience continues to evolve with changes in customer preferences and advances in technology.

Tomorrow's industry leaders will be organizations or institutions that pioneer an enhanced customer experience not only towards convenience and access, but most importantly for financial wellness.

SUMMARY:

  • Customer experience is the most impactful factor today in choosing a financial services company — encompassing all interactions between an organization and client, throughout an entire customer lifecycle;

  • Today's customer experience in fintech includes traditional elements (of price, product, scale), convenience with interactions across multiple channels (i.e. mobile, branch, call center), responsiveness to customer issues, and proactive engagement between a company and its clients;

  • Digital experience is only part of the solution, as there are still multiple human touchpoints in the financial services industry;

  • The future of customer experience in banking is truly customer-centric with a laser focus on customer journey, simplified offerings, and customized services tailored to clients;

  • With this new customer experience definition, financial service providers will be achieving their client’s purpose of financial wellness through meeting complex financial goals (such as establishing credit, purchasing a home, and saving for retirement).

The wave of technology in financial services over the last decade has funneled established institutions and emerging financial technology (FinTech) companies into a narrow, highly competitive landscape. Having a well-known, legacy brand and large network of locations has lost its appeal with today’s consumers. 

In the age of digital transformation and self-service mobile options, most banking activity takes place outside of branches, resulting in less daily foot traffic from customers. A customer journey no longer begins in-person with a financial representative, but digitally with a comparative search of options to explore products and services, which may lead to a branch appointment with a banker, call / text chat to a contact center, or an account opening online. 

Customer experience has become THE critical factor in the financial services industry.

 With recent tech innovation in product and service offerings, today’s customer experience landscape now impacts every component of a customer journey, and influences the entire customer life cycle from acquisition of new relationships, ongoing customer engagement and retention, and deepening (upsell or cross-sell) of existing client portfolios. 

With 10 years having passed since the Financial Crisis, many consumers have still not fully recovered from its effects on their financial health. Individuals now demand a best-in-class holistic experience that goes beyond convenience, access, and design -- to deliver improved financial well-being, as consumers focus on building savings, improving credit, and other long-term financial goals.

Defining and Demystifying Today's Customer Experience

Customer Experience board (Image Credit -  ATM Marketplace )

Customer Experience board (Image Credit - ATM Marketplace)

Customer experience has varied definitions, but overall the concept represents how customers engage and respond to a company or brand, either in a single interaction or over the entire life cycle of a relationship. 

The interaction can involve multiple components within the company such as with a product, service, employee, or a specific channel (e.g. call center, email, ATM, mobile app). 

Adding all these pieces together, customer experience continually evaluates a company on how it delivers their brand promise or mission, at each and every customer touchpoint on their journey or relationship.  

A poor or broken experience leads to disgruntled customers who are easily able to switch their financial services provider.  Premium experiences and engagement build deep loyalty from clients, who not only grow their individual relationship through additional products and services, but also advocate their choice of provider to family and friends. 

How is this premier-level of customer experience cultivated and delivered in today’s financial services marketplace? Here's a quick breakdown:

-      Traditional elements of price, product, and scale of branch network: Prospective customers still consider and compare options on fees, interest rate, and access (e.g. online-only, online & physical, physical only);

-      Simplicity and convenience of interactions across multiple channels: Consumers value an omni-channel experience, which they can start on a mobile platform with an option to complete in-person or online, and with as few screens to read through in a simple, seamless flow;

-      Responsiveness to customer requests: when there is an issue, multiple outreach options in getting problems and escalations solved as quickly as possible are critical; these are “moments of truth” in which financial relationships can be strengthened or broken;

-      Proactive approach to continuous engagement with customers: once a prospective customer becomes a client, maintaining contact with meaningful resources and checkpoints becomes paramount. Customers are looking for guidance through targeted offers, outbound email, calls, and appointments based on their specific goals.

These four central themes in customer experience do not mention technology, which shows how far the industry has grown, leveraging non-digital tools and structure. However, the rising strength of digital platforms is making a strong case for a new future in customer experience.

Digital Experience's Growing Impact in Financial Services

Mobile and Desktop FinTech dashboard (Image Credit -  CIO )

Mobile and Desktop FinTech dashboard (Image Credit - CIO)

FinTechs and other companies have been able to win and grow a solid customer base on digital experience alone, earning market share from customers unsatisfied with current institutions, online capabilities, AND willing to share personal information. By opening up to data sharing, customers have been able to gain customized advice and recommendations from new financial services providers.

When it comes to customer experience in banking, it's easy to continuing feeding the trend of "more technology is best", but relying only on digital tools within financial services is not a complete solution. In comparison with experiences from established tech giants, such as Apple and Amazon, the financial services industry has multiple areas still depending on vital human touchpoints and connections.  

This need for a human presence can be seen across various demographics as well. In particular, young customer segments (25 – 34 yrs old) are more reliant on an existing physical presence (of a branch with representatives) when shopping for new financial products or services – about 11% more than older demographics (over 65 yrs. old). 

On a smaller scale, there are also existing customer segments not interested in digital options or features, relying only on physical locations and call centers for inquiries on their accounts or new information on updated product offerings. For this niche segment of clients, customer experience is completely based on employee interactions and solutions provided in-person, not with fintech solutions.

A New Customer Experience that Builds Financial Well-Being

Piggy Bank with Stethoscope (Image Credit -  Lifecare )

Piggy Bank with Stethoscope (Image Credit - Lifecare)

Even though customers are not asking financial service providers to become technical equals to Google or Facebook, similar themes are still being requested and welcomed in banking, such as a customized purchase journey, simplicity, and value-added services that are personalized. 

Combining these innovative new elements (along with internal company change) to the current customer ecosystem, leads to a new future of customer experience that can achieve financial well-being for consumers.

Customer journey takes in account all the interactions between customers and a financial service provider, emphasizing the WHY and HOW behind these touchpoints to capture all motivating factors of the user. 

Developing client personas and roadmaps with high success rates of conversion comes from deep insights on a customer's background. This rigorous attention to detail builds the foundation for a company to develop a customer-centric experience, and for all internal teams and divisions to come together as a multi-functional group in quickly identifying gaps, and addressing barriers to making this experience a reality. 

For legacy institutions this may be a time to hit the reset button, start with a blank canvas on their vision for customer experience in banking, and allow for newly developed product and service designs to be implemented and evaluated.

Simplicity in offerings goes hand-in-hand with design and transparency for customers. Having few product or service options that can be easily explained and understood provides value to individuals researching their next product, or those looking to switch or upgrade their current status. As an example, clearly defining fees or minimums on product pages creates convenience and builds trust – both critical for a complete customer experience. 

Financial institutions have been hesitant in expanding beyond core deposit products and services. Times have changed as customers request new enhancements in customized, value-added services that address complex financial needs and goals. 

Companies that are able to consistently address customer's financial challenges gain a “stickiness” factor that builds brand loyalty, which in turn generates added wallet share from clients. 

Some key examples of in-demand opportunities for value-added services are:

-      Specialized resources for small to medium businesses, such as consulting, market data, and strategic planning — focusing on customer experience B2B;

-      Analytics from artificial intelligence or machine-learning that help generate customized features, alerts, or analysis for customers;

-      Niche products and services for a particular customer segment, such as the underemployed, retired, or non-digital communities;

-      Education and counseling with long-term financial goals of college planning, home purchase, starting a business venture, or saving for retirement;

Layering specific value-added services on top of optimized customer journeys, delivers a consumer experience that helps financial service companies achieve their ultimate purpose of increasing financial wellness for customers.

Changes From Within for a Better Experience

Infographic with Customer and Banker (Image Credit -  MyCustomer )

Infographic with Customer and Banker (Image Credit - MyCustomer)

External changes with technology and services are only a portion of what will change in the future for customer experience. Financial institutions will also need to evolve internally when it comes to culture, and carefully choose partners and companies to work and collaborate with.

Optimizing Talent and Company Structure

Talent is critical in carrying out the vision and pursuit of a customer-centric experience. Organizations will need to focus on staffing that can be engaged, developed, and inspired to carry the company forward amidst the industry changes and impacts from technology. 

Multiple skillsets come to mind for this desirable pool of talent, such as:

-      Being self-motivated, proactive, entrepreneurial, and flexible when it comes to a client growth mindset;

-      Seeking innovative solutions to addressing customer problems and needs;

-      Ability to be both technical and creative when it comes to the customer and user experience (CX and UX, respectively);

-      Integrating and collaborating with various stakeholders across the company.

In spurring this type of talent internally, financial institutions have created innovation or incubator labs from diverse lines of business to develop new models capable of driving change. Other experiments involve changes to working environment and autonomous teams aimed at transforming existing company culture and mindset. 

Lastly, direct collaboration with FinTechs can also lead to rapid developments and decision-making in new initiatives that capture the right change for customer experience.

Partnership or Collaboration with FinTechs

No longer are FinTechs seen as enemies or threats to financial institutions, seeking to takeover the industry with a fintech revolution. The current trend of collaboration between these two groups will only continue to grow as FinTechs develop new technology to layer on core banking infrastructure and relationships. 

Established organizations are fully aware that they cannot quickly create all components of a platform or product in-house. Ownership of specific services or platforms that bring the most value to customers, help outline what type of relationship an organization should have with FinTech partners.

A key strategy being adopted by larger companies is an approach of 'BUILD IT' (create a new offering from within), 'BUY IT' (acquire a company that has created a new offering), or 'PARTNER' (with a company) --- when it comes to new ways of doing business in the future.  

Industry concerns important to evaluate in a successful FinTech partnership strategy are: owning and managing customer relationships, exporting packaged products on other marketplaces, and redefining new roles in the payments ecosystem.

The Future of Customer Experience for Financial Wellness

Virtual Dashboard (Image Credit -  FinTech Ranking )

Virtual Dashboard (Image Credit - FinTech Ranking)

Delivering a complete, and enhanced consumer experience is the new battleground in financial services. Rapidly evolving technological advances have created a landscape in which customers are able to gain efficiency, convenience, and access from multiple industry players at any time with little (or no) switching cost. 

The benchmark of customer experience comes from the combination of digital and non-digital capabilities, no longer one or the other as customers have come to demand both. 

Established financial institutions can no longer rely on years in business or branding, as FinTechs have taken market share with trust and convenience in the way they effectively address and solve customer pain points.

The new era of customer experience in banking carries the requirement of tackling individual customer challenges. Financial service providers must help consumers gain a sustained level of financial well-being in which clients are able to build savings, establish strong credit, create generational wealth, and achieve other long-term financial goals.  

Helping clients achieve life-time ambitions will earn life-time customers (and lifetime value or LTV) for companies living and executing towards a vision of global financial wellness.

Content from Key Themes of EY Global Consumer Banking Survey