I began my 25 year career in Financial services as a cashier and as the opportunities came my way I moved through a variety of roles before becoming a training consultant for both the branch and telephone operations. The common thread in all of my roles was that I was always either in front of the customer, managed people who talked to customers or designed and delivered the training for the person in front of the customer. It is safe to say that the customer was, for me, the prime target of my attention. I personally wanted to make sure that customers got the best experience and took great pride in making that happen.
During my career, which with a few breaks in between started in 1975, the banks moved from basic services that required little or no office technology to being sophisticated processing machines, enabling customers to do more in less time. Suddenly customers were encouraged to ask more of their bank and correspondingly there was more on offer. Target driven to sell ever more products financial service employees found that machine and sales processes took over from customer conversations and, in my opinion, removed the concept of service from the financial services mind set. The processes put in place to make the selling machine work efficiently has forgotten the customer and as such customers have had to adapt to how the banks want to operate. As a result they have lost the trust of the customers they have and face one very long and difficult task to get that trust back.
There are many things that have gone wrong in the way that Financial Service providers have viewed their customers and one is to see them as a source of revenue that could be processed and squeezed. It’s an easy mistake to make – give customers more products and ways to buy them and they will lap it up. What can possibly get in the way of that? Well, humans are not buying machines. They don’t just buy to fill a need. If they did then there would only ever be a need for one type of anything. Interaction and conversation have been replaced with targeted advertising and sales processes that funnel customers towards pre-selected services. The need to find new and more innovative ways to keep the customer buying is what led to some of the worst sales practices, like PPI.
Okay, so that’s the problem and time for me to stop ranting before I get too emotional! What’s the solution? How can Financial Service providers make money (after all, that is what they are they are in it for) and at the same time engage with their customers in a way that gives them a reason to love them? There is a basic hurdle to overcome. The have to WANT to. They have to be able to confidently know that the customers experience is the starting place for everything they do. In fact, what they HAVE TO BELIEVE is that sustainable and dependable success only truly happens when the customers experience is the first and constant consideration.
Throughout my 25 years working in that sector there was never a time when my employer did not say that the customer was the centre of their vision and values. I am sure that when they said it, they believed it. However, the reality was that the customer experience was rarely considered when new products and services were created. The project plan never started with 1. What do we want the customer experience to be? Or 1. How will this affect the customer experience? To be fair, there were points where it was considered and this was usually after the product or service was launched and used as a measure of success, totally the wrong end of the project.
So, how can the Financial Services sector get back to basics? Back to that time when customers trusted them? Well, Metro Bank have famously been very successful with a customer centric model that enable their employees to do whatever (within reason) it takes to satisfy their customers’ needs. Here’s one very small but powerful example. They asked that question ‘What do we want the customer experience to be when opening an account’ and ended up with in branch card, pin and cheque book making machines so that when someone opens an account they walk out with all three without having to wait for the post. They looked at their processes and started with the customer. They kept it simple and the effect is ‘WOW’
So, what the Financial Services industry needs to do is:
- Make a public commitment to customers old and new that every process will put the customer first
- Believe in the power of simplicity
- Talk to customers and ask what THEY want before offering anything that may have to sell
- Treat every customer as an individual by removing targets and enabling their employees to meet their needs.
It’s a simple set of basic principles which, when followed, will bring back the trust and build a reason for their customers to love them, and keep coming back.
Director – New Chapter Learning
Jacci is a highly experienced Training Consultant and NLP Practitioner. She uses her skills and experience to help other learning professionals develop both their teams and their training content. and also looks at how they can enhance their existing training and adopt e-learning and virtual learning as new delivery methods. As a CeMAP qualified designer her most recent work has been with UKAR helping them transition into the world of Mortgage Regulation.
About New Chapter Learning
New Chapter Learning, based in Northern England, is a leading independent Training Consultancy, working directly with businesses and offering specialist training design and consultancy services to other training organisations and large in-house teams. The business has an ethos of developing learning that sticks. They use a broad mix of training delivery methods, including online/practical and activity based learning experiences for individuals and groups. The business thrives on innovation and have led the way embracing mobile, virtual and e-learning as tools for all size organisations. Having developed their own 4As Customer Service eLearning Training, they’re now working with a 3D Virtual Reality company, developing a virtual Customer Service Training environment.