CSP Happenings

Topic: Customer Service Experience

Open Banking – The Time is Now

November 19, 2019

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.

Widespread Partnerships

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 Enters the Banking Space

November 18, 2019

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.

Get Your Organization To Be Customer-Centric

October 22, 2019

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.

2019 Litmus Test

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.

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.

First Impressions Count

First impressions are hugely important in the world of digital banking, online shopping and the multitude of competition for attention in the digital space. Therefore, when thinking about your financial institution’s efforts to draw in new customers, respect them by creating trust and providing value, being as clear as possible about what makes your institution unique, and streamlining their interactions with your products and services.

Create Trust and Provide Value

Establish yourself as a valuable information source from the very first interaction. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer: They may be looking for banking information, may be exploring financial vehicles, or may simply be doing background research on a different topic that relates to personal finance. Whatever they’re looking for, be the valuable voice of reason for them. In your online content, focus on providing as much information as possible and as little promotion as possible, outside of the heading of your website and a link to your products/services. By providing valuable information right away, you’re already miles ahead of the pack, and you will draw in the attention and respect of the reader.

This is also why content marketing is important. Content marketing provides value first to your customer, with your brand and name as an afterthought the to valuable information you’re providing. This approach seems counterintuitive, but the reality is that the average person on the street is seeking out information and good choices, rather than a specific bank or brand. Make sure you provide value first in your interactions, and your brand’s name, even as an afterthought, will be more powerful.

Provide Clarity

Potential customers should immediately understand your core services, your best value offers and what makes your financial institution unique. Think about the best parts of your organization and what makes you better than your competition. Are your rates for loans low? Do you provide a personalized feel that is unique from your competition? Do you offer one-of-a-kind products? This information should be front and center, letting your potential new customer learn why you’re better than the competition. More importantly, make sure to frame that value add in the context of your customer’s life. If you have low rates, talk about the extra money they can save and reallocate to their personal lives. If you provide superior customer service, talk about how your institution can make their financial lives as stress-free as possible.

Make Purchasing Easy

We use “purchase” here as a relative term, which can be substituted with “signing up” or enrolling. If a potential customer is on one of your landing pages, their path to some sort of purchase or information sharing (such as email) should be as obvious and pain free as possible without being the sole content of your page. You want to respect a potential customer’s attention by providing as much information as possible while also streamlining the process when they choose to create an account or join your institution.

What Can Your Financial Institution Gain From Social Media?

September 24, 2019

For financial institutions preoccupied with day-to-day operations, social media can feel burdensome. Many directors and executives see an online social media presence as a necessary evil — something that they won’t particularly benefit from, but are constantly told they need to do to keep up with other brands. However, social media offers a multitude of opportunities for brads to drive sales through immediate transactions, create a long-term personality for their institution, and identify opportunities for improvement within their organization. Consider the following approaches to social media when thinking about your financial institution and what your organization can gain from a calculated social media strategy.

Short Term

A particular value of your financial institution’s social media platform is that it serves as a forum for sales and transactions. Your organization can create content linking to landing pages for opening a checking account, getting pre-approved for a loan, or even downloading your app on a mobile device. In this manner, your social media presence can serve as a short-term sales tool, with a calculable number of clicks, conversions and a dollar value associated with each conversion.

In particular, for this conversion-driven approach, your organization should focus on extremely specific moments in a customer journey. Think about short descriptions for these moments from the perspective of a customer, such as, “I’m thinking about buying a home, and want to be pre-approved for a mortgage,” or, “I already have a savings account with this institution, but want to open multiple accounts to better organize my finances.”

These moments, while exclusionary to many, will deeply resonate with those customers at that specific point in a persuasive way that causes them to act. This “all-in” approach on specific moments is valuable: To drive a person to action, persuasive content must ring true with them in a very timely and authentic manner.

Long Term

Rather than focusing on transactions and day-to-day interactions, your brand’s social media presence also offers the opportunity to frame and create a story around your financial institution. There may be certain intangible things about your brand that are incredibly valuable: The relationship you have with your community, the stories of the individuals you serve daily, or the way your services and unique value-adds better your customers’ financial wellbeing and personal lives.

Building a constant story around your brand gives your services and products a greater sense of purpose and meaning, tying into the emotional considerations of your customer base and breaking the exclusively logical barrier of deciding to interact with a brand — instead offering a more sentimental approach. Authenticity is key when creating the story of your brand — stay true, look to your staff and customers and think about the way your financial services impact the stability and security of your customer base.

Opportunities and Learning

Social media is a two-way street. Your financial institution can put out loads of content, and your customers can provide feedback to your brand, sometimes through solicited feedback in posts, and sometimes through organic comments and interactions. Some brands dread this open forum for customers to voice their opinions out of fear of looking bad in a public social space. What they fail to realize is that if customers are vocalizing disapproval on social media, that means the brand is already falling short in the products and services themselves.

Instead, brands should listen to their customers on social media and understand where their biggest opportunities for improvement lie. What trends arise from customer feedback. What opportunities for investigation arise as a result of customer complaints? As much as it hurts to hear out these unhappy voices, the reality is that they can serve as a roadmap for your company’s improvement plan. As much as one voice seems like something that can be written off, the truth is that even a single individual in a social media forum can represent the views of hundreds or thousands of other silent customers. Hear these individuals out, learn how you can improve, and create a system for your organization to turn social listening into tangible product/service improvements.

A Quick FI Social Media Plan

September 23, 2019

Social media strategy should start off small. The most important thing is to get your social media presence off the ground, learn as you go, and improve over time. Use the steps of creating goals, developing good content, and creating a simple monitoring plan as a launchpad to either get your social media interactions off the ground, or improve a stagnating online presence.

Create Goals

It might seem obvious, but your financial institution’s leadership team should sit down and have a conversation about your goals of your social media presence. In particular, you should think about the following:

  • Who is your target audience? This factor alone will drive a number of decisions and shape the way you think about your brand, your content, the platforms you use and your overall approach to communication. This target audience might consist of multiple audiences, which should be thought of as unique entities that require varied approach for your social media presence.
  • What platforms do you want to use? Popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat offer unique pros and cons, from their ability to leverage visual storytelling to their age demographics they do the best at engaging. Consider the capabilities of your team and the pros and cons of each of these platforms, identify what you want to leverage, and build your social media plan with those diferent mediums in mind.
  • What level of engagement are you willing to commit to? Your team should understand the capacity of your resources, how often your want social media postings to happen, what type of content you want to post, and how responsive you want to be to your customers’ comments and interactions on your various social media forums. Additionally, you should pre-define what kind of analytics, measurement, or follow-up processes you want to occur on the back end of your social media strategy.
Develop engaging content

Once you have a concrete strategy in place, your team should work to develop meaningful, engaging content that will drive traffic to your pages, garner interaction and promote your brand in a positive manner. Focus on these aspects of your content:

Visual Appeal. Image-focal content grabs the eye during a “scrolling session,” captures the readers attention, and is a gatekeeper for interaction. Make sure you utilize visuals to deliver content quickly, whether from a photograph, infographic, or other form of visualized data.

Storytelling. If you have meaningful statistic, think of a customer who exemplifies that positive statistic. Use personal stories to communicate greater ideas and personalize the message you’re delivering.

Actionable content. Make sure you evaluate the goal of every post. Are you trying to improve your brand’s appearance, drive a sale, re-direct people to your website? Make sure your content provides an opportunity for action and deeper engagement with your brand.

Brand personality. Try to develop a consistent tone in your brand’s postings. Whether informative, appealing to sentiment, or comical, you should try to strike a consistent personality through your posts and interactions. This consistency helps people identify with your brand and think of you as a person or friend, rather than a service provider.

Promote, Monitor and Adjust

Once your strategy and posts are in place, pour fuel on your social media fire! Investigate ways that advertising, affiliates and other services can increase your reach. Make sure to monitor your various stats, like unique impressions per post, likes and number of shares, and point your organization in a positive trajectory, trying to increase your reach over time. Pay attention to the types of post that garner the most engagement, and work hard to replicate that success in creative and unique ways.

Your Employees Are Your Social Media Secret Weapon

September 11, 2019

Establishing a social media strategy for a financial institution can feel daunting. Price barriers associated with external consultants, intricate analytics platforms. and wondering what you don’t know about social media can all feel like huge obstacles stopping your social media strategy from getting off the ground. Sometimes, an employee-led approach can be a great way to get the wheels turning on your social media presence. By leveraging your employees to distribute your social media messaging on their individual social media pages, you can reap a variety of benefits while using a straightforward, no-frills approach to establishing an online presence.

Trusted Source

When social media users see individuals they know posting content, they tend to trust it more than seeing it from a stranger, and especially trust it more than seeing it posted from a business. This remains true even when the poster is an employee of a business or organization, posting that organization’s messaging. By allowing your employees to post content, you’re reframing your business through these employees/individuals, who are likely to be viewed and thought of by their social media audience as a friend, family member or casual acquaintance, rather than as a professional associated with your financial institution. This is valuable because it increases their ability to be trusted by followers in an online space.

Truly Engaged Audience

Rather than getting “cheap” views via promoted ads, the individuals reached through employee social media serve as a truly engaged follower who will be more receptive to your organization’s messaging. These viewers likely have some interest in your employee, and that pre-existing relationship increases their willingness to engage in your content your employee shares.

For local credit unions and regional financial institutions, this engagement is especially valuable because it is geographically targeted, reaching a high portion of social media followers of employees who live in the city and region your financial institution represents.

Accessible For FIs of All Sizes

Smaller financial institutions have limited budgets when it comes to marketing in the form of social media, especially with advanced social media management approaches, like outsourcing content creation, soliciting consulting on social media analytics and having full-time staff dedicated to social media marketing. By creating an employee-led campaign, smaller institutions can leverage the power of social media marketing in a tangible, easy-to-understand, and quickly implementable way.

Easy to Execute

Simplicity is key, especially when coming up with a social media strategy to get your financial institution off the ground, active and making tangible progress toward an enhanced online presence. Explaining the benefits of an employee-led social media initiative helps your staff understand the impact your collective action is having not just on your organization as a whole, but on the impact your financial institution’s success has on them as individuals. Establishing buy-in enhances your social media push’s efficacy, and has a reciprocal effect of making your team feel connected and engaged with your organization beyond their day-to-day responsibilities.


Advanced social media strategies, analytics platforms and sophisticated methods to distribute content all come with a price tag, but employee-led initiatives are virtually free. Once your team establishes the content you want to share and sets aside time to explain to your staff the best practices to share content — voila — your social media presence is off the ground and taking concrete steps toward a meaningful online relationship with your target customers.

Growth and Change in Online Shopping

August 27, 2019

Financial Institutions spend a great deal of effort understanding customers on the back end of their transactions: Seeing their monthly statements, overall financial picture and helping them make educated decisions about their overall financial health. However, on the other side of those transactions is a complex and shifting world of transactions, many of which are happening through ecommerce. These interactions shape the way consumers think about their finances and affect their expectations of financial institutions. Consider the following ways ecommerce is evolving and improving for customers.

Enhanced Product Information

Consumers can make more informed decisions than ever before about the products they’re purchasing. Reviews, independent blogs and usability tests on YouTube all illustrate ways customers can learn about products. Beyond this, even closer to the point of purchase, customers have access to enhanced photos, customer support, creative payment plans, greater transparency in the services they’ll receive, and customized offerings created by leveraging customer data. The world of ecommerce is more personalized than ever before.

Highly Personalized Shopping Experience

Online retailers have become very sophisticated about where their customers are in the purchase process, creating unique landing pages and more personalized customer journeys to help individual navigate their online platforms easily. Additionally, the advent of data science in the ecommerce space helps businesses understand what their customers are looking for, create customized offerings and even sell customers on the value adds that are most important to them.

Expedited Processes

Customers are now benefitting from things like one-click purchasing, pre-loaded payment options and simpler account creation by linking to their social media platforms. These various processes make purchasing easier, and have an effect on customers’ expectations of their financial institutions. Simply put, they want ease of purchases and ease of transactions. In particular, Millennials have less patience when it comes to technology that isn’t intuitive. They expect it to work right the first time, and consider the efficacy of the online platforms they’re using a reflection of the brand they’re working with.

Q3 Financial Institution Trends

Technology is a major disrupting force in the world of financial institutions, and in quarter three, banks and credit unions should think about the way they are leveraging their FinTech partnerships and working with their mobile presence to enhance 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