There’s no reason why financial services firms shouldn’t be as beloved as technology providers, High Street coffee chains or soft drink brands. Think about it. Apart from our loved ones and our health (of course), money is about the most important thing we have. Banks, lenders and money transfers firms aren’t just financial firms: they’re in the dream business.
These are the views of Yishay Trif, CEO at Moneynetint. Having started out as a regional manager for three years, Trif then became CEO of the company, having now worked there for going on 14 years. With a wealth of knowledge on what makes a financial business successful, Trif examines what ingredients create a brand that is loved by its customers:
Do you love your bank, building society or pension provider? I’m going to hazard a guess and say probably not. But why not?
Financial firms deserve to be loved. They keep our savings safe, help us buy houses, and provide us with the means to pay for everything we need. They’re certainly far more important than phones or coffee shops. But they rarely, if ever, inspire love in the same way that brands like Apple or Starbucks do.
When a bank or other FS provider does provoke strong emotions, they are invariably negative. And that has little to do with the actual products and services they provide and far more with the (largely unfair) perception that they’re not on customers’ side.
The industry has every opportunity to change this narrative. All they need to do is show a willingness to embrace the new capabilities afforded by the digital financial revolution to bring better, more affordable services that customers will love.
Listening to customers
Customer satisfaction doesn’t happen by accident. It requires hard work to attain and, just as importantly, to maintain. There’s no faking it: financial firms that merely pay lip service to customer service will alienate their customers and invite ridicule and anger on social media – including on increasingly influential reviews sites like Trustpilot.
The first thing to say is that demonstrating a commitment to customers isn’t something that you can simply bolt on like a piece of software; it needs to be built right into the DNA of the business. But there’s one thing that distinguishes businesses that truly value their customers and want to be loved from those that merely say they do: they listen.
Banks and other FS providers must be constantly asking what matters to their customers, and investigating new technologies and platforms they can use to deliver what they need. It sounds simple, but traditional FS businesses can be reluctant to change systems, processes and platforms that have served them well over the years. The problem with this approach is that they forgo the opportunity to introduce new services that will make a real difference to their customers. International transfers provide the perfect example.
Give customers what they want
One of the most common questions from FS customers is “why?”. Why have I been refused credit? Why does it take so long for a payment to clear? Why does it take so long to get through to the customer service team?
There’s usually a good answer to these questions. And for a long time, there was a good reason why it cost so much to send money abroad. International transfers aren’t a big earner for banks; in fact, they barely make a profit on sending money abroad. In fact, giving customers the ability to send money abroad is an example of banks going the extra mile – not that most customers realise it.
But it no longer has to be this way. The revolution in financial services over the last decade has transformed many aspects of money, and one of the most important ones for business and consumer customers has been affordable overseas payments.
Where once banks had to rely on payments networks like SWIFT – which cost a great deal of money to take part in – a new breed of service provider is smashing the glass ceiling of international payments. By establishing a network of payment rails between banks around the world, these new service providers are making it easy and affordable for businesses to trade anywhere in the world.
This isn’t a threat to established FS businesses, it’s an opportunity. These new payment channels are like the internet: a worldwide network that anyone can use. So, whether it’s sending remittances to relatives or trading with businesses overseas, partnering with international transfer providers will enable banks to provide cheap, fast and reliable overseas payments that make a real difference to their customers. And, of course, it means they can live up to their claims to be truly “global” banks.
Perhaps more than any industry, financial services is about relationships. They are there for us at every stage of our life: from our first bank account, to advising us on saving for a comfortable retirement. Now that it’s never been so easy to change financial services providers, banks need to focus on retaining existing customers and winning new ones. The best way to differentiate themselves is by listening to customers’ “whys?” and asking themselves some searching questions about whether there’s an alternative to tried, trusted but ultimately unsatisfactory systems like SWIFT.
But will that lead to love? Maybe not – but it will certainly bring the loyalty the financial sector has long been looking for.