Covid-19 has changed how we look at goods and services. What does this mean for the future of financial services and customer experience?
We’ve talked a lot about customer experience over the past couple of years, in particular loyalty, empathy and emotional, human interaction. We don’t pay lip service to it. It’s actually at the core of what we offer as a business. No doubt you read every day about putting the customer first, a common refrain across the financial services press, but can you spot who’s walking the walk and who’s not?
The demand for greater digital ubiquity has been tempered in the fires of our pandemic. Financial institutions who saw fit to slow down or even ignore the call for better services have been revealed as laggards by Covid-19, and there are statistics and studies that show customers are deciding where to bank, borrow and buy much more freely than before.
It’s never been more vital a time for FIs to awaken from their slumber and realise that the alarm clock went off an hour ago. You surely read about the companies forging a startup path through financial services, and you recognise some household names in there too. The landscape has been irrevocably changed over the last few years. Yet, be in no doubt that much of what you read and hear is marketing. I’ve been there; I’ve attended networking events, webinars, product launches, breakfast seminars. I’ve seen and heard first-hand the stubbornness of spokespeople who whisper that it will blow over and we will remain. At the heart of their barely audible rhetoric is a desire for things to remain the same, with the customer very much outside of their thinking.
Combating legacy habits
The startups that mobilised public demand have succeeded in direct clean hits against the status quo. Many of them had the advantage of being able to start from a clean slate – something harder for the FIs who have been around for longer and built up technical debt.
You cannot ignore how Covid-19 has altered how we live day to day, and this is seen in how we work, how we interact and how we think about our finances. Our legacy habits have been floored and we’ve clambered back up the ropes, regained our feet and have reconsidered our strategy for winning this fight. We demand new things. The status quo just won’t do. Customer expectations for digital services are much higher in 2021 and, as Alex Kreger says in his recent Finextra post: “The pandemic has highlighted the fact that the financial industry is woefully unprepared to embrace the digital age.”
Authentic customer experience
Customer confidence around finances is high. People seem to know more about how finances work and this knowledge has made them discerning customers for financial products and services. It is my belief that many of them know the difference between authentic customer experience and marketing fluff. And those who don’t are catching up, or are perhaps the customers that FIs are relying on to offer ballast during this financial technology storm (that they hope will blow over).
As Bank Automation News succinctly puts it: Unless a bank can differentiate itself on offerings or customer experience, it will find itself increasingly irrelevant, haemorrhaging talent, shuttering branches and looking after primarily older, non-digital customers.
Post-pandemic recipe for success
So, what do we mean by customer experience here at ieDigital? Let’s begin with what we don’t believe in, and that’s replacing humans with digital processes that remove the emotive element of finance. It’s still important for humans to interact with humans, especially around finance. People need to trust in things. And they need reliability, empathy for their situation and simple answers to complex problems. Get these right and you’re dancing around the ring like Muhammad Ali.
But we believe in the power of providing reliability and simplicity through digital means, putting customer needs at the heart of everything we build whilst keeping compliance and risk happy. After all, if you don’t see things through the customer’s perspective, you’re only serving yourself. You have to recognise what it is the customer wants before you can build an experience that helps them get what they want. Whether it’s financing a car, repaying a loan, or applying for a new product, seeing the situation through the customer’s eyes from the get-go is a surefire way to provide a better experience.
Combine the digital approach with empathy and you have a post-pandemic recipe for success. The emotional connections you need to build aren’t easy, but will offer lifetime value beyond the scope of short-term thinking. The combination of human and digital doesn’t have to be a knockout blow for the financial services sector. There’s a solution for all willing FIs in the fight for success, but the win should inevitably belong to the customer.