Mike Hakkens, Associate Partner at WATC Consulting AG, chaired the annual Customer Experiences in Financial Services Conference in London on the 22nd of June this year. Here he shares the results of his 2017 Industry Pulse Check and key impressions of the event.

Already in its fourth year, with nearly 100 practitioners from banking and insurance to investment from across Europe, the Customer Experiences in Financial Services Conference in London is steadily growing and demonstrating the increased interest and commitment to the topic of customer experience (CX) management in our industry.

Chairing the morning sessions was therefore a good opportunity to gauge the level of customer focus at the start of the day. The results of my audience poll on 5 top level indicators were very insightful. Here a brief summary:

Rising Ambitions Are Reinforcing CX as a Key Strategic and Competitive Battleground

98% of firms have a stated ambition to improve customer experience. Throughout the day, this was backed up by examples of the increased use of proof points and metrics to demonstrate the business results of customer focus. Ambitions range from a continuous improvement approach (28%) to attaining leadership at industry (40%) or cross-industry (16%) level. An admirable 14% of companies in attendance declared themselves as defending a world-class leadership positions.

Leadership to Drive the Transformation Is Mixed – at Best.

Somewhat concerning is that one third of attendees stated that there is no visible leadership or a single executive owning customer focus as part of a wider portfolio of responsibilities. The remainder was evenly divided between having a dedicated executive in charge or leadership visibly embedded across the organisation. Leadership at ABN AMRO deserves applause for taking a multimillion Euro revenue hit to better meet the needs of their customers by eliminating a credit card from their standard account offering. Their mantra that the ‘Customer truth is the only truth’ in action so to speak.

Resource Commitment Is Growing from a Small Base in Line with Ambitions.

Half the represented firms have either no resources (13%) or 1-3 staff dedicated to end-to-end management of the customer experience. The other half has either 4-10 staff (24%) or more (27%). We’ll find out in a moment if they are sufficiently enabled to deliver on the ambition though.

Approaches Are Becoming More and More Sophisticated.

37% of represented firms are now using a customer led design approach and 21% an ‘omni-channel’ approach to develop experiences. 11% of firms have not yet established a unified approach to experience improvement and innovation and 32% still develop digital and traditional channels independently. Throughout the day, one got a clear sense that technologies are increasingly seen as means to an end and that agile delivery approaches are now widely used. That said, contributions to the conference clearly showed that the use of design thinking for example is still at a very experimental stage.

Other Priorities and Lack of Resources and Expertise Remain Biggest Barriers.

When asked about the biggest barriers to a successful customer experience focussed transformation, a lack of leadership scored low (7%) in line with response on this indicator earlier. However, other strategic priorities (26%) and a lack of resources incl. budget (31%) and lack of expertise (29%) remain top barriers.

The Bottom Line

Considering the challenges of the industry and the fact that CX transformation takes time, this overall picture is not surprising. However, for firms to successfully tap the underlying business potential, leaders and practitioners must:

  • Make their CX activity an integral part of business strategy
  • Deeply embed capabilities and culture that ensure more customer-centric ways of working
  • Continuously measure (and communicate) success with a customer and a business lens

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