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September 5, 2014

Beyond Digital: Customer Care in Financial Services

Posted by Nageswar Cherukupalli (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:16 PM

Brand-Centric Model To A Customer-Centric Approach

Among the architectural treasures of every big city are the banks. Walk into any old bank and you feel awe-inspired. A coffered ceiling soars above with marble walls with brass fittings everywhere and at the center is a huge vault. It was less about customer, but more about brand image and service/product offerings that differentiated one bank from the other.

Fast-forward to today and most banks are pretty sleek looking. They use modern steel and glass to exude a kind of bare-bones efficiency that customers are looking for. This is important because banks have realized the advantages of moving from a brand-centric model to a more customer-centric one. That is to say, they are the ones who should feel privileged when you walk through the door, not the other way around!

Are Other Industries Ahead of Financial Services?

While it is true that some industries are marching ahead when it comes to customer engagement, like retail, Banks do need to play some catch up. But, the good news is that some of the best practices are being shared across industries and banks are already designing products, features, and benefits that predict customer journeys and enhance the experience. Many financial services firms I work with have become extremely savvy when it comes to leveraging digital channels.. Their devotion to digital consumers underlines the importance of customer care that can ride on top of all the traditional and emerging channels alike and this new focus on the customer helps in getting real-time access to customer information.

There is tremendous value in the digital relationships they are forging with consumers. We've seen that many financial services firms are compelled to create an Apple-like ecosystem that utilizes human cognitive development. That's a fancy way of saying the entire ecosystem that they create for their consumers results in an emotional attachment with them. Doing so might not be crucial for older customers, but it is of paramount importance for attracting and retaining Gen Y users. No matter how a customer interacts with the bank, whether it's through digital means or the branch, the event goes beyond just a financial transaction and helps in building a meaningful relationship. Creation of a digital ecosystem is all about envisioning and developing an integrated, seamless experience.

How Can We Help Banks Get There?

I am constantly urging our clients to redesign their business processes and take a new look at them in terms of increasing automation and being more simple and transparent. This not only leads to a significant drop in the total cost of ownership, but also improves the overall experience. What will customers think when the bank has reduced the time it takes to open a new account to four minutes from 12 hours? That's what I call instantaneous results. This, in addition to improving the experience on self-service channels, has seen a 40 to 50% drop in in call volume.

Enriching the customer experience is definitely an involved task. This involves creating a framework that captures and analyzes the transactional behavior of customers and their preferences across all inbound and outbound customer interactions. The idea is to make all these customer interaction channels as effective and efficient as possible.

Try remembering (and using, of course) the various stages of the customer lifecycle journey. It starts with 'welcome me.' Initially, you don't want your bank to be selling a product or service, but understand you and work on positioning an optimized product or service that suits your needs. Then there's 'take care of me', which involves creating a unique experience for all the day-to-day transactions between the customer and the bank. The third stage is 'know me', which refers to the ability to get a full view of the relationships regardless of the channels or contacts and create a customized treatment based on your preferences. The fourth stage, 'connect with me', is about providing consistent, convenient access to service information across all channels. Moves towards 'improve for me'--always making enhancements in order to move beyond everyone's expectations. And more importantly, beyond your set goals. Finally, end every transaction and connection with a smile!

Investing in innovation is the key to success. When your key focus in on innovation, none of these strategies are earth-shattering. They are simply common-sense and must become ingrained in the culture. Emerging technologies mean more IT solutions for financial services firms that have significant business impact. So, again, smile, because by implementing new technologies, you're optimizing the bank's operations and reducing costs for everyone, including the customer.

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