It turns out the coronavirus pandemic is also a time machine. Instead of a lengthy march to digital transformation, the pandemic condensed years of change into a few months. For financial institutions, what was a slow shift toward mobile banking, contactless transactions, and digital insurance sped up when COVID-19 reinforced the need for fast, secure, and remote access to funds and financial information.
As financial leaders plan their next move, we’ve identified key customer experience trends and best practices that will help companies earn customer loyalty today and in the future.
Think effortless experiences
Most traditional digital transformation initiatives are on hold as financial institutions focus on projects that can be deployed quickly to meet their customers’ pressing need for services like digital payments and online banking, as well as virtual employee training on the back end. For maximum impact, make digital transformation decisions that are based on reducing the effort it takes for customers to do business, employees to do their job, and for the company to reach its goals.
Why is this so important? Customer experience strategist and author Don Peppers has long said that frictionless customer experiences build loyalty—not delightful experiences. “As technology makes it possible, your customers will demand an increasingly frictionless customer experience,” Peppers predicted back in 2013 in a post presciently titled, “May You Live in Frictionless Times: Imagining the Customer of 2020.”
Other experts agree. “If we look at the customer data, their clear preference is for organizations to simply solve the problem. There’s no customer need for delight,” Nick Toman, Gartner group vice president, and co-author of The Effortless Experience, Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty, recently explained. To earn customer loyalty and keep it, financial institutions should identify the key pain points customers face, (e.g, reaching a live agent, making a deposit) and eliminate as many as possible.
Empower employees to be empathetic with AI
No matter which channel they’re using, customers want to know that the associate understands the issue and is working to resolve it. This can be hard to do if an insurance specialist or online bank teller is distracted by administrative tasks. Prioritize the customer experience by automating redundant tasks with AI-powered bots to allow agents to focus on complex issues and build customer relationships.
For instance, common questions can be intercepted by AI-enabled bots, such as, “how do I know what is covered under my policy or how do I check my statement?” Programing bots to collect basic information from customers to share with the associate also helps deliver faster and better support, with less effort.
Build flexibility into the workforce
The pandemic crisis proved that financial services employees can successfully work from home. But as contact centers and offices begin to reopen amidst uncertainty, what will it mean for employees moving forward? The possibility of a virus resurgence, natural disasters, and other crises make it critical for financial organizations to have a business continuity plan that allows for staff and resources to quickly and safely shift to a new location while continuing to support customers.
The more flexibility that companies have in ramping up or down quickly with a variety of internal and outsourced staff, the better positioned they will be at meeting service levels and delivering a great customer and employee experience.
Share customer insights across departments
To deliver a consistent customer experience, all employees, regardless of department or location, need a shared understanding of customer behaviors, preferences, and expectations. Unnecessary silos must be integrated or removed, allowing the voice of the customer to flow across the organization. Customer insights journey mapping enables companies to visualize the customer experience across all customer touchpoints, giving insights into customer emotions, behaviors and key moments of truth. Scheduling time to speak with customer service teams as part of an information-gathering process is also a good strategy for including the voice of the customer in broader decisions.
Proactive communications are a must
In the early days of the coronavirus crisis, financial firms scrambled to expand their digital services, waive fees, and offer a moratorium on loan or insurance payments. Customers now expect clear and proactive guidance on changes to the products and services that they receive from the banks, insurance firms, and credit card companies that they do business with. This is an opportunity for financial institutions to increase customer trust by ensuring real-time digital transparency and communication.
For instance, updating customers on service availability is not enough—60 percent of bank customers expect specifics on waived fees, delayed payments, and interest rate adjustments, according to a Forrester survey. Only 10 percent mentioned local branch status and availability. To understand what customers care about, leverage the knowledge of front-line agents. Agents are often the first to notice when customers are struggling. Equip them with speech and data analytics tools as well as training to identify customer trends and turn them into actionable insights.
The future is now
Even if it means starting with small improvements, the time is now for financial institutions to catch up to demands for effortless/frictionless experiences. In the words of Don Peppers: “The only thing you should really worry about is whether, by the year 2020, your customers will be getting their frictionless customer experience from you, or from some other business that planned further ahead, anticipated these rising customer expectations, and adapted to them faster.”