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Why Customer Experience Needs to be The Focus for Financial Services and 5 tips to improve yours

11.01.2019

At 13 years old I opened my first bank account. 

After walking into the local bank branch I was ushered into a back room with a senior banking advisor.
It was, to this day, the best banking experience I’ve ever experienced. 

The advisor made jokes to make me feel comfortable, referred to me as M Kyriacou (which did wonders for my 13 year old ego), and filled me in on details my father couldn’t. 
At no point did he forget my name. 

It was a pleasant, personal experience.  

This was the level of service you’d expect. An experience which left you feeling like a valued member of that bank’s customer circle. 

And it’s a level that’s been lost over the years.  

I can now open a bank account online in less than an hour. 

HSBC banking image

If I need a vast amount of money but have no access to a branch, I can take a loan out through my mobile banking app. 

HSBC mobile loan


It’s convenient, sure, but it’s nowhere near the level of customer experience I’ve come to expect from financial institutions. 

It all feels so impersonal.

This is the big problem with the customer experience in modern financial services, and it needs to be solved. 

Let’s take a step back and properly define what customer experience is. 


What is Customer Experience - and Why You Should Care?

Customer experience is the service and support a user receives when interacting with a business. 

In an ideal world, your optimisation strategy is informed by how the customer views those interactions.

You take their lead on improving your processes, and as a result, they’re more likely they are to take the action you want. 

If you get customer experience right, people will spend more money with your brand

chart


In an increasingly competitive world, customer experience is becoming the defining feature for customer acquisition and retention. 

It’s key to the overall growth of your business. 

And whilst financial services have famously been a little behind the curve on optimising customer experience, brands are finally sitting up to take notice. 

As you read this, all of your competitors are working to improve their customer experience. Econsultancy has it as the #1 area of focus for financial institutions. 



What’s going to happen is pretty clear.  

The brands out there who are delving into the experience they provide for their customers will gain important ground.  

They’ll have a head start on those dragging their feet, and eat up a greater portion of the market. 

With your customers wanting better customer experience and your competitors already optimising for it, there’s no better time than now to start your optimisation campaign. 

But there’s a problem…


The Problem with Most Financial Services Customer Experience Actions

This issue is both a problem and opportunity for your business.

Very few brands look to their own customers, instead preferring readily available mass studies. 

This means everyone’s working to the same blueprint, removing the potential for innovative solutions. 

But more frustrating is how nearly all advice, as demonstrated by the points below from this Evergage piece, focus on one element of customer experience. 

  • Omnichannel experiences (T)
  • Digital functionality T)
  • Self-service options (T)
  • Customer service
  • Education (E)
  • Data for personalisation

 

These items are not specific to your audience. 

Some of these actions might help, but they’re general actions everyone else is taking. There’s nothing unique to help you stand apart from the competition. 

And, if you take a look again, all but those in bold are not focused on the customer.


We’ve got three pieces of info that are tech based (T). 

One that’s a given and most often handled with a pamphlet no-one reads (E) 

And two that are customer focused where one (data for personalisation) is a tech angle on a consumer focus. 

But here’s the weird irony in this. 

Whilst most of the advice is tech focused, very few financial service brands believe themselves ready when it comes to tech. 



Only 9% of brands surveyed believe they are digital first. 

So, despite tech forming a major centrepiece for the advice and actions of brands across the globe, it’s also never more than an afterthought. 

And that’s crazy considering 82% of millennials and 60% of mobile phone owners now use mobile banking (up 36% from just four years ago). 

Tech is the primary focus of most of the customer experience advice which, considering the number of tech-savvy users, isn’t a bad way to go. 

But it’s only half the battle. 


The Two Foundations of Great Customer Experience

Tech is more important today than it’s ever been. 

Consumers use multiple devices and channels to interact with your brand. And 75% of those consumers expect a uniform experience regardless of the channel they’re using. 

But don’t think rolling your current operation out across multiple channels is enough to increase sales, conversions, and customers. 

Tech hasn’t just changed the way you can communicate with your users, it’s transformed their expectations. 

Modern users want two key things from their banks. 

  1. Targeted, personal information delivered in bitesize chunks through their favoured channels
  2. An experiential element to their financial needs

 

Let’s put these in real terms. 

Handing a huge pamphlet to new customers isn’t going to educate them. They’re going to put it on a table in their house and forget about it. 

What they’d prefer is to be drip-fed this information. 

If you track a consumers usage, you should be able to send relevant information in a timely fashion. For example:  

  • A mobile alert when spending behaviour changes (to prevent fraud and reduce the risk of them going into their overdraft) 
  • An email notification when the app is accessed overseas informing them of currency conversion costs
  • SMS reminders for loan repayments to avoid late payment fees

 

Basing communication on user actions ensure the personalisation element. 

Delivering in bitesize chunks helps the user digest the information, ensuring they understand your terms. 

But what about the experience? 

Banking isn’t really known as a fun experience (unless you’re cashing a cheque).  

However, with the increase in tech there are a few ways you can add a fun element without compromising trust. 

For an example, look no further than Zelle vs Venmo. 

Both services allow users to send person-to-person payments via mobile, without the need for a bank. And they’re quickly growing in popularity



On paper, Zelle should win hands down. 

  • They’re backed by 60+ banks in the US. 
  • Transfers are immediate (as opposed to Venmo’s 1-3 day processing)
  • Zelle can transfer $2500 / day whilst Venmo is capped at $299

Seems like it’s a no-brainer, right? 

But Venmo is still a threat because it offers something Zelle doesn’t. And experiential element. 

Venmo integrates with various retail outlets to provide an easier way to pay. They also allow users to share emojis as receipts and are targeting millennials in their marketing campaigns. 

It’s that experiential element, associating their brand with a better retail and sharing experience and adding a little fun, that’s bringing them users. . 

They’re not just looking at how to leverage new tech, but also how they can answer the wants and needs of their ideal customers through it. 

And that’s what the financial sector is missing. 

So many brands are leveraging tech in the most basic of ways. 

They’re going through the motions without thinking about the end user’s needs or usage. 

How to Improve the Customer Experience in the Financial Services Sector

Customer experience is going to become the battleground of the next decade in financial services. 

It’s going to be the key element your future customers look for when making a decision on service provider. 

Now is the time to get new CX campaigns underway. 

Whilst not an exhaustive list, the below are the key actions you should be looking attacking in 2019 to get ahead of the competition. 

Talk to Your Customers

Customer experience is often talked about as a wholly brand driven effort. 

Which is wrong. 

To understand what you need to improve you have to talk to your customers. 

As Matt Dixon, the Global Head of Sales Force Effectiveness at Korn Ferry Hay Group says:


“Stop surveying your customers and start listening to them.  You have more Voice of Customer data at your fingertips than you could possibly imagine—and it comes in the form of recorded phone conversations between your frontline staff and your customers.”

You can’t improve the customer experience without talking to the customer directly.

Pick up the phone, organise in-person meetings, or go to where they hang out to understand what would make your service more accessible and effective for them. 

We all like to think that there are shortcuts we could take. 

That industry reports are going to give us the insight we need. 

The truth is great customer experiences cannot be modelled on the actions of another company. 

Live Chat

Imagine you need a quick simple answer.  

Perhaps when a payment will clear, the APR of your new credit card, or info on a specific loan condition. 

Are you going to log into your mobile banking account, find the contact number, call in, wait on hold, and then probably get passed from one department to another? 

No. 

It’s too much effort. 

People want to be able to handle their queries with minimal wait times from one digital location. 

Live chat is the perfect solution. 

73% of consumers
prefer live chat because of the immediacy it offers.  

And yet, the proactive adoption rate from the financial industry is one of the lowest. 



Live chat is one of the most beneficial marketing elements you could employ. 

Whilst it can be a huge undertaking to implement, you could quickly gain ground with little effort employing a gradual rollout. 

Talk to your customers to find where they most need help and roll out live chat in those areas before expanding. 

Wider, More In-Depth Integrations

Although finance is becoming more tech and software focused, we’ve still got some ground to make up. 

One of the quickest ways to offer more streamlined services is to find integrations with existing services. 

The benefits here are two-fold. 

In the software world, one of the biggest problems is with user churn - or when users stop using your service. 

Over years of study, brands have noticed a trend in churn. 

As the number of services you integrate with goes up, the number of people you lose goes down. 

It’s completely logical. Each integration offers a new level of service which keeps people interested and engaged. 



Take the Zelle example mentioned above. They now integrate with 60+ banks. 

That means each user can seamlessly send money to friends who are banking with one of those 60+ institutions.

Each additional bank increases the use of the tool thus reducing potential churn. 

The other benefit of these integrations is in how they increase reach. 

Your integration partners will promote the partnership giving you immediate access to an established, interested audience. 

Each new integration could, in theory, bring you a decent % bump in users. 

Integrations are a great way to increase the functionality of your service - and thus the customer’s experience - with minimal effort and cost.

Modern Education

Every time I’ve taken out a new card, upgraded my bank account, or taken out a loan I get fat envelope in the mail. 

Within the envelope I’ll find a number of thick documents including: 

  • A thick pamphlet explains the details of the account/card/service
  • A couple of letters welcoming me and explaining the most basic functions
  • A list of contact details and ways to resolve issues

 

And perhaps a couple of other bits. 

But whatever’s included, my action is always the same. 

Extract my card or key bank details, and throw the rest out. 

It’s foolish, because education within financial services is incredibly important to prevent security issues. 

However, this old fashioned way of educating users is too cumbersome and doesn’t leverage the channels users prefer. 

Instead of sending a tonne of paperwork, consider modelling your education on a software onboarding strategy. 

Messages when users need them, delivered through their favourite channels. 

It makes the information more relevant, and digestible. 

For example:

  • When a user signs up send them a series of short emails (<500 words) explaining key issues like interest rates, loan amounts etc. You could also send key stats via SMS or Messenger. 
  • If a customers uses their card overseas, use Messenger, SMS, or email to let them know about spending limits, charges, and the overseas help number

 

If you want a great example of this drip fed method in action, look no further than Monzo. 

Monzo is a financial service app that aims to make banking a little more accessible for users. 

Users, after downloading the app, have to take a few actions such as adding their personal details, confirming their tax region, and taking pics of their ID, and are up and running within 5 minutes. 

The whole process is drip fed to users logically within the app meaning each step takes just a few seconds. 

Then, when things are completed, the user gets information on next steps delivered through screens like those below



It’s a great way to not just dump all the information on your users in one go. 

If you want to check out a video of their sign up process, check out this recording

When you dump all the information on your users at once, you reinforce the negative feeling most customers have of financial institutions 

The feeling that all correspondence is transactional. 

 

That you’ll only be there to assist when they’re helping your business.

By breaking advice down into timed bitesize messages, you’re building more trust. 

You’re a frequent fixture in their inbox or messages, and one whose primary function is to help and advise. 

Better Data Tracking and Analysis

If you want to drip feed information to your users then you’ll need two things. 

  1. A framework that helps you track and understand user action
  2. The ability to accurately analyse it to produce actionable insights

Because, whilst knowing X amount of people do Y during Z is good, knowing how to turn that into a personalised experience is the real key.  

In fact, that level of personalisation could be the key to unlocking more loyalty among your user base.



Customer Experience Optimisation Should be Your Main Focus

Financial service brands have been late to the CX game. 

However, with more brands now turning their attention to customer experience, you can’t afford to ignore it if you want to remain competitive. 

The high number of hyper-agile FinTech firms filling the CX gap makes the need for immediate attention even more important. 

To remain a viable potential for customers over the next decade, you have to put serious attention into your CX strategy.

If you’ve not yet got a CX team or aren’t sure on the best ways to integrate a CX campaign into your current strategy, drop us a line an let us know how we can help.