Top Financial Services Customer Experience Trends

Customer experience is the key to success for financial services organizations.

Time to read: 7 minutes
Financial services organizations are shifting their strategic focus to the “customer experience,” or CX. Not to worry, though, there won’t be any less concern about operational efficiency or profitability, but changing customer expectations and competitive pressures require a new approach to dealing with today’s tech-savvy consumer. This commitment to CX impacts nearly every organizational nook and cranny while inspiring game-changing innovation like never before.

Financial services companies get closer to customers.

But before we dive into some CX trends, let’s take a closer look at the customer experience and what it actually means. Forrester defines it simply as “how customers perceive their interactions with your company,” going on to say that good customer experiences are:

  • Useful: They deliver value.
  • Usable: They make it easy to find and engage with the value.
  • Enjoyable: They are emotionally engaging so that people want to use them.

It’s easy to see why rising to the CX “challenge” requires a strong understanding of customers and their goals and preferences at every stage of the journey — whether they’re opening a new small business checking account, filing a supplemental health insurance claim, paying off a home equity loan, or cashing out ESPP shares. It also requires delivering the experience with a predominantly digital focus. In both regards, financial institutions are still behind most organizations in other industries (think Starbucks or Target) — but they’re moving forward in their own right.

In fact, Digital Banking Reports’ Retail Banking Trends and Predictions survey found that the number one trend — and top strategic priority — among global banking leaders was improving the customer journey and providing a positive customer experience. But it’s clear that most financial institutions are not prepared to meet customers’ expectations, at least not yet. Only 37% of organizations have a formal CX plan, according to the Improving the Customer Experience in Banking report. On a more positive note, the report reveals that investment in CX is on the rise.

So with this in mind, let’s take a look at the top financial services customer experience trends to watch:

1. From multi-channel to omnichannel customer service

Over the past several years, financial institutions have made it easier for customers to engage with them when and where they want. Most banks, for example, take a multi-channel service approach by enabling customers to conduct business with them online, over the phone, in a branch location, or using a mobile app.

What’s becoming more important, however, is providing an omnichannel service experience. That means there’s fluid, streamlined, integrated, seamless, and personalized consistency for the customer at all touchpoints, whether they’re visiting their bank’s local branch office, standing in front of an ATM, or checking account details from their smartphone.

Salesforce’s most recent State of the Connected Customer report reveals that 78% of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage — and they’re almost certainly finding it with their favorite retail brands. For example, a person can open their Starbucks app to reload a balance, place a mobile order, and pay — all before setting foot in the coffee shop. Financial services organizations’ offerings are not as simple as coffee and muffins, but they’re aiming to delight customers with the same convenient and loyalty-building omnichannel experiences they’re getting elsewhere.

2. More, more, more functionality across digital channels

By most accounts, a large percentage of the world’s population is viewed as digitally native. That means a significant (and rising) proportion of financial services customers around the globe will have grown up with a computer on their desks or a mobile device in their hands. Needless to say, they’ve never lived in a non-digital world — so their financial services experiences shouldn’t force them to relive their parents’ earliest memories of pneumatic tubes and paper checkbook registers.

What are leading financial services organizations doing to serve these digitally savvy consumers, some of whom may only engage with financial services organizations via digital channels, with relevant, satisfying, and even enjoyable experiences — experiences that also serve the bottom line?

  • Raising awareness of and interest in making mobile payments, making it easier to adopt the payment method.
  • Enhancing and promoting chatbots and robo advisory services, extending online capabilities in new directions.
  • Using gamification to engage customers, leveraging new technology that makes financial service activities more fun.
  • Leveraging personalization technology, providing a more relevant, engaging, and effective digital experience.

3. Enhanced self-service options

Gartner predicted that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be automated (in other words, they will not involve a human). That makes sense, considering Forrester’s findings that people prefer web or mobile self-service over speaking with an agent by phone, and there has been a rise in adoption of all self-service communication channels, including online forums/communities.

Take a moment to consider what this means for financial services. Customers will rely on digital tools for most of their service needs. Technology, of course, is making this possible, but consumers are at the helm of the transformation. Clearly, they want to manage transactions and solve problems on their own, in one fell swoop. They want to get online and do what they need to do; they don’t want to get online, click around, and end up calling an 800 number that routes them through a labyrinth of service reps. That does not make for an effective customer experience.

With help from mobile tools and personalization technology, financial services companies will continue to enhance their digital self-service channels. This might mean, depending on their industry segment and product and service offerings, that:

  • ATMs will become “concierges,” helping people do more at the machine.
  • More video will be used in place of traditional written content, improving customers’ understanding of the company’s products and services.
  • Websites will use live agent chat features to assist customers at their exact point of need with whatever they’re trying to accomplish.

4. Better customer service experiences via relationships

There’s no question that the CX initiatives we’ve been talking about have been digitally driven. But there’s a very real and meaningful need to keep the human being in the discussion. People — from the consumers themselves to the financial services organizations’ employees — are at the center of everything. While consumers may want to do more on their own, for the sake of convenience, there remains a need for a helpful hand at the other end of the transaction.

The interactions customers have with these humans is a critical piece of their overall CX — and it must meet their expectations, promote seamless movement through their journey, and boost their perception of the company’s brand. So, more companies will work on creating customer-centric cultures, training employees to:

  • Work more effectively with customers across generations
  • Solicit customer feedback
  • Identify potential issues and proactively solve problems
  • Use forms of personal service like social media and live chat

5. More educated and empowered customers

Compared to those of other industries, financial services offerings are complex — or at the very least, they’re perceived to be. To help address this issue, not to mention meet today’s consumer’s desire to build financial literacy, financial services organizations are emphasizing education. And they’re providing it so people will feel more comfortable and prepared to manage their assets, make investment decisions, select insurance products, and more, especially when they’re doing so much of their product exploration and research online.

Financial services firms should be providing education that is relevant to the customer at a certain time and place in their journey. Engage end-to-end throughout the customer journey, from shopping to account opening, to onboarding and through relationship expansion.

6. Customer data will help facilitate a highly personalized experience.

Collecting and crunching the right data, including contextual insights, will help financial services companies deliver relevant experiences to customers at the individual level across channels — and in real time. In other words, data-driven personalization will help deliver the caliber of online experience customers have come to expect, and it will boost engagement and sales in the process.

Marketers, therefore, must master the digital experience. That takes more than identifying key target market segments — it requires an individualized approach. By using advanced analytics and machine learning in concert with their other digital marketing efforts, financial services companies will be able to meet customers where they are, offering content experiences that are not only relevant, but welcomed.

7. Transparency and trust will be on customers’ minds.

A more personalized customer experience means financial services organizations have to collect more information on individual customers — such as through behavioral tracking — and put their vast amounts of data to use. As customers also offer up more of their personal details, they will expect the financial services organizations to act as good stewards of their identity and data.

More than ever before, customers expect a level of transparency when it comes to the use of their information by companies. Financial services organizations will need to protect customers’ identities and prove their data is secure in order to earn their trust. The resulting sense of loyalty from the customer will prove mutually beneficial for both parties. The customer will be more willing to share their personal information, which will allow the financial services organization to further personalize experiences and increase satisfaction.

Get ready to create better customer experiences.

Shifting your approach to compete in an increasingly consumer-led and digitally driven marketplace impacts everything from IT to marketing. The top seven trends outlined are all reflective of this shift. Financial services organizations must pursue customer experience initiatives to make doing business with them easier and more enjoyable, to build consumer trust, and to increase efficiency. Effective CX is necessary to keep customers loyal, respond to their rapidly evolving needs and preferred modes of communication, provide for competitive differentiation, and take financial services companies to the next level.

Download Marketing Cloud Personalization's e-book, “Realizing the Dream of 1-to-1 Personalization,” to learn more about creating customized experiences.

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