CSP Happenings

Topic: Customer Service Experience

Differentiators in the Digital Space

December 22, 2020

While most organizations have a solid digital plan in place, many find it hard to separate themselves from the crowd. Digital and omni-channel banking is certainly a must-have, but as a major part of your business, it should serve to help your brand and organization stand out and impress. Consider the following to make sure your digital transformation goes above and beyond for your organization.

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.


The Year Ahead: Looking Forward To 2021

It may be difficult to think ahead during times of uncertainty, but financial institutions should take a moment to consider the way the financial services world is changing, and how they can best serve customers in the following year.

When planning for the year ahead, consider the following trends and possibilities for your organization.

Ramped-Up Platforms and Services

Consumers utilizing digital channels is nothing new, and by now, your organization should have a strong omni-channel platform in place that helps customers navigate easily between branch, digital and app-based interactions with your organization.

However, a new spin the your digital footprint is the way customers can interact with your organization. While digital interactions used to be transactional, we’re seeing a transition to more sophisticated and meaningful exchanges between organization and customer

These include:

Learning. More and more customers are using their financial institutions to learn about new products, offerings, or simply looking to their financial institutions for guidance and help in their budgeting.

Opening Accounts. Customers can take a more autonomous approach to working with your financial institution if you’re able to streamline and enable online processes, such as opening a new account or creating a new tool they can access on their own.

Customizing and Tailoring. Customers are looking for more intimate solutions to their needs, such as highly personalized budgeting tools and tailored retirement calculators. Similarly, your organization should be working to use your customer data to personalize and enhance promotional material and cross-selling within your organization.

Make sure your organization is pushing to expand and improve your digital offerings in ways that deepen your relationships with your customers and provide lasting value.

Creative Financing

Many small businesses have suffered as a result of government-mandated closures and otherwise decreased foot traffic due to Covid-19. As a result, there will be a major impetus on financial services to work with new and existing organizations to finance new endeavors, think creatively about win-win scenarios for both lender and borrower, and contribute more broadly to the economic health of their communities.

Banks and credit unions should begin planning now for ways they can work with local businesses to create positive pathways to economic recovery, as well as weathering what are hopefully the final months of Covid-19’s biggest negative impact on the economy.

Questions Over Covid Aftermath

It would be presumptuous to say that Covid-19 will be officially over and done in 2021, but dissemination of a vaccine is a major step in the right direction a cause for optimism. If not comprehensively, vaccine distribution may open the door for a greater sense of “normalcy” in society, health and economics, at least in the United States.

However, there will likely be long-term residual effects of Covid-19, many of which we can’t predict. The stock market has done well, but it still feels like the verdict is out regarding the long-term effects of Covid-19 negative effects on small business. Regardless of larger, publicly-traded companies, Main Street USA will take time to recover, especially industries heavily reliant on in-person interaction, such as bars and restaurants.

Similarly, the trauma of 2020 will likely change consumer behaviors and attitudes around personal finance, and these attitudes will carry into politics and our culture as a whole. One thing is certain: This year was dramatic, and its impact will be felt after Covid-19 is controlled and diminished.

2020: A Unique Year For Financial Services

2020 was a year unlike any other. Covid-19 was a massive shock not only to the public health of the world, but to the economic systems that rely to varying degrees on interpersonal interaction.

Financial services are unique in that banks and credit unions feel their customers’ financial stresses — seeing the large-scale economic disruption of Covid-19 play out on an individual level, across individuals’ various employment scenarios, household makeups and unique financial challenges.

Personal finance is often thought of as transactional and sterile, but the reality is that it is deeply intimate and emotional. Banks and credit unions interact in this intimate space, and there are key learnings executives and directors should take away from this year.

You Are the Expert

In 2008 and 2009, the global economic meltdown happened relatively quickly, but at a snail’s pace compared to the economic changes of 2020. This year, businesses were ordered to close overnight, money was pulled from pre-planned engagements, and individuals had to restructure their daily life in a matter of days.

This rapid pace of change applied to other arenas too, such as the financial world. Small businesses were allowed to apply for economic relief funding, landlord and tenants laws were given temporary alterations, and stimulus checks were largely distributed directly to individuals’ bank accounts.

As a financial institution, your organization had to know about all of these changes for your own business purposes. However, your intimate knowledge about changing laws and financial practices lends you to be an expert and source of knowledge for your customers.

Increasingly, we’re seeing customers ask for more from their financial institutions, particularly in terms of digital tools and help with their personal finance and budgeting. You should apply this thought process to macro-level changes as well, and be the “translator” that can communicate the way new laws and policies affect your customers on a case-by-case basis.

Coaching For Change Should Be Constant

When Covid-19 hit, your financial organization likely had to change protocol on the fly, specifically to assist customers using your digital platform for the first time or to re-allocate responsibility to staff among temporary branch closures.

Hopefully, your organization had a strong protocol in place for training for new skills and change management. If not, now is the time to establish those change management operations as a permanent part of your organization. New technology, partnerships with FinTech organizations and disruption in the financial services world all necessitate a regular, established training routine to help your staff adapt to new skills. Make sure to invest in your people and make sure they can help customers navigate new offerings and make the most of the ways your organization is improving.

Do the Right Thing

It sounds simple, but ethics in business has moved beyond a basic underlying function and come to represent a major feature of brand identity. Make sure your organization is doing things that are beneficial for your customers, particularly in times of hardship, to position yourself as a trusted partner and friendly face in a sometimes harsh financial world. You’ll be rewarded with passionate brand advocates and a deepened customer relationship.

Take Stock Amid Disruption

November 24, 2020

With Covid’s impact on all aspects of life, it’s important to take stock in you organization’s ability to ride the wave of change, incorporate new obstacles into your plan, and create a meaningful and valuable experience for your customers. 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

Simply put, 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.

Establishing Partnerships

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.

Make Your Digital Transformation Meaningful

Most financial institutions are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating their digital platforms, thinking of ways they can improve the technology they offer, stay up-to-date with the competitive landscape, and check the necessary boxes to consider themselves digital leaders.

However, too often, these measures don’t maintain a customer-centric approach. Leaders and decision makers feel pressure to “keep up with the Joneses,” and are simply focused on having the flashiest, newest technology available as a means to look smart.

In the process, they sometimes sacrifice customer experience, or fail to improve the overall customer experience. Think about the following pieces when reviewing and improving your digital offerings.

See Covid As An Opportunity to Help

While Covid has been devastating for individuals and organizations from both a health and economic perspective, it’s an opportunity for your organization to provide support in a time of need. Namely, your digital platform and your ability to help customers utilize it will be hugely helpful. Think about ways you can go above and beyond:

Replacing in-person. Due to restrictions and for personal health reasons, there are likely a lot of individuals using your digital platforms for the first time. Thinking specifically about tech-resistant customers, think about ways you can help streamline the process, make it easy to understand, and help overcome any hurdles.

Proactively communicating. Think about ways your organization can help proactively communicate information related to unemployment benefits, forgiveness programs instituted by the government, or new initiatives your organization is undertaking to help customers during economic uncertainty.

Support. Try to increase your digital chat and phone support while customers are forced to utilize your digital platforms. Make sure you’re showing that your organization is accountable and willing to support customers through difficult times.

Begin and End With Customer Experience

When you’re considering a feature to incorporate into your digital platform, think critically about how it will help (or hurt) your customers. Too often, cost-cutting measures for automation are made without the customer in mind, or new technology is hurried through the door without thorough review about customer usability. By keeping your customers front-and-center, you ensure your organization is addressing the “why” behind your digital platform.

Create a Digital Culture

Make digital improvement a regular part of your organization’s activities through:

Review. Make sure you’re measuring the performance of various digital touchpoints and working to improve them.

Exploration. Have regular exploratory processes in place to learn about how new technology and partnerships can be incorporated into your organization’s digital offerings.

Education. Take time to make your branch employees fluent on your digital offerings. Help them understand how the customer sees their in-branch experience and your digital platform as one larger experience with your organization and brand.

As Covid Spikes, What Should Financial Institutions Do?

Covid has likely had major implications on the way your financial institution operates and serves its customers on a day-to-day basis. Make sure you’re considering the following to ensure customer satisfaction during a tumultuous time.

Help Out and Listen

Make sure your organization is in tune with the stresses of your customers, and understand the different types of obstacles they might be facing in their financial lives.

Businesses. Make sure you understand the financial status of the businesses you serve, and have open conversations with them about their ability to continue to pay outstanding business loans. Help protect your financial organization against any potential downside or inability to pay from your clients while also being proactive about creative plans to help them stay afloat during a difficult time. Similarly, serve as an information resource for them and help them understand their options during difficult times.

Customers. Think about ways you can adjust your organization the make small exceptions that will go far for customers. Are there certain fees you can waive that you might normally charge for, such as overdraft charges? Are there information resources you can provide them related to setting up direct deposit for unemployment benefits? Think of ways you can go above and beyond for your customers to give them a hand up, especially if they’ve fallen on hard times.

Importantly, your organization needs to be more in tune with your customers than ever before, especially during a time of fluctuating financial legalities (e.g., the CARES Act), economic insecurity (potential lay-offs) and increased stress.

In particular, make sure you’re paying close attention to your social media. Look for changing customer behaviors, attitudes and concerns and make sure you’re addressing them frustrations as early as possible. Seemingly innocuous actions that may have flown under the radar in the past, such as overdraft charges, could potentially cause customers to become angry and affect your brand image.

Smartly Allocate Resources

Think about your in-person and virtual components of your organization, and how you can better allocate your human resources to meet the needs of your customers.

In particular, look at where your organization is being stressed. Specifically, many financial institutions are seeing an uptick in online engagement and phone time, while seeing a decrease in branch visits due to social distancing. With these changes, are there staff members you can utilize to re-allocate their time and attention away from your physical branch and instead have them assisting with your call center operations or digital strategy?

Budget and Adjust to Interest Rates

Make sure you understand how interest rates are affecting your business, especially in terms of cuts to interest rates, revenue implications and the status of business loans or mortgages you currently have with your customers. Think about opportunities you can present your clients with in terms of low interest rates to help drive revenue or refinance a mortgage, and make sure your organization is financial prepared for the road ahead.

Tech-Centricity as a Competitive Edge

October 27, 2020

More than ever, technology should be at the forefront of your overall strategy when thinking about your financial institution. In particular, you should think about the way your organization leverages FinTech partnerships and enhances your mobile presence to improve customer experience, stay competitive and lay the groundwork for meeting customer expectations in the future.

The Enhanced Collaboration of Banks and FinTech Startups

FinTech startups and financial institutions are currently in a phase of working together, creating alliances and developing a roadmap for the future. At the moment (and for the near future) this partnership makes perfect sense: FinTech organizations are on the cutting edge of data analytics and turning that data into value adds for customers, while banks provide regulatory compliance, an existing customer base and the security of a traditional financial institution.

However, moving into the future, the two separate parties will see a greater convergence. The current match-making between these two types of organizations is simply a predecessor for a larger industry trend: the inherent transition for financial institutions to organizations that have advanced analytics and the ability to leverage those analytics for a competitive advantage. Expect financial institutions to begin to think about how they can bring FinTech partners in-house in order to work more closely, have a synonymous strategy between the two organizations, and make data analytics a firm and internal part of their long-term strategy.

Increase in Digital and Transformation of In-Person

Digital banking has seen an explosion in the last five years, and that trend is likely to continue. Specifically, banks and credit unions are beginning to view mobile banking as their primary method of interaction with customers, with the vast majority of transactions now happening digitally and increasingly through mobile devices. Financial institutions will take note and try to leverage mobile by:

  • Introducing branding: Organizations will do their best to create their brand’s voice and convey it through their mobile app, conveying their core value adds, whether those be convenience, security or something else, along with their brand’s personality
  • Keeping up with new mobile opportunities: Along with FinTech organizations, financial institutions will look at their mobile apps to see how they can introduce useful pre-existing technology into their app. Things like peer-to-peer payment systems, personal budgeting help and money-saving tools will all continue to be integrated and expanded in the mobile banking world

COVID-19: An Opportunity to Connect

Let’s be real: There are a lot of negatives to to Covid-19. Many small businesses are struggling, as are individuals, especially those who have lost their job or seen their income reduced. And, perhaps worst of all, as a financial institution, you’re privy to some of the financial struggles of your customers and seeing their balance sheet being squeezed in real time.

However, any strong organization needs to recognize the opportunity at hand — the opportunity to connect, inform your customers, and provide value extending beyond the typically transactional nature of business as usual. Consider the following ways you can connect with your customers in a meaningful, substantial way.

Coach For Excellence

The employees of your financial institution are having to learn new skills on the fly as your organization adopts. These skills might seem like an “adjustment,” but treating them as such opens the door for inefficiency, lack of understanding and ignores the impact each touchpoint has on your organization’s bottom line.

Whether an employee is working in a newly-social-distanced branch setting, or perhaps a digital support person is learning new Covid-19 protocol, your organization should take this chance to train for excellence, helping employees understand their new responsibilities and showing them how to provide the utmost care for your customers.

Think about your training in these different ways:

  • Training employees for new skills. Learning a lot of new tasks and skills at once is difficult. Make sure your leadership team has a clearly defined training agenda and the training staff to support your employees.
  • Training customers for changes. One of the nuances of Covid-19 is that your customers’ experiences are shifting quickly as well. Your employees need to learn how to be coaches themselves – how to clearly explain new protocols, technologies and the reasoning behind these changes to your customers.
  • Train for emotional intelligence. Perhaps most importantly of all, your employees need to be emotionally responsive to the stress your customers are feeling. New protocols added to underlying financial stress create the potential for emotions to boil over when working with your financial institution. Prove to your customers that you’re on their team, and make sure your employees know how to address adverse reactions.
Actively Inform and Engage

Make sure your employees ask proactive questions to your customers, like if they understand new protocol, if they need special accommodations for their financial situations, an how they’re feeling about their finances and their relationship with your organization.

Covid-19 is unpredictable and stressful, but for that reason, it also opens the door for a more intimate relationship with your customer. Think about ways your organization can go above-and-beyond to make sure they understand new processes, feel appreciated, and are shown flexibility in order to help protect their financial lives. Showing the level of commitment enhances your relationship with your customers and pivots your financial institution from a transactional vendor to a trusted partner.

Get Out of Your Customers’ Way

October 26, 2020

It might sound like an oversimplification, but sometimes the best customer experience is the one the customer doesn’t realize they’re having. Customers are increasing their interaction with financial institutions through digital platforms, and in order to enhance that experience, your organization should streamline online activities so customers can easily and conveniently interact with your financial institution.

Provide Free, Customizable Tools

Customers need to be able to use the tools you provide for them, such as budgeting software, retirement planning and how they organize their savings buckets. However, they way your organization sets up your tools may be different from how your customers want to use them. Think about if your tools may be too “rigid” in their application, and how they can allow for customers to use your tools the way they want.

As an example, customers may want to be able to categorize different types of food purchases, such as separating drinks at happy hour from a dinner out with the family, even though both would typically fall under “Food and Dining.” Providing the customization ensures that your customers will be able to use your budgeting tools (in this example) in a way that is meaningful to them and the way they think about their expenses. Think about how you can set up your tools to allow for flexibility and a tailored approach.

Keep Promotions As Targeted As Possible

Promotions can be a tricky thing. On one hand, you want to utilize your customer data and your platform to promote new products and drive sales as much as possible. On the other hand, you don’t want to jade the overall customer experience by making your digital interface feel like a clickbait website full of pop-up windows and banner ads.

Pick your marketing opportunities wisely, make sure they’re non-abrasive (ie make sure they don’t interfere with online banking activities), and most importantly, make them relevant. The more accurately you can use your customers’ data to give them timely, relevant ads and promotions, the more likely they are to find utility in what you have to offer.

Encourage Digital Engagement

Get your customers to engage with your digital platform as much as possible. By creating an easy-to-use, streamlined app and online banking platform, you can remove the friction from your customers’ experience and enhance their utility of your dashboard. Think about ways you can make every task as simple as possible – from making mobile deposits to creating a new account. Similarly, anticipate ways your customers might get more utility out of your platform. Can you waive certain ATM and overdraft fees? Can you pre-approve them for new accounts without a waiting period? Anticipate your customers’ needs, then make achieving them as easy as possible.

Transform Your Social Media’s Role

September 20, 2020

Your financial institution’s social media strategy may feel inconsequential. After, all, if every organization has a social media account, aren’t infrequent posts enough to get by?

While this type of thinking can be alluring, the reality is that if you aren’t taking your social media strategy seriously, you are leaving money on the table and customers out in the cold. Think about ways you can use your social media not as simply a message board, but as a way to drive sales, develop your brand and acquire customers.

One-Way Promotions to Two-Way Communication

Think of posts not just as a message board, but as the beginning of a conversation. When your customers posts responses, follow up with them, whether good or bad. By addressing shortcomings and celebrating positive feedback from customers on your social media posts, your organization is winning by become real, approachable, interactive, and gaining the intrinsic qualities of a person, rather than a lifeless organization.

In particular, when dealing with negative feedback, address concerns with your customer in the post, and then follow up in direct messages to help address their concerns. Escalating the issue at hand and working toward a resolution shows your organization will go above and beyond for your customers, and other customers will take note.

From Information to Personality

Rather than simply trying to communicate information in a sterile, matter-of-fact tone, think about how your social media accounts can bring life into your posts. Consider the following when thinking about your brand’s “voice”:

  • Who is your target? By thinking about your target market, you can tailor your brand’s voice around that. By focusing on younger Gen Z and Millennial consumers, adopting an exceedingly informal tone may benefit you. Maybe you have a niche audience or industry you’re targeting. Keep these things in mind to help develop your brand’s identity.
  • What is your strength? Your brand’s social media presence should always play to your strengths. Think about what you do well, and put that message on full blast.
  • Create comprehensive marketing. Most importantly, be consistent! Across your different marketing materials and social media accounts, having consistent branding and tone will help establish your brand and make you memorable.
Transition From Advertiser to Marketplace

Current and potential customers should be able to take action on your social media accounts, including direct links to create an account or easily access their own. Think about the way you incorporate landing pages into your posts. In particular, if you are promoting a product or service, give clear instructions, provide linking to the next step and make sure that process is easy and intuitive from end to end. This sales funnel can be incredibly effective when it functions correctly, and putting attention into details will reap rewards for your financial institution.