Beyond the Tipping Point: The Role of Digital in the Financial Services Customer Journey

Something very significant happened in late 2015. It happened quietly and I guess many people didn’t even notice. For the first time, there were more mobile-based transactions than from traditional bricks-and-mortar branches. The tipping point had been passed. More importantly, it was the customers and not Financial Services firms that determined when it happened. So if your customers are going to choose how and when to engage with you, you need to be able to offer services at each stage of the digital customer journey.

The same trend towards new channel adoption is beginning to play out with mobile and online banking. In 2015, the amount of mobile transactions in retail banking grew by 54% compared with only 2% for online. We’re not yet at parity but we’re not far away. Atom Bank is an excellent example of what mobile-only Financial Services can look like. The success of the new branch-based model of Metro Bank in the UK, however, illustrates something that should be perfectly obvious: customers want to consume services the way that best suits them – often the way they are simply most comfortable with. Financial Services organizations – whether banks, insurance firms or investment houses – need to be aware of this fact.

This thought occurred to me as I read a recent report entitled ‘The evolution of Financial Services’.  It mainly looks at the effect that Digital Transformation is having on what it calls “traditional, challenger or disruptor” Financial Services companies. It talks a lot about customer experience but, in the end, it actually focuses on the communication channels. But customers don’t really care about channel – that’s simply a means to an end – they care about simplicity, transparency, fairness and security. And, they expect that from their provider before they have even bought something through to the day they leave – and beyond.

Financial Services companies have worked hard to create a single view of the customer – with varying degrees of success – now they need to create a single view of the digital customer journey.  Here are my 4 top tips to building excellent customer experience:

The world’s gone digital. It just forgot to tell some important people!

There is no doubt that mobile banking and insurance apps are changing the way that many people consume financial products. And the smartphone is the firm favorite of the Millennial. But Forbes has pointed out a small paradox. Although 80% of retail customer transactions were through self-service applications, more than half of US banking customers had visited their branch within the last six months. Incredibly, a lot of people still prefer their statements printed out and mailed to them. So omni-channel isn’t always a process of channel migration and Digital Transformation isn’t always about replacing paper documents with electronic equivalents.

For most Financial Services companies, the requirement is for a flexible and agile infrastructure that allows a mix of channels from which customers can select. It requires a means of managing content so that digital data management is combined with traditional document and records management. In this way, firms can deliver the experience customers expect.

Simple, secure and satisfactory. The three S’s for Financial Services success

It is always tempting to think we should always be looking to ‘surprise’ or ‘exceed expectations’ but customers seem to want something much more grounded. Within Financial Services, they want products that are simple and fair (no hidden fees or unnecessary jargon).

More widely, customers simply want to be satisfied with their experience – which can be defined as you doing what you say you’re going to do – and that is also the best way to build loyalty. This is, of course, easier said than done.   I think that an Enterprise Information Management (EIM) platform to collate and coordinate all customer data and gives everyone – including your customer themselves – access to the right information whenever they need it.

Personalization is most powerful when it moves beyond marketing

Digital marketing has had a major impact in Financial Services. Organizations have begun to maximize the value of the data they have. It allows them to better understand and connect with customers. Being able to personalize and create marketing around their life events leads to much more targeted and successful campaigns. But, here’s an interesting thing: customers are happy to give you permission to use their data for personalized marketing purposes – although most don’t really want to. They do, however, actively want you to personalize their purchase and support experiences. This is something that requires a fresh approach to how Financial Services look at Big Data. There needs to be a move towards real-time data analytics without which one industry expert said: “data warehouses become white elephants that serve a very specific purpose“.

It’s not the Channel. It’s the consistency that’s important

Here’s a popular myth: People hate contact centers. No, they don’t. What they hate is the poor experience that pretty much everyone has had when dealing with a contact center. If your experiences had been nothing but great then I bet you’d love contact centers. So if you can provide an excellent customer experience – and ensure that it’s consistently great regardless on which channel your customer uses – then the idea of the traditional customer service scenario – Press 1 to descend into a deeper layer of hell – can be consigned to history. Customer Communications Management provides a solid foundation for delivering consistent, targeted and personalized communication whichever channel or channels your customer prefers.

Gartner has suggested that 89% of companies will compete mainly on the quality of the customer experience they provide. There’s no doubt that digital is transforming the business processes of Financial Service firms and how they engage with their customers. But successful companies will be the ones that understand that excellent experience is based around customer preference. You’re going to need to know what customers want as they move along their buying journey. Additionally you must deliver the personalized experience that appeals to each of your individual customers – not just the ones that like exciting new technologies!

Gerry Gibney

Gerry is Senior Industry Strategist for the financial services industry, with over 25 years' experience in banking and investment management. Before OpenText, he worked at Fiserv Investment Services Group and Microsoft. He is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).

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