This article is part of our August series about the state of financial services. Click here for more.
Financial services companies are embracing customer experience as their key differentiator, with digital technology leading the charge.
Indeed, according to Econsultancy and Adobe’s “2018 Digital Trends in Financial Services” report, FSIs have ranked optimising CX as their highest priority over the next five years. The report is based on an annual survey of nearly 700 senior-level FSI leaders.
For APAC’s marketing leaders, the research points to four key areas in order to enable superior customer experience.
Build The Business Around The Customer
Disruption from fintechs has made it an imperative for all FSI players to raise their CX game. More than a quarter (28%) of FSI respondents ranked optimising the customer experience as the “single most exciting opportunity” in 2018, compared with 18% of their peers across all other sectors.
Additionally, more than a third (36%) of all FSI respondents said that CX will be the primary way they seek to differentiate themselves over the next five years. Retail banking respondents were even more likely than their counterparts to be focusing on the customer experience, with 41% who said they regard it as the main focus for differentiation.
Tessa O’Rorke, Westpac New Zealand’s senior manager of digital sales and strategy, explained the importance of building the business around the customer.
“We know that if we create the right experiences for our customers, then the business will follow. Great experience will deliver good customer outcomes, and that will equal good business outcomes,” she told CMO.com. “It's a natural way for us to think now that, if we get it right for the customer, then it will be right for us as a business as well.”
O’Rorke has optimisation teams working on the banking experience and looking at critical conversion journeys for its customers. She isn’t alone–the research shows that FSI companies were significantly more likely than their peers to regard customer journey optimisation as “very important” over the next few years (81% for FSI vs. 69% for other sectors).
Establish A Technology Foundation
Out of all the digital enablers, technology appears to be the area where FSI providers are having a particularly challenging time. That could be because many remain encumbered by legacy tech. Nearly half (46%) of respondents from the sector cited technology as “difficult to master,” compared with 37% across other sectors, and the proportion of FSI companies that have implemented a highly integrated, cloud-based technology stack remains in the single figures. Overall, only 7% of FSI businesses said they have done so, compared to 12% with players in other industries.
Westpac New Zealand’s O’Rorke agreed with the finding. Her bank has been going through a technology consolidation process from an architectural perspective so that the technology becomes an enabler of everything they do for the customer experience.
“We’ve been on a journey to consolidate platforms and simplify the spaghetti junction that is so common in organisations with legacy systems,” she said. “The technology piece is definitely significant in terms of how we are going to ultimately achieve the nirvana of an integrated and single experience, no matter what channel the customer is in.”
Focus On Personalisation And Data Requirements
Recent years have witnessed insurance and banking players coming under growing stakeholder pressure to better understand the needs of their customers in order to deliver more timely and personalised experiences.
So it makes sense that personalisation was identified by survey respondents as an important trend that can determine whether an FSI company succeeds in a competitive marketplace. Companies need to ensure they can surface the right data at the right time so that their marketing communications become more relevant for customers and predictive of their needs.
Data-driven marketing, a discipline that can itself play a pivotal role in improving CX, is regarded by those in the FSI sector as the second most exciting opportunity for 2018. They also recognise the importance of targeting and personalisation, with more than a third (37%) of respondents in this sector describing them as a top-three priority.
Examining data and how to use it for growth is a key strategic agenda item at Westpac New Zealand.
“Data is an absolutely critical piece, as it drives personalisation and informs our marketing decisions,” O’Rorke explained. “To meet our customers’ needs, we have created a fast data platform to get real-time data into play and serve up personalised experiences and messaging. We are also continuing to build our data and analytics capabilty.”
Reprioritise Production And Delivery Of Great Content
One result of FSI companies’ focus on the bigger customer experience picture is the downplaying of other areas of digital marketing. Case in point: While the push for mastering content as part of customer experience has been on the radar for close to a decade, the 2018 report revealed FSIs were pushed it down the priority list.
FSI companies were less inclined than their peers in other sectors to cite the creation of compelling content for digital experiences as the top opportunity for the year ahead (7% vs 15%). Content marketing, content management, and the creation and delivery of video content are also relatively off-radar as priorities for FSI businesses when compared with those outside of the industry.
Without the right content to fulfil the needs of individuals at different stages of the customer journey, FSI companies risk missing opportunities to truly engage with customers, even though they have more data than ever at their disposal to help them target the right information at the right time.
Robert Rose, one of the world’s leading voices in content strategy and its impact on customer experience, pointed out that there is no such thing as a neutral customer experience across customer journeys.
“You are either creating a positive experience or a negative experience,” Rose told CMO.com. “If the customer doesn’t care–or the experience is neutral–then the experience is negative.”
With personalisation being such an important part of enhancing the customer experience, FSI companies could find it difficult to fulfil expectations if they don’t have the right types of content suited to individuals at different stages of the customer journey.
“Marketers must get out of the idea of optimising single experiences as the core of their strategy,” Rose said. “They have to begin developing the means to connect and build upon all of the experiences they are creating to optimise the customer’s journey.”