CSP Happenings





Topic: Customer Service Experience

Your Financial Institution Needs Cloud Computing

July 21, 2020

Cloud computing has gained popularity in recent years, especially on an individual level, with applications like Google Drive giving everyday people a place to remotely store their photos, legal documents and other files. For financial services, many organizations are already on board. However, some small and mid-sized banks and credit unions may not have made the transition yet due to budget constraints or competing priorities.

While the delay to switch to the cloud is understandable, financial institutions should be aware of the myriad of benefits of cloud computing. Advantages, such as enhanced capabilities to utilize customer information, can help propel banks and credit unions forward and meaningfully enhance the ways they can approach their customer service initiatives. Consider the following when looking into ways your organization can utilize cloud computing to your advantage:

Access to Diverse Information

Transitioning from server-based technology to the cloud has a huge potential to open up diverse information in a way that can be collected, evaluated, and utilized to make strategic decisions. While a server-based platform may have information such as accounting and individual customer data stored in different places, utilizing the cloud puts all of this information into a platform that can be accessed more easily, cross referenced, and compiled. To executives and decision makers in financial institutions, this might look like a dashboard that shows new customer acquisitions, revenue, feedback from a monthly tracking survey and customer satisfaction scores all in one place.

Importantly, this also allows for easier access to diverse, yet related, data sets. If your customer satisfaction and monthly revenue can’t be viewed side-by-side, for example, it might be difficult to make a case for why your organization should focus on customer satisfaction. However, being able to view these data sets side-by-side reinforces the areas your organization is choosing to focus on, and helps provide clarity to the way your actions impact your organization’s bottom line.

Adaptability

A huge benefit of transition to the cloud is that service providers can adapt their setup to match the needs of your organization. In a traditional IT approach, your organization is looking at full stack servers and trying to consider both the current and future needs of your organization, often incurring extra expenses in the process. However, with a cloud-based solution, your organization can easily adapt and scale to greater needs and a higher cost point once you’re ready. Cloud service providers consider different price points and are incentivized to create an environment that will help them obtain and retain you as a customer.

Additionally, cloud technology means there is an extra layer of security with the host of the cloud platform responsible to make sure your organization’s information is safe and secure. Their security protocols are constantly improving and evolving to meet current demands, and may be less susceptible to cyber attacks due to a greater infrastructure that your own organization could have.

Banking Technology: A Plan For Constant Change



If the last 10 years have taught us anything about financial services, it’s that the only constant is change for banks and credit unions.

Most organizations had to completely challenge their own status quo as mobile technology took off, creating an environment that required smaller and mid-sized banks and credit unions to adapt, reallocate budgets and think about their customers differently.

Now, the industry is seeing an even greater influx of technology just as some smaller organizations are still fine-tuning their mobile customer experience. FinTech partnerships are offering new ways to add value to customers, blockchain is an emerging technology that may change transactions forever, the Internet of Things (IoT) offers a new form of payment, and COVID-19 has forced every organization and industry to think about how they can engage with their customers meaningfully from a distance.

With all of this change, banks and credit unions need to have a plan in place to constantly adapt to new technology, new opportunities and new competition. Think about the following ways you can set your organization up for success.

Make a Financial Case For Constant Technology Investment

One of the biggest reasons organizations get held up in their technological evolution is due to the comfort — specifically, the financial comfort — of the status quo. If they can simply maintain their traditional approach to technology and not regularly set aside money to compete with the best, it feels easier, safer and more economically feasible.

Therefore, leadership needs to make the financial case for technology investment to its key internal stakeholders, attributing a strong competitive edge to greater revenue and returns. Work with your team to understand different forms of new technology you’re considering, and think about how they can be as cost-efficient and revenue-enhancing as possible. Specifically, FinTech partnerships, third-party software-as-a-service providers and consultants can help you transition into a new field without the permanent expenses of a new employee.

Accessing the Right Talent

At multiple levels, your organization should be thinking about how you can allocate resources toward technological evolution.

  • Leadership. Make sure your organization has an individual who can own your technological change. A Chief Innovation Officer, or a Technology Director can help make sure your technology initiatives are effective, stay within budget, and create a lasting change within your organization.
  • Universal Banker. At a teller level, make sure you are hiring individuals who are going to embrace technology and find ways to explain the benefits of your tech initiatives to customers. A universal banker is trained in a diverse array of tasks that expand far beyond the transactional capabilities of a traditional teller, and their ability to leverage, sell and explain your organization’s technology is a key aspect these individuals should be trained to enhance.

 

Content Marketing to Assist Customers

June 23, 2020

For most customers, navigating their financial lives takes guidance, patience, and a healthy dose of self educating. Understanding 401ks, college savings plans such as 529s an ways the can leverage tax breaks takes a considerable amount of time and effort to understand.

As a financial institution, you’re already an expert on all of these topics. Additionally, over the past ten years, there has been an explosion of content marketing, or promotional material whose primary function is to provide valuable information, with an opportunity to pitch your product or service within that information.

Furthermore, financial institutions are now leveraging FinTech partnerships and AI more than ever before to help provide a customized experience to customers and their unique financial pictures.

Consider the ways you can combine these three strengths: your expertise in the financial arena, your content marketing strategy and your ability to use AI and predictive analytics to sell your products and services in a way that is customized and shows specific, quantifiable financial opportunities your customers can take advantage of.

Retirement Calculators

Retirement can be intimidating, especially amid COVID-19 and major changes in financial trajectories. For younger workers, their retirement will likely have time to recover and grow. For older individuals near retirement, their plans may need to change and they may need to push their retirement dates back in order to achieve their goals.

In either scenario, individuals are looking for clarity around their financial lives: what their retirement might look like, how their income and expenses will play out, how their lifestyle might have to change, and what specific actions they need to take in the meantime.

With predictive modeling, your financial institution can help take the mystery out of this process and provide specific action steps including the percentage of their paycheck they devote to retirement, their targeted date, and their asset mix. By providing this informational resource, you create an opportunity for individuals to potentially roll over to an account with your organization, or bundle their accounts in a way that is advantageous to your organization.

Budgeting/Savings/Measurement Opportunities

Think about ways you can help your customers wrangle, organize understand and act on their personal budgets.

  • Wrangle and organize. Most customers spend and allocate their paycheck through a combination of retirement accounts (automatic withdrawals), credit cards, payments from their bank account and cash withdrawals. Find ways to develop calculators to help them aggregate all of these different expenditures, categorize their spending and automate the process month over month. If this is too much, think about ways your organization can partner with a FinTech organization who provides this service.
  • Understand and act. Help your customers carve out opportunities where they can save, and think about how those opportunities can align with the goals of your organization. Do they have savings account funds that could be better utilized in a CD? Do their credit cards maximize the amount of rewards they receive? Use their information to find gaps and inefficiencies, and then provide chances to act. Even if opportunities for change don’t directly benefit your financial institution, you’ll create a chance to build trust with your customers and prove your value to them.
Mortgages and Other Loans

Purchasing a home is a major lifestyle change, and also a major financial adjustment. Understanding mortgage payments, insurance, taxes, utilities and the unexpected costs of owning a home take guidance, and financial institutions and well-positioned to provide this guidance. Beyond approving a potential purchaser for a loan, think about how your organization can help take the mystery out of home-buying.

For first-time home buyers, think about the way you can help them predict and add up their different costs. Show them what closing costs and a down payment might look like, the advantages/disadvantages of different down payment amounts, and how their budgets might need to change in the meantime to help them achieve their financial goals.

For new purchasers, help them understand what they can expect to receive for their home, how they might transfer to a new mortgage and how they can leverage tax credits to help get the most out of purchasing a new home.

You Need a Mobile Gut Check



More than any other time, your mobile app is likely experiencing an influx of traffic and new users due to COVID-19. As such, mobile is going to be dictating your overall customer experience and brand perception more than ever before. Simply put — what are you doing about it? This major change deserves your attention, so consider ways in which you can hold your organization accountable to delivering the highest level of service possible through your mobile app.

Higher Use Than Ever Before

According to CNBC, mobile banking usage experienced a “200 percent jump in new mobile banking registrations in early April, while mobile banking traffic rose 85 percent.” That stat alone should give your organization an impetus to start thinking critically about your mobile experience.

Additionally, a large number of new individuals are interacting with your mobile app for the first time. This likely includes individuals who have resisted using your mobile app up until this point, including elderly individuals or others who might be more tech-unfamiliar and resistant. Catering to these “new” individuals is extremely important, and offers a new way to show your customers their importance to you and the tech-forward ways you’re able to serve them. In a best case scenario, you may be able to convince tech-resistant individuals that your mobile app can provide them with services that concretely improve their lives.

Identify Pain Points

In the short term, one of the most obvious ways you can help deliver on your customer experience is by identifying pain points your customers experience while using your mobile app. There are a few ways to collect this information:

  • Supplemental support. Have you had to reduce hours for some of your staff? Consider ways they can be cross-trained for online support, and particularly in ways they can support the influx of new mobile app users and address questions they have. While doing so, have them make notes of regular issues for your app team to address.
  • Flash surveys. Short surveys provide an opportunity for customers to supply critical feedback. These opportunities can take out a lot of the guess work, catch customers while the experience is very top-of-mind (often when exiting a mobile app or completing a task), and can help point you in the right direction by collecting direct and open-ended feedback.
  • Bug issues. Your app development team should be especially vigilant during this time, and take regular opportunities to identify points when your mobile app is malfunctioning.

Above all else, make sure you are finding a way to regularly gauge your mobile app’s performance. Month-over-month tracking can help keep this information straight, tell you how you stack up against your competition, and show how market forces like COVID-19 affect your competitive standing.

Filling Your Skills Gap



In 2020, it’s easy to get intimidated with the speed of change in the financial services world. Even the most confident executives may wonder how to keep pace with trends, regulations and technology. The key is to have the right individuals on your staff, and 2020 demands unique skill sets to meet a unique financial services world in constant flux. Consider the following individuals when  thinking about the staff you need to guide you into the future.

Innovation Officer

The only constant in the current banking world is change, and your organization should have an individual who is leading that change on a regular basis. In particular, the competition for utilizing technology in a meaningful way, the complexity of adhering to legal/security standards while sharing information online and the need for a competitive and unique brand offer all necessitate an innovation officer of sorts.

Think of your innovation officer as an individual who has the time, capacity and resources to step away from your day-to-day operations, evaluate your competitors, and do advanced “research projects” to explore and implement major changes your financial institution can undertake. This person is unique in that they must have the experience to make large, structural changes to your organization, be in touch with “what’s next” in the financial services world and have the capacity to implement change from a logistical, organization and financial perspective.

Open API

More than ever before, your organization should be working to switch to an open API. In layman’s terms, an open API means that your online information, especially customer data, is organized and stored in a way that is standardized and easy to share with other organizations in an accessible yet secure way.

This underlying format is important so that you can partner with FinTech companies, who often utilize this information in unique ways that can benefit your customers. You need to have someone on staff who “owns” this process. This individual doesn’t necessarily need to be a software developer, but they need to have a good understanding of your organization’s online data, have the capacity to hire out a transition team (perhaps in the form of a consultant) to establish your open API, and the ability to work with other vendors in the future to help them navigate your online data.

Cross Training Existing Staff

As we’ve talked about in the past, the universal banker is a valuable, jack-of-all-trades employee who can manage a wide variety of customer requests and tasks, from conducting a check deposit to providing consultation on a business loan. Contrary to the idea of being highly specialized, customers tend to want to deal with a single individual for a variety of requests and needs when they interact with a financial institution.

Cross training your staff opens the door to greater customer satisfaction, continuity of service on a visit or interaction of your financial institution, and this type of training arms your staff with information. Universal bankers drive customer satisfaction, and cross training opens the door for your staff to become more well-rounded and informed members of your organization.

Don’t Let Customer Experience Take a Back Seat

May 19, 2020

With COVID-19 dictating how much of our business and social lives work, it’s easy to throw in the towel on any plans you had and simply try to stay afloat. In some ways, this is good. You should be flexible enough to sense market forces, adjust and potentially preserve capital during uncertainty.

However, now is not the time to throw customer experience out the window.

The reality is that now, when things are stressful and uncertain, is an opportunity to acquire new customers due to changes in their everyday lives, build relationships that expand beyond a transactional level, and differentiate yourself as a brand.

Consider the following ways you can help your team stay competitive and keep customers as your focus.

Don’t Get Bogged Down With Tech Initiatives

If you’re in a leadership role at a financial institution, you’re constantly hearing about the omni-channel experience, FinTech partnerships and new technology like voice controls and AI as part of your strategy. All of these things are great, and they can greatly support your overall customer experience. However, they’re a means to an end, with the end goal being a positive customer experience.

Most businesses are having to make cuts to their budgets to weather the current financial storm, and while it can be tempting to cut everything except your budget to revamp your digital experience, it should never come at the cost of accurately measuring and improving your customer experience.

Constant measurement across touchpoints and having a grasp on your overall NPS is more important than ever. There may be a temptation to let these pieces of measurement go by the wayside due to the extreme market/lifestyle fluctuations we’re seeing. In reality, these fluctuations make it more important than ever to keep soliciting feedback, improving, and soliciting more feedback while calculating your overall NPS.

Understand Unfamiliar Customer Experiences

Your customers are likely interacting with your organization in new and unfamiliar ways. For example, an older individual who is accustomed to visiting your branch may be interacting with your website or mobile app for the first time. Make sure you have a plan in place to capture their feedback, understand their pain points, and then come up with an agile plan to improve. These new interactions are both tests and opportunities — tests of the efficacy of the systems you have in place, but opportunities to improve them and show your customers your ability to listen, respond and meet their needs.

Kindness During COVID



When we think of customer experience and business interactions as a whole, kindness is an often-underestimated quality. Specifically, as business leaders, how often are we thinking about our strategy regarding coaching for kindness?

In our current public health and economic situation, kindness is more important than ever. High tensions often test our kindness during trying times as well. Consider the following ways your organization can channel kindness to differentiate yourself.

React Positively to a Negative Scenario

These are trying times emotionally and financially for many Americans. Concerns over loved ones’ health, job security and individuals’ long-term financial well being are all top-of-mind.

When interacting with financial institutions, where customers are dealing directly with their wealth, these preoccupations will be at the forefront of their minds and have the possibility to boil over the top.

Whether in a digital, mobile or interpersonal capacity, your organization needs to be prepared to deal with potentially short tempers. Help coach your staff to recognize pain points, vocalize understanding of troubles customers may experience, and come up with a proactive solution to solve those issues. Additionally, make sure your staff knows how to receive undue criticism that might not be as constructive without becoming emotionally impacted.

In a digital/mobile capacity, think about ways you can help your customers find resolutions to their issues. Give extra assistance with technical tasks, provide abundant self-help education, and do your best to anticipate frustration before it begins.

Coach for Flexibility and Change

More than ever before, your organization and its employees need to be flexible. Think about the ways you are creating a formal process around the need for flexibility and the change it requires:

  • New processes. For most organizations, every week is bringing about a new way they do something — from the rules about what they wear when walking into their building to new customer communications. Find a way to keep your team up-to-date.
  • New roles. Some of your workforce may need to change roles. By having a proper training plan in place, you can get the best out of your workforce and maintain high levels of productivity.
  • New customer needs. Customers are going to be working increasingly via digital/mobile, be facing economic uncertainty, and may have specific new processes that they need help with, such as setting up direct deposit to receive unemployment benefits. Make sure your staff and organization is trained to handle these request, and do your best to anticipate and educate internally on these needs.

Be Flexible to Support Your Customer



Flexibility is not only appreciated, but demanded of businesses and consumers alike during COVID-19. Most individuals are seeing their lives drastically changed and are being forced to adapt. As a financial institution you should work to support your customers by adjusting to their new behaviors, aiding them through new processes and being a valuable and reliable partner in their financial health.

Adjust to Customers’ Changing Behaviors

At a high level, the average customer has changed the way they live, work, purchase and make decisions for their families. Consider some of the ways their lives have changed and how you can support the during this time.

  • Life at home. Obviously, most Americans are spending more time at home. For some, this will include extra time that may be devoted to customers reviewing their financial lives and finding ways to help protect themselves during financial uncertainty. Be prepared to answer hard questions and have support systems in place to help educate your staff. In particular, think about questions around protecting customers in the short term, answering long-term questions about retirement and helping customers bridge the gap between a current loss of income and when they expect to get back on their feet.
  • Work uncertainty. Customers might not know where their next paycheck is coming from, may be incurring expenses, and are undoubtedly feeling the macroeconomic effects of COVID-19. Think about creative ways you can support your customers, including forgiveness for late payments/overdrafts, tips about how they can protect their retirement, and information about what kinds of unemployment or other benefits they can receive. Additionally, be an information hub for your customers, including keeping them up-to-date on things like one-time payments and small business loans that can help them during this time.
The Changing Landscape of Corporate Social Responsibility

More than ever, customers have their eyes on corporations and organizations, wanting them to do the right thing when it comes to treating customers well, using their financial power responsibly, and protecting their employees. Understand that things you may have done in the past, including bonus payments, overdraft charges or even the ways you communicate with your customers may need to change given the circumstances.

Customers want support in unique and creative ways, and following the status quo has the possibility to make your financial institution look calloused and out-of-touch with current events. Review your communications with your clients — from promotional emails to text alerts — and make sure the way you’re speaking to them reflects current events.

Guiding Through Uncertainty

April 21, 2020

Brands are defined by how they’re able to serve their customers during times of trouble and uncertainty. A financial institution that creates a meaningful relationship during a time when a customer is stressed or anxious about their financial future is able to transcend the typical business-customer relationship and become a more meaningful partner in that individual’s life.

Doing this with a wide breadth of customers makes you a unique brand that will have numerous advocates. Think about the following during this time of uncertainty, and ways you can deepen your relationship with your customers.

Let Customers Know About Options

At a high level, finances are tight for Americans across the board, and as a financial institution, you already know this. How can you help them out? First and foremost, think about information your can proactively communicate to them. For direct deposit aid information, give them a sense of how that process will work. If there are steps they can take to protect their finances, take the first step and let them know.

Proactive communication is free for your organization, and shows your care. Valuable, action-oriented content on your website or app is a great place to start.

Provide Perspective

Economic downturns have happened in the past, most recently in 2008. While each economic downturn is unique, there are lessons learned that can be applied. What will things look like in a year? What about three years? Give your customers this perspective, give them information to weather the storm, and provide hope through smart decision making and support now.

Create Opportunities

Most Americans are seeing a hit on their retirement savings, may be facing job uncertainty, and have likely changed their lifestyle in light of COVID-19. One of the most frustrating feelings is the inability to better one’s situation while external factors are making things difficult.

Think about ways you can create opportunities for action for your customers:

  • Optimizing investments. Help your customers to guard against uncertainty, make sure their asset mix is properly allocated based on their age, and help those concerned about retirement adjust their plan moving forward.
  • Cash liquidity. Make sure consumers understand all the options available to them in terms of having cash now that they can use for housing, loans, basic bills and groceries. Help them leverage ways to get cash now if they are in a pinch.
  • Security at home. Whether renting or owning a home, most individuals’ primary concerns revolve around staying in their home and protecting dependents. Are there ways you can help with this? Are they able to potentially avoid paying rent or mortgage in light of recent moratoriums? As a financial institution, you are the information expert, and can help them navigate this landscape.
Be On The Same Team

More importantly than ever, now is a time when customers are looking for allies, both in the form of friends and family as well as any business dealings. Tempers may be short with customers who are under increased financial and emotional stress, but this uncertain time also provides an opportunity to prove your value to them as an organization. Think about ways you can go the extra mile:

  • Coach staff. Understand that interactions may be atypical due to increased stress. Additionally, your organization may be functioning under a new set of rules due to social distancing. Make sure your staff is well-equipped to deal with this new setting, but also focus on their emotional behavior, and how they can turn a negative interaction incited by a customer into a positive one.
  • Consider favors. Times are unusual, and many are suffering economically. Are there certain ways you can help your customers out, such as extending deadlines or forgiving fees? Think about ways you can do small and big favors for your customers while protecting your organization.

 

Customer Listening: A CX Plan



When directors and executives think about customer experience for their financial institutions, old cliches may come to mind. Images of customers smiling, staff giving an exceptional level of service, and good old fashioned hard work all feel relevant.

The reality is that a customer experience strategy challenges the most fundamental assumption most financial institutions (and businesses in general) make: that they truly know their customers.

By challenging this assumption, decision makers ask themselves: How do I get to know my customers from scratch? By creating a strategy of continuous listening, processing and taking action, financial institutions gain a new level of depth and understanding of their customers, create innovative solutions to meet their needs, and create a direction for their organization based on verifiable facts and measurable results.

Channel

When you first start learning about your customers, think about the different ways you can solicit their feedback. Email, mobile, in-branch surveys, and mailing campaigns are a few common methods to solicit feedback from your customers.

In particular, the digital channel is valuable now more than ever before. In light of COVID-19, consumers are engaging with the digital channel, often in ways that are unprecedented. For the first time, customers are truly reliant on the digital channel to conduct more of their business with financial institutions. As such, your organization should think about the ways these new experiences are dictating their satisfaction, come up with ways to engage feedback from them, and have a system in place to make rapid changes.

Regardless of channel, you can leverage the way you solicit data in a number of ways.

  • Short and sweet. Data can be collected in the moment, particularly at a specific touchpoint, and ask a single question, such as “How was your experience today?”
  • Touchpoint feedback. More in-depth feedback, such as surveys about experiences, can provide you a level of depth that helps give your quantitative trends, qualitative feedback, and measurable progress over time.
  • Generating a reliable feedback loop. A customer who is willing to give you their time and attention by providing feedback is valuable, and if they do so once, they may be willing to help again. Think about ways you can leverage one-off opportunities for feedback to generate a customer panel. A panel provides a way to regularly solicit feedback from customers and creates a base that can be depended on regularly to automate your customer listening process.
Types of Listening

There are different ways to listen to your customers, depending on your goal. When working with a parter on a customer experience plan, consider these different ways of soliciting feedback from your customers.

  • Long term. Long term listening should be at the core of your customer experience plan. Gauging where you stand on a variety of touchpoints, understanding your net promoter score, and measuring this feedback on a regular basis provides the rock on which your business decisions are made, and importantly, provides measurable evidence of your performance over time.
  • Short term. Maybe you have a timely topic you’d like to understand more about from your customers, such as a major economic shift. Ad hoc surveys or lines of questioning can help you gain insight, solve problems, and be used when long term data gathering still leaves gaps.
  • Tactical. If you have a touchpoint that is particularly struggling, consider learning more by gaining qualitative insight about that touchpoint. What’s going poorly? Are multiple customers having the same issue? Granularity is valuable here. This approach is less strategic, but can be incredibly valuable in its ability to identify pain points and provide a method to resolve them.
Making Sense of Data

Having a consultant or partner on hand can help you objectively look at your data, have it viewed through the lens of an expert, and provide outside knowledge about data collection and analysis to complement your personal professional expertise.

When looking at customer data, consider the following:

  • Measure yourself against your past. Without an objective look at where you’re coming from and where you stand, it’s impossible to see progress, identify goals or understand where your strengths lie. Establishing a regular process of data gathering that can be compared apples for apples will bring clarity to the efficacy of your efforts and your overall strengths and weaknesses.
  • Solicit advice to get a sense of the professional landscape. This is important not only to identify where you fall short, but also where you excel. You may do something better than everyone else, and you should be using that strength to differentiate your brand from your competitors and acquire new customers.
Translating to Action

Most importantly, the data you solicit should lead to action. This should include not only immediate action based on your first round of feedback, but a strategy for how you will create an ongoing process of acquiring customer data, processing it and identifying your top priorities as an organization.

Once your priorities are identified, finding meaningful ways to implement lasting change will drive customer experience and revenue for your organization.

CSP’s Voice of the Customer program helps in all of these facets, from designing a customized research plan to coaching behaviors that drive revenue. Read more here.