The influence of the pandemic has shaped the relationship between financial service institutions and their customers in unprecedented ways. But the game isn’t over yet. Service provides must continue to cultivate an optimal experience for their customers if they’re to stand any chance of competing in the long term.
This view is shared by Helen Briggs, the Senior Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Genesys; a prominent provider of global customer service channels. In this guest-authored piece for The Fintech Times, Helen describes the importance that customer service holds over the success of financial service provision, and discusses what institutions can do to better their offering to their customer base.
The global pandemic has been a wake-up call for the financial services industry, forcing it to adapt at a pace never experienced before. With cash and cheque usage dropping and electronic, card, and mobile app transactions rising, open banking is gaining new global momentum brought on by both regulatory mandates and commercial market forces.
Many of us naturally have a heightened set of expectations for this industry because of our attachments to and reliance on financial matters being dealt with swiftly and professionally. In fact, a recent survey by Finder found that poor customer service appeared to be a running theme with digital-only banks, with 14% of customers complaining about the level of customer service they received over the phone and digitally.
With so much emotion and goodwill riding on companies in the sector performing as desired, regardless of circumstances that might otherwise be forgiven by consumers in other sectors of business, financial services organisations have a real opportunity to lead the way in creating a gold standard for customer interaction. As banks look to embed themselves further into customers’ lives, they must evolve how they view and interact with people. It has never been more imperative for these companies to work in a more collaborative manner with users, allowing both end-to-end engagement whilst providing a feeling of control and choice.
Exceeding Expectations in 2021
Consumers today expect to have the convenience to connect with their financial provider on any device and channel 24/7. Where people have become accustomed to high levels of security and resilience banks and other financial organisations have put in place, a new trend of disjointed experiences has become the next thing customers will no longer tolerate.
Businesses now have many opportunities to positively connect with customers, but this fails when the focus is placed on the channels themselves, rather than the thinking that goes into why those channels are being used. Instead of examining individual interaction touchpoints devoted to areas such as billing, onboarding, and customer service calls, financial services organisations need to pay closer attention to the complete consumer journey and the reasons they are contacting their providers. Only then can they truly get to know their customers as people.
This process successfully starts with understanding historical customer and employee data, third-party data, and behavioural data. Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities can add value by helping to understand and predict the outcomes customers are trying to drive and their intent. This enables organisations such as banks or insurance providers to facilitate more advanced forms of personalisation and positive outcomes for all parties. AI also plays a critical role in understanding the history of the customer journey and adds an additional layer of predictive technologies that can give a clear insight into why they are contacting the bank and match them with the best agent for their query.
By creating the consumer journey from the point of the user, financial services companies can align employees around customer needs and deliver value consistently through fluid, unified experiences
across channels. Here are tips for financial organisations on how they can evolve to become truly customer-centric organisations:
1. Prioritise an Interactive Dialogue With Customers
With the right digital tools in place, companies can take a fundamental shift away from the traditional
means of communicating, towards one that involves a more interactive dialogue between employees
and customers – regardless of the channel being used, allowing for greater personalisation of service.
By thinking about how to orchestrate customer data and background on the individual’s journey, staff
can create truly engaging experiences and build trust.
2. Address Skill Shortages Amongst Staff
Digital skills shortages continue to challenge the industry, in particular the shortage of data analysts, cybersecurity professionals and digital services developers. To avoid hindering innovation there is an
urgent need to upskill workforces which will also help improve productivity.
Despite a squeeze on budgets, improving current staff education must remain a priority for the years
ahead. Employers in this space need to make sure staff are equipped with the right digital tools,
specialist knowledge and soft skills to navigate this new landscape.
3. Continue To Adapt to the Hybrid Workplace
Like many industries, financial services companies have had to adapt to remote working. As millions of people set up offices from home, teams have become more agile. Collaboration has increased in many instances and employees generally report feeling more connected to colleagues.
In the race to return to the office, companies can’t afford to lose the connections built with both customers and employees. Many financial service organisations have been reluctant to move to a cloud or multi-cloud model, but the pandemic has forced a rethink and the acceleration of digital transformation projects. The businesses now considering adopting a permanent ‘hybrid model’, allowing staff to permanently work from home for a number of days each week, will undoubtedly reap cost-savings too. But to make these permanent moves, companies must ensure they have the right technology in place first.
4. Identify the Right Partners To Help Future-Proof Ecosystems
Banks and other financial institutions must continue to work with partners to create strong platforms
and experiences for users. Partner technology should be adapted to bring both digital and non-digital
channels together, integrating seamlessly into existing back-office systems and customer data
Embracing emerging technologies such as AI, voice activated assistants and facial recognition will also set the industry on course for solid digital transformation, and ensure such businesses in this sector are best placed to deliver superior experiences across a variety of channels.
Embracing a Customer-Centric Future
It’s clear financial services organisations are looking towards their digital offerings, such as mobile banking. However, in the race to digitally transform, gaps have emerged between digital service offerings and customer expectations which require urgent attention.
A study from Cornerstone Advisors found that only a quarter of banks and credit unions had
embarked on a digital transformation strategy prior to 2019, and 45 percent hadn’t launched a
strategy prior to this year. Before embarking on any transformation effort, financial services
organisations must not forget to keep the customer at the heart of their digital strategy, as far too
often customers feel they are only coming along for the ride.
Increased digitisation has seen many banks and corporations engage with customers far more
efficiently. To continue achieving successful digital and data ambitions, banks and other financial
organisations must address customer journeys more seriously by creating an ecosystem that is fully
integrated into the digital life of consumers and meets them at their exact moment of need,
regardless of the channel.