World First is leading foreign exchange company, offering individuals and businesses the best exchange rates and excellent service. They were crowned in the financial services (banking and investment) category at the 2013 UK Customer Experience Awards. Here Nick Jones, Head of Communications at World First, explains how they did it, and what they focussed on to make their entry a winning one.

The success and rapid growth of World First is based on putting the client experience at the heart of the offer. When our founders, Nick Robinson and Jonathan Quin set up the business in the basement of their house, back in 2004, they had set out to improve the world of foreign exchange, making it easier, cheaper and just an all-round better experience for everyone.

Nearly 10 years later and with thousands of clients around the world, I think it’s fair to say that they’ve already achieved their goal. The business has grown rapidly as more and more people have discovered the benefit of World First’s high standards of service and delivery. It’s a great story to be able to tell, and having so many satisfied clients to help us tell it is a real bonus. As such, entering the 2013 UK Customer Experience Awards seemed like a great fit for us.

We decided to focus our entry on the ‘User Centre Design’ project which has effectively integrated the customer experience throughout World First. Put simply, the project was a consolidation of our existing commitment to always putting customers first.

Of course there are number of things that were already in place before the project got underway, to ensure the customer experience stood out from the competition. For instance, at World First we’ve banned automated answerphone systems. Every phone call is picked up by a member of staff within three rings and you’ll never have to choose from a set of annoying options, or key in your date of birth several times just to get through to a human being.

Jonathan and Nick have also made it policy to only ever hire friendly, knowledgeable staff, and the company has always given each client their own dedicated dealer, so that they aren’t ever treated as ‘just another punter’.

However, the User Centre Design project aimed to take this kind of commitment to another level. The objective was to maintain client loyalty, retaining and developing existing clients, and bring new clients on board.

An inter-departmental team started by critically reviewing the whole client journey at every level, mapping out every detail and interaction – identifying where the experience wasn’t outstanding and could be improved. We channelled this feedback and insight into our User Centre Design initiative. It helped us to map out our customers’ journeys and any sticking points along the way.

A total of 48 recommendations came out of this exercise. Some were small – like making changes to email communications to make them clearer. Some were more involved – like greatly simplifying our online registration process for corporate clients and making it possible for clients to transfer money using a debit card, rather than setting up bank transfers. All 48, however, had the potential to make better use of our clients’ time, make their lives easier and their transactions more efficient. They have all been implemented over the past 18 months, making the client experience infinitely better as a result.

There are some noteworthy examples worth calling out. Amongst the interruptions we discovered in the customer journey was the lack of a mobile site, to allow clients to access our services wherever they were. So, in the space of two and a half months, we designed and built one from scratch. Other clients didn’t want the hassle of setting up bank transfers to move their money, so we made it possible to transact in the UK using a debit card. So clients weren’t left frustrated by transactions being delayed, we introduced ‘Straight Through Processing’, which allows everything to be done electronically, without manual intervention. We also discovered that more of our clients wanted to be able to transact at any time that suited them, so we increased our hours, and now offer a service 24 hours a day, 6 days a week. Our office is only closed on Sundays when the markets are closed.

Other User Centre Design projects included improvements to our online platform, introducing a system whereby our clients can ‘live chat’ with their dealer (10% of our corporate clients use this), bringing in Autopay for SAGE (allowing faster transactions to be made) and beginning a programme of ‘client gifting’, making our clients feel special with special gifts on, for example, Valentine’s Day and Bonfire Night.

Our focus on further enhancing the customer experience has paid dividends, and our business has benefitted as a result of the implementation of our User Centre Design initiative. From empirically quantifiable results and significant growth, through to positive feedback and awards. Our clients love what we’re doing. In our most recent client satisfaction survey, 99% of private clients and 100% of corporate clients say they would use World First again.

We’d like that figure to go up to 100% for private clients too, and want to continue making the business of foreign currency transfers simpler, faster and cheaper. This is why the User Centre Design initiative has become an ongoing exercise. It’s given us a framework to constantly update and improve the way we do things. Making sure that when it comes to the customer experience, we’re always ahead of the game.

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