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Financial Services Are Missing the Mark With Customers — Here’s Why

Our research reveals firms must wrangle data better and track the entire customer journey to meet rising expectations. Shreya Sethi, Senior Director and Head of Financial Services, Business Value Services at Salesforce, shares four ways financial services can start repositioning for sustainable growth.

Financial services customers have a message for their providers: they like doing business online — and they aren’t going back to pre-pandemic habits.

That’s the good news from a deep dive Salesforce took into financial services trends and the state of banking, insurance, and wealth management. The not-as-good news? Globally, customers give financial services institutions only a middling “C” for their digital offerings.

In the past year, digital adoption has increased in varying degrees across banking, insurance, and wealth management. It has shown steady growth in a sea of uncertainty — the pandemic continues, inflation is suddenly raging, and the world seems engulfed in economic and geopolitical uncertainty. 

Against this backdrop, digital adoption is proving to be not just resilient but unstoppable, especially in Australia. A separate survey by PwC Australia reveals consumers now use mobile banking apps, digital payment platforms and ‘buy-now, pay later’ services more than before the pandemic.

As demand for digitised banking experiences has increased, financial services players are still catching up. Only 60% of those surveyed believe financial companies have created a seamless experience digitally and in-person. 

So how can you step up your digital mojo for customers? To help answer that question, Salesforce conducted a survey of 2,250 customers in nine countries in April. We also interviewed six senior financial services executives in strategy, business development, and innovation to help understand how to improve service where it counts. 

Based on the responses we collected in The Future of Financial Services: Better Customer Experiences Start with Automation, here are our top insights:

1. Provide experiences that are easy and transparent

The pandemic has forced financial services to focus on their digital interface that quickly becomes a constantly evolving experience. Both B2C and B2B financial service players needed to ramp up capability for people to interact and easily extract value through digital channels.

The first expectation from customers now is, ‘I want to be able to access things digitally. I want to have a really clean website or a login page where I can go and I’ve got all the right features. I want a really great app.’

If you don’t have these capabilities yet, that’s a risk. Financial services institutions (FSIs) are losing customers to competitors because the online experience isn’t easy or intuitive. The appeal of “easy” is driving customers to digital-first financial services.

In our survey, nearly half of respondents said easy and fast setup, verification, onboarding and first-time use of the app were pushing them to try out the newcomers. And 41% cited an easy and intuitive user interface and navigation as reasons to test out these newer financial apps.

2. Combat choice with transparency

Transparency is another one of the financial services trends driving customers to newcomers.

More than one in three survey respondents said they switched providers — whether banking, insurance, or wealth management — because of hidden fees and fine print. Then there’s the general category of poor experiences: the sigh-inducing encounters that prompt customers to switch providers. More than one-third of insurance policyholders left their current provider for that reason.

In Australia we’re seeing a reckoning within the banking sector around transparency, where customers are more aware about their rights to transparency when it comes to bad customer experiences, official complaints and standardised industry performance.

Importantly for FSI players, customers are more aware than ever that they have options when it comes to their provider of choice. Make transparency a key value proposition to delight customers and retain their business.

Download the The Future of Financial Services: Better Customer Experiences Start with Automation

3. Anticipate customer needs and show you care about their financial health

Customers don’t just want products. They want to work with FSIs that care about their financial health and personalise recommendations. Based on the insights from our survey participants, the industry is still falling short of this.

Only 16% of banking customers, 15% of insurance customers and 25% of wealth management consumers strongly agree that their vendors are invested in their financial wellbeing.

Customers want you to anticipate their needs, similar to the way product companies know what customers want next or media companies anticipate which movies customers want to watch next.

Only 11% of banking, 11% of insurance and 18% of wealth management consumers agree that companies anticipate their financial needs. Salesforce research suggests FSIs can improve their ability to do this by using predictive personalisation based on each customer’s unique journey.

A great example of this is business loan specialist, Prospa. Working with time-poor small businesses, Prospa customers need speedy and simple online service to help them access funds when they need it.

That said, the nature of small business challenges often requires a human ear too. To manage these two competing needs, Prospa has designed processes and experiences with customers at the centre, helping them get the assistance they need, when they need it, in the channel that’s easiest for them.

Doing this well requires proactivity and personalisation underpinned by a strong tech foundation that enables end-to-end visibility of individual custom journeys.

4. Use automation behind the scenes to create great customer experiences

The top three customer pain points during digital experiences identified in this report all have one thing in common: poor personalisation.

There are now digital solutions and integrations being used by brands to address these challenges, many of which have the workflow process automated behind the scenes. For FSIs who have yet to adopt similar approaches, they risk losing a major advantage to their competitors.

It’s clear that process automation will be a major factor in tackling the demand for digital capabilities while alleviating the burden of effort and cost from employees.

Lifting and shifting employee workloads that are manual, repetitive and slow into synced digital workflows will enable your people to drive more personalised experience and services for customers. Plus, there’s a lower risk of human error when you reserve manual intervention for complex data scenarios only.

Having said that, the reality is that manual work still dominates much of the day to day. If you look at a typical relationship manager or a banker, they’ll most likely be using at least five different systems per day to manage their workload, including a scrappy little notebook. 

FSIs don’t need to rip out entire systems or replace infrastructure wholesale, the experts interviewed for the research agree. End-to-end automation can be complicated, expensive, and uncertain. Instead, strategically choose your specific problem spots and selectively apply automation for immediate ROI. 

‘Automate to innovate’ is a concept I use a lot when speaking with customers. FSIs should be looking to automate manual or baseline tasks. To compete today, all their effort should be going into differentiating their services. Automation gives your people back their time and resources — and that’s where innovation comes in.

5. Get creative with metrics to get a more complete picture of customers

It tends to be especially hard for financial services companies to create a holistic view of their customers. They don’t often have the same access to first-party data that their retail counterparts do. Plus, many large companies are the product of multiple acquisitions over time, which means customer data is scattered across different parts of the organisation.

When it comes to enterprise data management, we encourage FSIs to view this as a two-speed transformation. While you’re investing in a single record of customer truth, stitch together as many data sources as possible and push them into an engagement layer.

This allows you to get immediate value and insights from that data, rather than waiting for the perfect end-outcome (because guess what, you will never get to the perfect outcome — customer and employee expectations are an ever evolving area!).

The experts interviewed for The Future of Financial Services also recommend several ways to approach this challenge:

  • Forge partnerships with outside data providers who can supplement customer insights.
  • Think more creatively about the types of data needed and track every step of the customer journey to identify pain points. This means going beyond tallying accounts and diving into types of accounts (whether or not they’re primary) and the ratio of low-margin and high-margin engagements.
  • Invite design partners to assess the customer journey and raise the quality of interactions.

In the face of economic pressures, the time to fully commit to a digital future is here! The efficiency of automation pays off now with happy customers, more confident employees, and lower operating expenses.

In the future, your company will likely be better situated with loyal customers and ready for substantial growth. Now is the time to sharpen your pencil and make the right experience investments in these financial services trends.

In doing so, you will earn the highest marks from customers — and lay the foundations to keep adapting as customer expectations inevitably evolve.

Dive deep into the facts. Get The Future of Financial Services: Better Customer Experiences Start with Automation to learn more about what customers are saying about the industry and how to serve them better.

Shreya Sethi

Shreya Sethi is Senior Director and Head of Financial Services, Business Value Services, at Salesforce Australia and New Zealand.

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