Here's How the Finance Industry Is Delivering Customer Experience
Brought to you by WBR Insights
The finance industry is finding itself at something of a crossroads — especially when it comes to consumer banking. As physical banks continue to close at an alarming rate, the business of providing financial services needs to adapt or perish.
Branch closures have become a sad fact of life in the industry. In the United States alone, 2018 saw 1,947 bank branches close their doors for good — up from 1,919 in 2017. Unfortunately, now that we are reaching the climax of 2019, the pattern shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. While it's unlikely the number of branches will ever reach zero, their numbers will continue to plummet.
This situation is leading banks to make sure they are able to continue offering clients an exemplary customer experience whether they are accessing services in person or through digital means.
The branch closures are playing into the hands of customer expectations as well, with factors such as better mobile banking experiences being named as a greater priority than a broad branch footprint.
"It's obviously not going to go to zero, but I would expect it to continue," said Finance Professor at Auburn University, James Barth. "Banks are deciding you don't need as many branches. You need them in strategic locations where you can have the biggest bang for your buck."
This is the core principle of the new landscape. With fewer branches, banking brands need to make sure that those which remain are delivering the very best customer experience they can. Understanding which touchpoints people prefer for various transactions is part of the key to achieving this.
For example, banking customers are more than happy to use digital tools such as smartphone apps and online portals to carry out simple everyday transactions such as checking their balance, transferring money to friends and family, or making payments. However, when it comes to more detailed financial matters, such as opening new accounts or arranging loans and mortgages, they still generally prefer to discuss things face-to-face with a flesh and blood human.
Customer Experience in Banking
So, what does customer experience look like in the banking industry? Most define CX as how customers perceive their interactions with a company — but this loose definition oversimplifies the concept.
Customer experience isn't just limited to when an existing customer pops into a bank branch, picks up the phone, or opens an app — it begins from the very first moment a prospect begins researching banking services or applies for an account, and it continues through the filling out of application forms, the onboarding process, carrying out transactions, ongoing maintenance, and customer service provision.
Most customers will use a banking service for months or even years without ever needing to contact their provider. Others, however, will need almost constant help and assistance — especially older consumers, who often face the issue of finding it harder to travel to their local branch (which may not be that local anymore), yet simultaneously struggle with digital services such as using smartphone apps or online banking.
At each stage of the customer journey, there is an opportunity to develop an amazing customer experience — or, at the other end of the scale, cause irreparable harm to your brand's relationship with that customer. When customers find themselves in a situation that forces them to contact their bank, they will remember how they were treated and made to feel long after the memory of the actual issue has been forgotten.
All your brand's touchpoints are key to your customer experience as well. Don't forget that customer experience has already begun before the customer contacts you, so you need to ensure all your methods of engagement are seamless and effective. Apps, live chat, contact centers, email, and the employees in your physical branches are all crucial to making sure your customers' issues are resolved with as little disruption to their day as possible.
Being a financial provider, security is also an important part of customer experience, especially when it comes to the provision of digital services. With around three-quarters of consumers stating they would cease doing business with a brand if their personal data was compromised, making sure your online portals and smartphone apps are kept updated with all the latest security protocols and virus databases is vital.
As the pattern of branch closures continues, customer experience in the banking industry is going to be the key brand differentiator moving forward. Those financial brands which get CX right will be the ones most likely to succeed in the future.