Digital financial services need heart as well as high tech

As you embark on your digital development plan, it would be wise to consider customer engagement to increase trust and loyalty.
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It’s the time of year when websites spam us with the promise of a thin body in exchange for a fad diet and a slice of our bruised income. The global economic situation is uncertain largely because of Covid-19. Our lives are over-politicised, and our TVs stream documentary teasers about serial killers and climate change. It’s tempting to simply give up and hide in a cupboard. Stress is everywhere, and people are looking for ways to alleviate it by being more picky about what they watch, what they read, where they live, what they buy and where they bank.

Accenture study results look gloomy for banks. Its survey of more than 47,000 consumers reveals further erosion of trust since the pandemic hit and more of us are driven towards digital services. People are seeing financial institutions as commodities that can be easily switched to and from depending on factors such as price. And trust is in the spotlight because many FIs rushed their digital offer, making it easier for people to choose who they trust with their money.

Engagement, loyalty and trust

It’s strange to think that we’ve lived with the internet for about 30 years. Listening to some people, you would think it was relatively new. Not so. I’ve been using it since I was at university in 1993. This is why I find it difficult to understand why many companies, including financial institutions (FIs), have generally failed to nurse/mentor/cajole their customers and clients into using digital banking services. It’s only when crises emerge, financial or viral, do we often see a hurried effort to “go digital”.

The pandemic has shown us that people are adaptable. We have learned to work remotely, have become better accustomed to those tools that help us do so, and are perhaps looking ahead and adjusting how we see our careers outside an office warren. You could say that we as consumers have adapted better to how technology can help us than those companies set up to serve our interests.

If you are a company reading this – a bank, a building society, an insurance company and so on – I can’t emphasise enough that the time is now to make changes to how and what you offer. And when it comes to your offer, it isn’t just your products and services we’re talking about. It’s about what the customer experience looks like, and what you do to create engagement, loyalty and trust.

Tips for a healthy digital development plan

Trends that were apparent before Covid-19 showed bank branch closures around the world. The pandemic accelerated what was already happening. While there is still a need for branch services to remain for those who need them, the Zeitgeist favours digital services such as online and mobile. And to become a better digital banking provider in an age of commoditised financial services, you have to get customer engagement right. It shouldn’t be an afterthought to your mobile app. It should drive the development of the app in the first place, considering the journey your customer will enjoy as they onboard and become an engaged user.

There are certain things you should consider when embarking on your digital development plan, especially with customer engagement in mind. Here are a few pointers to think about:

  1. Be personable. Be conversational to build trust and confidence, adopting a personal tone that avoids being overfamiliar.

  2. Correspond regularly. Use every method at your disposal, such as email, in-app messages and well-considered automation. However, avoid being spammy!

  3. Get to the point. Generation Z (born after 1997) don’t waste time. They’re more ambitious, discerning and digital. They can see right through your sales pitch and won’t hang around to read your legal speak documents. Be clear, concise and uncomplicated, and show yourself off as a human-driven endeavour, not a corporate tank.

  4. Be customer-specific. Know who your customers are and send messages that relate to them.

  5. Be culturally aware. Everyone’s different, so appeal to lots of different types of people, not demographic, homogenous groups driven by poorly considered personas. Stretch the boundaries of what KYC really means.

You’re thinking, this is common sense. Yet, it’s amazing how few reputable companies think of these things. It’s often a get-digital-quick approach that works for a bit, but is quickly recognised for what it is.

The long-term success of your business lies in the hands of Gen Z, and the better you are at creating an environment and experience that provides for their financial needs in these uncertain, stressful times, the more appealing your products and services will be.

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