Topic: Customer Service Experience
In 2020, our hope is that financial services leaders and decision makers choose smart paths to grow and improve their business. Here are a couple resolutions to consider this next year in order to strike a balance between making yourself a customer-centric organization that also is keeping up with tech trends.
Accept that FinTech is a Core Part of Your Strategy
Let’s face it — FinTech is hear to stay, and tech’s influence on financial services isn’t going anywhere. With Big tech organizations like Apple and Facebook entering the financial services realm through offerings like credit cards and crypto-currencies, financial institutions need to accept and embrace the inclusion and disruption tech will cause. Most importantly, financial institutions need to recognize what they bring to the table — security, an existing customer base, compliance and consumer trust.
Simply put, technology is entering the financial services world because consumers have a higher demand for usability and customer experience than ever before, and smaller FinTech startups as well as big tech organizations feel they can improve the space. In order to keep pace, make sure your organization is using its assets in order to attract FinTech partnerships, be willing to change in order to enhance customer experience, and ride the wave of the future of financial services.
…But Say Goodbye to a Technology-First Approach
Importantly, sophisticated financial institutions are turning away from the idea of technology for the sake of technology. Too often this approach leads to an overwhelming amount of tech functionality that is unintuitive, whether it’s an overly complicated mobile app or a budgeting calculator that requires a lot of investment and gets minimal use.
Instead, financial institutions are focusing on a customer-first approach — by listening to what customers want, then building an infrastructure around their most important needs. Rather than providing every tool available, organizations should focus on nailing the fundamentals. Are online transfers easy and seamless? When a customer has an issue, are they able to get help? Is it easy for customers to make sense of their transaction history? By focusing on this approach, financial institutions can make sure the technology they invest in is truly working for the customer.
Additionally, a technology-first approach assumes that all-digital is the only strategy. While the amount of digital transactions are increasing, customers are finding branch experiences to be a major differentiator in dictating their preferred financial services organization. Couple this with the fact that Gen Z is surprisingly likely to visit branches, and executives risk losing out on this younger cohort by looking at things through a tech-heavy lens.
With the oldest Gen Zers already at age 24, this generation is already becoming relevant to financial services, establishing their financial lives, beginning to enter the workforce, and possessing a variety of unique characteristics that will pose financial institutions with challenges and opportunities to command their attention. Consider the following as your financial institutions works to acquire new Gen Z customers.
Heightened Expectations for Mobile and Digital
Most marketers are well-versed in communicating with Millennials. High expectations for a fluid online experience and a transitioning of life stages into parenthood and home ownership characterize the Gen Y mindset. Gen Z takes the expectations of tech-fluency to a new level, most clearly by being the first all-digital generation. They consume more entertainment and information on their mobile devices than ever before, need online experiences to be 100% intuitive and have smartphones check their smartphones more often than any other generation. This also means they look to their digital lives for sources of entertainment, and are more engrained in social media platforms.
While this heightened relationship with digital and mobile is to be expected, some of the outcomes of this relationship are less intuitive. Specifically, Gen Z looks for emotional pulls from online experiences. Finding meaning in their brand relationships, considering social good and finding innovative new ways to “gamify” digital interactions will catch the attention of Gen Z and help differentiate in a saturated digital market.
Gen Z is Having An In-Branch Moment
One of the big surprises of Gen Z is their affinity for in-branch experiences. According to The Financial Brand, this is due to a number of factors: Individuals with lower smaller financial savings stowed away tend to gravitate more toward in-branch experiences, they are gravitating toward cafe-style branches, and some marketers even think that the free food provided in some of these branches may be a draw for a younger generation still working to find financial security.
Whatever the reason, financial institutions should look to cater toward Gen Z customers seeking community through in-person interactions, and leverage these opportunities to attract and retain life-long customers in their financial infancy. Investing in an exceptional in-branch experience will lend itself to long-term customers with huge potential for upward financial mobility.
Heightened Long-Term Financial Awareness
Gen Z is wary of debt, on track to have more student debt than any prior generation and has more access to information that ever before. These factors combine to create a generation that is more aware of its financial wellbeing than ever before. Gen Z has seen and heard Millennials struggle with buying homes and heard lessons from the 2008 financial crisis, and are taking note, wanting to get their financial lives in order early and effectively.
Financial institutions should work to finds ways to cater to these desires to learn by providing free, high-value content to Gen Z. Helping to educate on establish a firm financial future through debt reduction, getting a head start on retirement savings, and helping to address long-term goals like buying a house will all be invaluable to Gen Z. Additionally, financial institutions should continue to work to leverage customer data in order to give Gen Z customized tools and reports that give them more information about their financial standing.
What is blockchain? At a high level, blockchain technology is a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), where each independent user has possession of the entire framework, creating a decentralized and widely replicated “source of truth” when it comes to existing transactions, accounts and underlying information. This decentralization is important because the wide replication and distribution, when shared across many independent users, means the information is highly verified, reliable, and tamper-proof.
This is especially valuable because it allows for independent transactions to occur without a third-party mediator. The reliability of secure transactions without direct oversight from a financial institution or third party opens up the possibility of a cost-effective and consistent way to, among other things, conduct transactions online.
Created by Accident
Blockchain and Bitcoin are inextricably tied. The online currency needed a way to be exchanged, and, to enable Bitcoin’s growth, blockchain technology was developed. Designed with the intent to support Bitcoin, the developers and the world at large realized that the underlying DLT may prove to be more valuable than the cryptocurrency it was designed to support. The fundamentality of the technology makes it applicable to a wide variety of uses and industries that financial institutions, and the business world at large, are only beginning to explore and uncover.
There are still major barriers to Blockchain technology, but the value proposed by the technology means it is only a matter of time and effort to overcome and adapt to the current barriers in place.
- Lack of standardization. For retail application, Blockchain is still in its infancy. Tech firms are working on developing the technology for different industries, but there are a variety of players, and no single iteration of the technology has arisen as the mostly likely to succeed and be the most accessible moving forward. Financial institutions are looking to see how the innovating stage of this technology yields itself to producing long-term, reliable partners.
The world of financial services is changing faster than ever, and it’s important that when you set your goals and strategy for 2020, you hire the right individuals to get you there. Your human resources are your most valuable asset, and putting the right pieces in place can help you keep pace with a changing environment and seize strategic advantages by leveraging change to your behalf. Think about the following skills and positions in 2020:
We’ve talked about the Universal Banker in the past, but now, their contribution to financial services is more important than ever. The customer demands of 2020 and beyond will see heightened expectations of fluency of service. In other words, they’ll want intuitive, quick, and fluent service from their banks and credit unions.
A universal banker helps to fill this gap by being trained and skilled in a variety of facets, being able to handle any customer request that comes in, from a new line of credit to an issue with their mobile app on their phone. If you haven’t already, utilize your staff to meet this universal banking need by cross training and encouraging acquisition of new skills. Present this opportunity to your staff as a chance to expand skill sets, learn what they’re interested in and make them a more valuable asset to your organization.
From automatically translating customer data into targeted ads to chatbots working at a higher level of sophistication, financial institutions are leveraging artificial intelligence to better their services. Importantly, in 2019, chatbots became more sophisticated than ever before and are now capable of meeting customer experience expectations that wouldn’t have been possible even three years ago.
With the way AI is changing the financial services landscape, your organization should think about having someone on board who can make sense, strategize, and make AI work for you. Specifically, this person can help bring in third-party help, “own” your organization’s AI universe, and create a roadmap that melds AI trends with the nuances of your specific organization.
Quite simply, FinTech partnerships can drive your organization forward in terms of innovation and experience by “outsourcing” those responsibilities and value adds to an external organization. Think of this as two opportunities: The opportunity to bring on numerous FinTech organizations to meet the unique needs of your customers, and potentially, an internal individual to oversee these partnerships. Having an individual in the field and seeking out partnerships can help identify unique opportunities, establish a separation of roles and responsibilities for these partnerships, and regularly evaluate the efficacy of each unique relationship.
CX Analytics and Coaching
While it’s easy to get caught up with buzzwords and technology trends, the reality is that all of these unique trends aim to better serve customers and meet heightened expectations. Your organization should make sure to have an external team to objectively identify your strengths and weaknesses for customer experience, create an evaluation process to look at the performance of customer touchpoints, coach behaviors to help improve customer experience across these different touchpoints, and attribute improvements in customer experience to revenue growth and your organization’s bottom line.
Most financial institutions have already taken major steps to improve and innovate their digital and mobile presence. Moving forward, this piece of your business is an absolute must to have rock solid. Consider the following to make sure your digital transformation is mature and prepared for the future.
Establish Your Digital Leadership
Any successful financial institution should have a formalized digital leadership team whose sole focus is on your organization’s digital presence. Increasing numbers of interactions and touchpoints occur in a digital space, and it’s important these moments are viewed as meaningful interactions with your brand. Functionality, innovation and customer centricity should all be core tenets this leadership team is working to achieve.
Additionally, this leadership team should be able to mobilize and engage your other employers to think in a digital-first way. They should be able to identify the capabilities of your staff to embrace your digital brand, while also knowing when you need to hire a third-party expert, such as a programming or data analytics team to help your organization with short-term transitions and initiatives.
Make Yourself Agile
Your financial institution should be constantly evolving and improving. Establishing an API to embrace open banking is a great start. Additionally, your organization should have a team in place to regularly maintain, improve and research innovations for your mobile app and digital presence. Regularly planning for app updates and regularly rolling out new innovative ways to make the best use of your customers’ data will keep your client base strong and encourage a spirit of constant improvement within your organization.
Focus on the Customer Experience First
Technology should be a means to an end, and that means your organization needs to illustrate what a positive customer experience looks and feels like, and then make sure your digital presence is fulfilling those promises. For example, if your organization is striving for a true omni-channel experience that is seamless for your customers, you should start customer journey mapping different scenarios and exploring how that omni-channel experience truly plays out. By diving into the nuts and bolts of the customer experience, your leadership team will be able to identify concrete and specific ways to improve the technology proving the framework for the overall customer experience.
Focus on Mobile
An omni-channel experience is essential to the modern competitive financial institution, but within that context, your organization should approach omni-channel from a mobile-first approach. Increasingly, customers are conducting financial transactions and interactions from mobile apps, and it’s important your financial institution look at these interactions as an epicenter for the way customers view your brand as a whole. Quite simply, if you get mobile right, the other pieces will fall into place.
If there’s a single trend of financial services in 2019 that is worth following, it’s transitioning to an API in order to embrace open banking. Application programming interfaces open your customers’ data up to third parties, allowing them to easily access and utilize customer data. In this way, moving to an API opens the door for your financial institution to invite third parties in and let them identify ways to bring value both to your customers as well as your (and their) organization.
The argument that “everyone’s doing it” sounds childish, but the reality is that financial institutions are switching to APIs en masse in order to, among other benefits, let FinTech partners gain easy access to their customer data. This access allows them to manipulate data, learn from it, and create unique offerings for customers.
If you haven’t already, you should consider getting your financial institution on board with an API, and letting third party vendors and service providers make use of the existing data you already have about your customers. It would be unrealistic to expect a financial institution to make proper use of all their customer data alone, so by providing access to that data, your organization is opening up a world of possibility.
Variety of Benefits
- Risk assessment. Third party analysis can help you quickly and accurately assess a customer’s complete financial picture in order to better understand their ability to repay a loan, for example. The simplicity and sophistication of doing so through an API is unmatched.
- Cooperation with other financial institutions. The ability to seamlessly switch from one financial institution to another probably doesn’t sound appealing to executives striving to maintain and grow their customer base, but the reality is that seamless transitions are a two-way street, and can help financial organizations function in a more streamlined and efficient fashion.
- Customer-facing features. Perhaps most obviously, financial institutions embracing open banking are able to open up their customers’ data to FinTech organizations who can provide unique tools and analysis. Think about things like budgeting calculators, creative ways to help with saving and rewards for certain shopping behaviors.
- Security. Customer information has to follow certain regulatory practices in the age of open banking in order to be compliant and protect customer information, but when done correctly, open banking has the capacity to enhance security. In particular, the ability to verify customer information and financials across multiple platforms establishes a more concrete paper trail and multiple points of information that are more difficult to manipulate.
- Monitoring. Most open banking scenarios require a sign-off from customers, granting permission to use their data. Once done, financial institutions can better monitor their customers’ data and look for issues like irregular banking activity our unexpected purchases that might issue a security risk. Similarly, open banking can enhance monitoring for more routine and expected issues like overdrafts and payments.
Google recently expanded its Google Pay program to include checking accounts, marking a major step in the direction of financial services. Whether the tech giant is to succeed in this endeavor remains to be seen, but banks and credit unions should make note of this major shift in business strategy from one of the biggest players in the tech world.
Google Isn’t a Bank
Perhaps most obviously, Google itself isn’t a bank. Instead, it has chosen to partner with other major financial players, most notably, Citi, in order to leverage Citi’s status as a financial powerhouse as the backing for Google’s Google Pay mobile wallet. Expanding on its ability to conduct transactions through Google Pay, the tech giant will offer things like checking accounts all conducted within its interface.
On one hand, this transition is somewhat predictable and expected as a natural evolution to take another step into the financial realm. On the other hand, it’s a major transition that financial institutions should make note of. This move will likely see Google continue to push into financial services, given that this experiment is successful.
Big Tech Sees FinTech as an Opportunity
Throughout 2019, one of the hottest topics and transitions in the banking world has been the push for FinTech organizations to partner with banks. FinTech organizations provide useful interfaces and ways to make use of customer data in a form that delights them, helps with customer retention and gives financial institution a competitive edge in digital customer experience. In return, FinTech organizations gain the security, reputation, legal compliance and existing customer base their partnering financial institutions already have.
Google sees this relationship in the same light. In partnering with Citi, Google is convinced that it can bring a unique value to customers that financial services organizations, even ones as big and sophisticated as Citi, currently lack.
Other Players May Follow
In this year, we’ve already seen Facebook announce its Cryptocurrency Libra, Apple announce the Apple Card, and now Google offer checking accounts through Google Pay. These big tech organizations have seen their reach and influence grow exponentially in the last decade, and their expectation with this move into financial services is to take the same influence and customer experience they’ve mastered, and apply it to a major industry continuing to evolve. Stay tuned, this trend likely isn’t going anywhere.
Customer Centricity Is More Important Than Ever
Perhaps most importantly, your financial institution needs to focus on customer centricity. Making financial services easy, intuitive and rewarding should be your organization’s key goals going into 2020. Big tech can be intimidating as a new player in the financial services space, but thinking of technology as the means to delighting customers will help your organization thrive during this period of transition. Be sure to focus on your digital touchpoints, eliminate red tape to working with your organization, and watch your revenue grow.
Customer-centricity is a hot topic, but some organization still fail to create a culture and experience that truly puts the customer first. Pre-existing services, the status quo, a well-intentioned focus on technology, and overwhelm due to change all distract from a truly customer-centric financial institution. Take these steps with your executive and management team, and think about ways you can encourage a customer-focused mindset to permeate throughout your organization.
Understand All the Paths
Every organization functions with a multitude of customer journeys. Think about different ways to map them out and understand every single interaction your customers have with your brand:
- Discovery. How do they learn about new products and services? How to they access information you provide? What third parties do they use? Understanding the learning process gives your organization a say in this process, where you can inform, provide value, and make a pitch for your own products.
- Type of customer. What is the economic circumstance of your customer? What is their rental/mortgage like? What are their unique financial needs? These circumstances will dictate the way they interact with your products and services.
- Product/Service. Most quintessentially, understanding what type of product, service or solution your customer is seeking will help understand the choices they make and how to best interact with them.
Think About Non-Monetary Ways to Build Trust
Make sure your employees focus on providing value first, and selling second. While your staff is trained to execute a number of tasks and to promote your services, their number one priority should be helping your customers or potential customers. Active listening, laser-focus on the issue at hand, and creative problem solving are all the most important skills your staff should focus on, while viewing your products and services as tools to resolve customer needs. Sometimes, customer needs won’t result in immediate financial benefit for your organization. This is okay, and should be encouraged — your employees should be more focused on relationship building than on creating a transaction in the moment.
Coach to Serve
Specific coaching around useful behaviors will make a world of difference in differentiating your organization and creating an environment that treats customers like gold. Make sure your staff is focused on providing value, and that they have the tools necessary to do so. Beyond educating them about your products and services, you should focus on training soft skills like active listening, establishing a more robust financial background, cross-training to encourage use of the universal banker, and leveraging resources to come up with creative solutions.
Entering the fourth quarter of 2019, the financial services space is evolving faster than ever. Is your organization keeping up? Consider the following topics and have an honest conversation within your organization about the way you are working to evolve, improve, and stay relevant in an industry in flux. Those who can be agile and ride this wave of change will be rewarded with loyal customers and a brand reputation that is set up for success.
Actively Changing and Evolving
Is your organization regularly rolling out initiatives, working to improve, and functioning in a constant state of change? While it’s good to perfect certain processes, the reality is that if there isn’t some degree of “discomfort” within your organization, you likely aren’t making a great enough effort to evolve. Technology changes, the transition to universal banking and increased partnerships with FinTech and analytics providers are just a few ways the sector is changing as a whole, and these changes necessitate constant training. Make sure your organization is feeling the effects of change. If not, find a way you can improve, and start getting out of your comfort zone.
Embracing the Mobile Experience
By the end of 2019, your organization should be mobile-centric. This means that branch staff, online support and your overall strategy should be putting the mobile experience at the top of your list for customer experience initiatives. Banks and credit unions are seeing an increase in the number of touchpoints that occur through a mobile app, so if the rest of your staff isn’t keeping pace with your mobile presence, focus on training to have a mobile-first outlook within your entire organization.
In order to stay competitive and innovative, your financial institution should be actively seeking partnerships. Specifically, you should be focusing on FinTech and data analytics partnerships. FinTech partners can bring unique financial tools to your customers in exchange for access to your customer database, and in doing so, create value for your organization, resulting in your financial institution having innovation “baked in.”
Additionally, your organization should be largely focused on making data-driven decisions. Understanding net promoter scores, analyzing most and least profitable products/services and learning more about your digital engagement should all be top priorities. Bringing in an analytics team or consultant can help you identify your blind spots as an organization, get a plan in place to process and analyze data, and train your staff to utilize that data in an effective and meaningful way to drive revenue.
Focus on Customer Centricity
Your entire staff should have the customer journey (and multiple customer journeys) in mind during interactions. Additionally, your digital strategy should have a clear map of different customer paths. Simply put, customer centricity is a must going into 2020. If you feel your organization needs to improve in this facet, begin to produce detailed customer journey maps — identifying variances and different journeys for different products, services, sources of information and types of customers. By building a framework, you can begin to wrap your mind around the greater picture of the customer experience, and pick out ways to incrementally improve.