Customer-led transformation remains front-of-mind for many organisations, particularly in the financial services (FS) industry. The promise of higher profitability, improved customer experience, greater capacity to manage risk, and better employee conditions is highly compelling, making the business case for customer-led transformation stronger than ever.
During the 2022 MoneyLIVE Summit in London, I joined my colleagues from the wider financial services team at Webhelp as we hosted a Think Tank session to discuss what FS firms should consider when pursuing customer-led transformation. Participant discussion covered areas such as, how to recognise the value of personalisation and professionalisation, transformation through the integration of change initiatives, what the true cost of poor customer service is, and considerations for better customer experience measurement.
Here are some of the key talking points and actionable advice that emerged from the discussion.
Professional and Personal Customer Experience
Customers are making ever increasing, and varied, demands of the financial services brands they receive products and services from. Their enquiries can often be ‘non-standard’ or complex in nature and require personal, human contact. Therefore, the availability of highly skilled and compassionate front line advisors who can offer a level of personalised service was considered to be crucial.
Participants also suggested that the organisations who develop a deeper level of curiosity around their customers can support the delivery of a more personalised service, and will undoubtedly gain a better understanding of their customers, their challenges and how best to resolve.
Technology was highlighted as a key enabler to this more personalised experience. Participants agreed that creating a single holistic technology solution was far more valuable than implementing several individual, often disparate solutions, as this helps to enable personalisation and simplify processes, which the group felt could lead to greater customer trust and a reduction in unnecessary, often duplicate interactions.
From a people perspective, leveraging the global talent pool and decentralising recruitment to enable customers to be supported in their primary language was also discussed as means of helping firms develop higher levels of customer trust and an improved reputation.
Integrated Transformation Programmes
The participants discussed a common challenge around transformation programmes where momentum can quickly be lost when involving many different functions or teams who lack an established singular, committed vision from the outset. In setting in place a clear vision, challenges around shifting the culture away from silos to a more collaborative approach could be alleviated, achieved through the involvement of all stakeholders at every step of the journey and gaining their trust and support. Too often, organisations have competing initiatives and priorities, often without realising it.
According to participants, transformation programmes can often suffer from scope creep and be drawn out for long periods, or they are too ambitious and overarching, with unachievable goals in place. Crucially, programmes are seldom broken down into a series of more manageable objectives. These delays can lead employees to lose confidence in the changes, so companies should first identify and communicate the problems they want to solve, break them down into smaller parts and consider deploying a core team of employees whose role it is to develop and design the appropriate solutions to tackle these problems. These tactics can be hugely beneficial in helping shift a culture of silos to one of greater collaboration.
The True Cost of Poor Service
The participants were clear that poor customer experience impacted a number of areas, from reputation to revenue. Discussion also focused on using the costs of poor customer service to support developing the business case for customer journey transformation.. Many elements came out of the discussion, including the importance of measuring the impact of reducing complaints, attrition, failure demand and remediation costs, alongside identifying improved revenue opportunities associated with happier, more loyal customers.
Ensuring employees involved in delivering customer experience, whether front line or back office, understand the revenue and reputational consequences of leaving problems unsolved was also discussed, with the importance of outlining success factors and confirming everyone’s role in delivering these factors deemed as crucial. This would include requiring firms to put potential poor service issues under the spotlight and expose them to everyone providing front line customer support.
Financial services firms can limit the cost of poor customer experiences by balancing tactical and strategic initiatives while ensuring they use the right delivery approach in the right situation — agile vs waterfall, for example. However, participants pointed out that not all companies or teams are mature enough to go agile, and for the latter to work effectively requires many functions to align.
Measuring Customer Experience
The group cited measurement as a real challenge, noting that it is exacerbated by having to deal with disconnected customer journeys across multiple channels, leading to issues such as blind handoffs between departments and repeat contact and causing confusion and distress for customers. Additionally, journeys can often be designed around the “average” customer, which excludes the significant variety of circumstances seen throughout an entire customer base — something my colleagues at Gobeyond Partners explored in-depth when analysing the fraud customer journey.
As a result, customer experience (CX) is then measured across multiple channels and platforms, often with no specific focus or common metrics that can inform CX strategy.
Therefore, the ability to measure customer experience in a coherent, methodical and wide-ranging way is crucial, and there’s certainly no lack of data available in this context. As is often the case however, it is understanding what can be measured and how best to do this that can prove a challenging stumbling block.
Typically organisations in the financial services sector and beyond will have a direct feedback mechanism in place, usually surveys deployed after a customer interaction, but it is the opportunity to blend this direct feedback with the indirect and across the entire customer journey, that can make a tangible difference. This indirect data is often sentiment based, derived from conversations with customers, in-person, on the phone or through live chat platforms, and with the right expertise and technology can be gathered at scale.
Having this level of data structured in a usable way allows for analytics models to be built that can measure the value of CX improvements across the full spectrum of the customer journey, something deemed important with the think tank audience but often unavailable. The power of this indirect data will only grow, with the deployment of emotional detection solutions becoming more prevalent. In a time where the cost of living crisis seems to be taking further hold on society, the technology and data that will enable front-line advisors to have deeper, more meaningful conversations should become an important part of the overall customer experience.
A common goal to deliver customer-led transformation
It’s rare to get so many leading customer experience leaders and decision makers from the financial services sector in one room and to have the time to talk in-depth about the challenges they face. From large retail banks to smaller challenger fintechs, there was a commonality in the appetite to deliver transformation that places customer journey at the core. Frustrations around how best to measure the end-to-end customer experience were commonplace within the group, as was the failure to recognise the cost of failing to offer customers the best possible service.
The willingness of those in the think tank to engage in efforts to work more collaboratively on transformation programmes was a definitive positive and bodes well for transformation programmes going forward, as does a willingness to embrace technology as a key enabler for a better customer experience.
The full article looking at ‘The business case for customer journey transformation in financial services’, upon which the think tank discussion was based, is available here
Hervé Mazenod is Gobeyond Partners’ Managing Director, Financial Services, and has over 20 years of consulting experience, 17 of which he spent in FS. An engaging leader, Hervé has managed multiple global transformation programmes, helping banking, pensions, and insurance organisations solve complex customer journey problems with innovative solutions.
Find out more about Hervé here.