Not so long ago the key to attracting and retaining customers was offering a great product at a competitive price. If money talked, so too did quality, and businesses could survive by focusing much of their efforts on the staples of price and product. The ‘two Ps’ were regularly voted the main brand differentiators when comparing options across various sectors and certainly in the financial services industry.
Well, times have changed and there is a new key to business success. Research has shown that customer experience – also known as CX – has overtaken price and product as the pivotal reason people remain loyal to businesses in 2021. Throw in findings that consumers who enjoy a great customer experience are five times more likely to recommend a brand to others and those who have a positive CX are 54% more likely to make another purchase and it’s clear why so many businesses are committed to outstanding customer service.
It is one thing to talk the talk though and another to walk the walk. When it comes to putting customer experience at the heart of your organisation – be it a brokerage firm, accountancy practice, financial planner or insurance agency – here are seven tried and tested ways to deliver the goods.
It may seem the simplest of goals but you would be surprised by how many financial services businesses fail to adequately communicate internally, let alone with their clients. Being across a customer’s needs and wants is crucial and that stems from not only asking the right questions but doing so regularly. Use calendar bookings to remind yourself to reach out to clients, record and file their insights and feedback to ensure they are not overlooked and take the time to analyse what they believe is working and elements that need improving. History has shown that a customer who feels neglected will not be a customer for long.
The advancement of technology has made it significantly easier for financial services firms to connect with clients. If you haven’t already moved to the cloud, you need to - now. Giving your team access to documents at any time, anywhere, will increase their efficiency immensely and, in turn, improve the service you provide to your clients. A mobile app is another must-have tool for providing information, streamlining communication and allowing customers to interact with your firm on their terms. Finally, do not underestimate the reach of social media, which has added a critical layer to financial services customer service.
We all know how frustrating it is to be on the receiving end of a slow customer response. Don’t let your clients feel that pain. A quality customer experience starts with putting the customer first and that includes not making them wait for information or service. The very fact the financial services industry revolves around money means clients normally have a strong emotional investment in their requests and it is unfair, unreasonable and unwise to not address them as quickly as possible. Making use of pre-drafted ‘quick reply’ emails for common queries and setting up automatic responses so clients know their messages have been received are just two ways to ease the time-pressure burden.
It is easy in a digital world to increasingly be heard and not seen, with the likes of emails, texts and instant messaging literally in the palm of our hands. That is why it is essential to never forget the power of a good, old-fashioned handshake. Nothing makes a customer feel more valued than key frontline staff taking the time to meet them face-to-face, with many long-term relationships and word-of-mouth opportunities fostered over coffee meetings and business lunches. And while the COVID-19 pandemic has created social distancing challenges, it has also increased the embrace of video conferencing platforms that allow financial services staff and customers to more readily put faces to names.
Delivering an omnichannel experience is pivotal to modern business success as it is no longer enough to simply offer customers multiple channels to access your services. Each of them must complement and communicate with each other to ensure clients can access what they want when and where they need it without disruptions. Identifying the preferences and behaviours clients exhibit will allow financial services firms to tailor their omnichannel solutions accordingly and ultimately deliver a top-rate customer experience.
While CX has eclipsed product as a key driver for customer loyalty, the ability to develop and deliver additional services is crucial for financial services firms wanting to improve customer experience. With the likes of accountants, brokers and insurance agents having traditionally relied on a reactive approach to customer service – “yes, we can assist with your tax/loan/claim” – an increasing number of firms are adopting proactive strategies aimed to engage clients before they come knocking. From advice about tax changes and interest rate rises to hosting financial planning seminars, there is much to be gained from standing out from the crowd.
Making meaningful connections with customers requires an investment in time, which is a resource not every organisation has in abundance. Hence the growth in financial services firms turning to outsourcing specialists to complete repetitive and time-consuming tasks such as loans and claims processing, bookkeeping and broker support and, in turn, allow in-house staff to dedicate more time to high-value and customer-facing activities. Almost 80% of retail banks already outsource at least one part of their operations and with the global BFSI (Banking, Financial Services and Insurance) outsourcing market projected to reach almost $175 billion by 2028, a rising number of organisations will soon be able to dedicate more energy to more projects that boost customer experience.
There is often a temptation in business to search for quick wins that ease short-term pressure, but there is more to be gained from committing to a customer experience strategy that not only puts a smile on the face of a client today but keeps them smiling for years to come. In the financial services sector alone, it has been shown a 5% increase in repeat business produces more than a 25% increase in profit and you don’t need to be a financial wizard to know those are numbers well worth investing in.
With less than half of mortgage brokers continuing in business beyond their first year, let us tell you what the best of them are doing differently to maximise opportunities.