The Schizophrenia of Financial Services
Customer Experience.

June 28, 2014 by in category CX, Marketing with 0 and 0

oscar-meyer-wienermobileRemember the old Oscar Meyer Weinermobile? They’d park this cylindrical spectacle at the local mall and hand out weiner whistles to the kids. It was a novelty and, most likely, holds a place in the marketing Hall of Fame.

But it was for hot dogs. Not financial services.

Recently, I saw a local bank with their logo pasted on a Smart car. Aside from the fact that the over-designed graphics made it nearly impossible to read the bank logo, the tactic made a statement: Marketing from the 1980s.

I’m not sure I’m interested in a 1980s-thinking bank. Most of us aren’t interested in a pre-2008 bank, right? We want our financial service providers to be forward-thinking.

Technology advances, but customer experience lags.

No other industry has a more schizophrenic customer experience than financial services.

On the one hand, financial services (especially banks) have led the charge for customer experience technology. Meeting the changing lifestyles of our fast-paced society with online banking, instant bill pay, eCommerce, online self-directed investment management, remote deposit and more. Making our customer experience more and more effortless.

However, the technology is changing at an exponentially faster rate, making it difficult to keep up, much less stay ahead. Every year, new tools, devices and channel options open for financial customers. According to a recent study by McKinsey, they estimate customers will soon be able to search for products by image, voice, or gesture. And why not? After all, the devices we take for granted today (ATMs?) didn’t exist a few years ago. Soon, customer experiences will be driven by new technologies like the current smart watches and Google Glass.

According to McKinsey, “digital channels no longer just represent ‘a cheaper way’ to interact with customers; they are critical for executing promotions, stimulating sales, and increasing market share.”

This study surmises that conservative marketers oversee too many marketing initiatives. Marketing directors who can become entrenched in “the way we’ve always done it” or too reliant on traditional agency partners, often selected based on their pricing, rather than their innovation. Campaigns take too long to get off the ground and offer no mechanism for customer feedback.

To make matters worse, most financial services organizations also utilize an antiquated conversion tracking model, attributing the customer’s “last-action” as the defining marketing tactic. By assessing the marketing tactics individually and in isolation rather than in the context of today’s multi-channel customer journey, financial institutions often attribute more weight to in-person and physical channels. This is simply not true through the more accurate lens of current customer purchase behaviors. This oversight will soon become costly for financial institutions that don’t adapt.

Customers crave information to make decisions. And, as for most of their purchases, they seek that information on their own terms: online. Our digital world has created a broad range of channels to deliver the information customers seek. However, multiple online channels are difficult to monitor for regulatory compliance, creating the enactment of blanket restrictions instead.

Financial organizations can no longer wait for the customer to make contact. They must engage their customers at every step of their decision journey by leveraging multi-channel initiatives. Because, according the McKinsey study, two-thirds of the decisions customers make are informed by the quality of their experiences along their journey. Two-thirds!

So what is their financial purchase journey? It’s fraught with insecurity and indecision. Layered over these underlying emotional motivations are the mistrust scars of the 2008 financial meltdown and the commodity perception that a bank is a bank is a bank.

The customer experience is lagging behind the technology.

You must embed yourself into your customer’s life.

So how do you leverage technology to enhance customer experience?

Technology offers financial services that opportunity to provide relevant, valuable content directly into the hands of potential customers, even at the moment they need it. Making engagement with your financial solutions seamless. Let’s consider this example.

Consider how you buy a car. These days, it rarely starts with a visit to the variety of area dealers. It starts online. With access to information, you can shop styles of vehicles to narrow your choices in an educated way. You can even check inventory at area dealers.

Once you visit the dealer, you’re already armed with reviews and even the costs of your preferred brand. You are in control.

Imagine if, for example, you are a bank or credit union and you were able to digitally track that customer’s online shopping? You could deliver pre-approval to their smartphone prior to their physical trip to the dealership. Or, once they enter the VIN of their selected auto, you could provide a loan option before they commit to dealer financing. You’ve delivered information that is relevant and the right time and at the right stage to meet a specific need during their purchase journey. You’ve eliminated their need to “shop around” and you no longer fall into the commodity category most banks do.

This reality is not that far in the future. In fact, virtually all of the steps I’ve described already exist today.

So what should financial services do?

While we provide a simple, but more actionable process for our financial clients, McKinsey recommends financial services focus on three key areas:

  • Discovery. This goes beyond simple customer satisfaction surveys. Banks, credit unions and other financial companies need to gain a deeper 360-degree view of their customers and members. Not just their current relationship, but also recent behaviors, past experiences, purchase habits and obstacles to purchase–including physical, emotional and digital obstacles. These behavior factors are most often missing from customer profiles used by financial companies, making it difficult to provide relevance and connect with these customers.
  • Design. Like the rest of us, your customers are bombarded by messages constantly, across a multitude of screens–computers, television, radio, smartphones and tablets. It no longer makes sense to attempt to just craft unique messages. These unique messages are often lost in the micro-seconds your customer may dedicate to differentiating your message from others. Instead, we recommend crafting unique overall customer experiences that continually reduce the effort it takes to do business with you. When you customize and personalize the interactions of customers based on the stage of his or her purchase journey, you strengthen the relationship as well as create raving fans.
  • Deliver. Traditional marketing is dead. Financial institutions can no longer depend on these limited duration programs in the hopes you MAY hit the prospect at the right time, at the right stage of their purchase journey. Instead, you need to engage with customers in exactly the right way, using the right channel at a multitude of points along that journey.

We’d actually also add: Measure and pivot. Technology allows you to track individual messages and their impact on individual customer segments. With this data, you can adapt and pivot messaging instantly instead of waiting for your agency to develop a new campaign or spending thousands on shotgun media approaches.

Best of all, you deliver the content your customers and prospects seek exactly when they need it.

This technology has allowed us to guide many financial services companies through the mire of regulatory oversight and create content that provides value for their customers.

And if you don’t recognize change is needed?

Financial services companies are slow to change. This attribute used to be leveraged as a benefit of entrusting your money with them. That flew out the window in 2008. Now the reluctance to change is blamed on regulatory restrictions, but it is mostly from inertia.

The same inertia that’s created opportunities for the rise of companies like Square, eTrade and Simple, that have revolutionized the industry–even with a substantial customer learning curve. Soon enough, the balance of wealth will be shifting to a generation of customers with a higher aptitude for technology.

So imagine what you could do for customer experience with a combination of high-tech AND high-touch. You don’t need a revolutionary new product or service. This is the space your financial company can step into. Few companies are doing it. Not only understanding the needs and obstacles of your different customer segments, but applying those learning quickly into the marketplace and nimbly adapting the experience as you go along.

Customers react to action, not inference. Prove it to them. Then they won’t have to try to make the connection between a “smart” car and a smart financial partner.