Do outstanding experiences in financial services exist?

Frowns and blank looks are not uncommon responses to the question: which financial service companies provide consistently outstanding customer experiences?

The industry, particularly outside the US, is still lagging behind others. For too long it has neglected digitisation, customer focus has been prioritised but not lived, and differentiation has not been found.

With business results under significant pressure through a variety of internal and external factors, financial companies are starting to feel the need to change.

Award-winning experiences in financial services

Increasingly, companies like USAA, TD Bank, and First Direct are proving that a sustained focus on customers yields long-lasting relationships with people who keep coming back for more and recommend them to others.

As a result, more and more firms in the sector want to improve the overall customer experience as my recent industry poll shows. The UK Financial Services Experience Awards were created three years ago to recognise and celebrate best practices in the delivery and improvement of customer experiences in the sector.

Judging at this year’s event was a great honour and it provided an opportunity to gather some great insights into the advancement of customer focus in the industry.

Observation 1: Insurance companies are winning

The final of the awards, which took place in Wembley, contained several strong entries from the insurance sector. As early adopters of the discipline called ‘customer experience management’, they are delivering some serious innovations.

Bought by Many, a disruptor ‘making insurance social’, launched new products based on in-depth customer research and Direct Line Group used a design-led approach to revamp its claims process.

Moreover, the most successful organisations can rely on a strong, customer-focussed culture. As one finalist presenter powerfully illustrated: “We can change processes and systems to make them do what customers want.” Direct Line Group emerged as the overall winner at this year’s event.

Observation 2: Human touch remains important

At times it can feel as if the world’s sole focus has become digitisation. It was therefore encouraging to see most entries emphasising the importance of a human service element.

Our research shows that face-to-face interactions continue to be an important part of the interaction mix for customers, too. Particularly when important financial decisions need to be made.

Advice is required at key life stages and when significant changes occur in their financial situation they want to speak to someone, not something. Case in point is LV’s Pension Pop-Up Coach initiative. They found that most customers would consider taking advice after a 10-minute personal chat with an advisor.

Observation 3: Show me the money!

I was surprised and alarmed by the lack of clear business cases and post-implementation measurement for many of the entries.

This needs to change. Despite best intentions, too many customer management programmes fail because they are not demonstrating their return on investment over time. Especially in an industry driven by money and performance, where this risk is even greater. Mutual value creation must be at the heart of every customer experience improvement programme, otherwise every dollar spent will become a nail in its coffin.

Congratulations to the winners of the UK Financial Services Experience Awards 2017 and a thank you to Awards International. Looking forward to next year’s edition!

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About The Author

Associate Partner at WATC Consulting AG

Mike Hakkens builds customer-centric organisations to improve business performance at specialised strategy consultancy What About The Customer (WATC Consulting AG). He is one of a few senior executives in Financial Services who has successfully led the end-to-end design and implementation of a global customer experience transformation programme spanning all customer types, business units and regions. The programme delivered significant improvement in customer relationships, measured by +38 points uplift in NPS between 2011 and 2016, sustainable improvement of business results and is integral to Fidelity International’s business strategy. Before this, Mike held several international senior leadership roles in client services, relationship management, business development and operations. He is a member of the Board of Ambassadors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org) and a judge for the UK Financial Services Experience Awards.