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?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. A separate survey by Deloitte reveals that wealth managers expect 75% of engagement to be digital in the next two years — nearly double what the Salesforce survey showed is happening now.
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
Is there anyone who likes going through multiple steps to sign up for an account online, swiping from screen to screen to find the right information? How about reading the fine print?
This may all seem obvious. Yet, 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.
Percent of survey respondents who are trying digital newcomers and why:
- 47%: easy and fast setup, verification, onboarding, and first-time use of the app
- 41%: easy and intuitive user interface/user experience and navigation
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.
2. 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 personalize recommendations. Again, based on the insights from our survey participants, the industry is falling short. 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 media companies anticipate what 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 personalization based on each customer’s unique journey.
3. Use automation behind the scenes to create great customer experiences
Even creating simple automated workflows with customer data can become a big win in delivering quick and efficient customer service.
“Customers don’t often see the impact of automation that’s taking place behind the scenes,” said the head of U.S. customer experience strategy at a global insurance and wealth management conglomerate. “But much of the digital interactions we design are the result of automated middle-office tasks, where lots of data moves from department to department. That’s where errors may happen; automation removes a lot of them.”
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.
Wealth managers are using automation to improve onboarding and lay the groundwork for more profitable relationships. Insurers are also using automation. For example, U.K. insurer Ascot Group launched Array, a U.S. digital-only subsidiary that uses automation and other technology to help reduce underwriting time by 60%. The effects of automation can be particularly dramatic with B2B projects, where paperwork is more complex and onerous than in the retail world.
With automation, FSIs can also generate analytics and reports to gain insights on how to further improve the customer journey. This leads to the next key point from the experts interviewed by Salesforce.
4. Get creative with metrics to get a more complete picture of customers
Financial services companies don’t often have the same access to first-party data that their retail counterparts do. Plus, large companies are often the product of multiple acquisitions over time, which means customer data is scattered across different parts of the organization.
The experts interviewed for The Future of Financial Services 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 they are 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.
Financial services trends point to a digital future
Even in the face of economic pressures, the time to fully commit to a digital future is now. The efficiency of automation now pays off 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 — who will only become more demanding over time.