The financial industry is changing faster than ever before, and the ability to stay ahead of the curve has never played a larger role in determining the success of an organisation. The changes are presenting a formidable challenge for many companies, but for the real players, they also present opportunity.

As more and more companies move towards a customer-centric business model, market trends and consumer expectations are heavily shifting towards serious customer experience.

The financial industry is becoming a friendly place for customers, and the old idea of high street banks looking down on their clients is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Since these trends shift in accordance with customer desires, we’re seeing developments that are highly centered on customer success and overall approval.

These industry changes can be viewed as the direct result of increased customer ‘power’. Reviews are becoming an important talking point amongst business owners and since a single review can make or break a business now, it makes sense that great care is taken to go beyond the call of duty whenever possible.

Some view this as a disadvantage and a draw-back, when in-fact it’s the total opposite.

Customers are now more likely to stay loyal when provided with great service, and they’re also more likely to stay or choose a service that provides a better service rather than one that’s cheaper.

This attitude towards the recent market trends and consumer expectations is what allows companies to break through the fear of providing better service and start forming their business model around genuinely beneficial services to the customer.

In order to understand this better, we’re going to be looking at some of the finalists from the 2016 UK Financial Services Experience Awards and quickly going over their initiatives and strategies for adapting to these new market trends and consumer expectations.

Virgin Money and their Stores and Lounges

Virgin is known as a bank that goes out of its way to provide exceptional customer service. With an attitude that always challenges the status quo, they’ve managed to differentiate themselves from competitors by moving away from high street banking and creating a more customer centric environment.

That’s where the Virgin Stores and Lounges came in and helped to provide an environment that’s focused on relationships, rather than sales and transactions.

Virgin Money Lounges have redefined the bank-client relationship, providing more than just service space with their unique café-style décor and an overall vibrant and warm atmosphere.

Virgin Lounges also allow for better customer input as they provide an environment where honest feedback can be given and used to improve Virgin’s services even more.

By going out of their way to provide additional services to their customers, Virgin has been able to build customer loyalty and encourage positivity both in its employees as well as customer outlooks.

Continuum’s Customer Education Programme

With customer success becoming a decisive factor in both customer loyalty and choice, Continuum successfully designed their business model around an educative customer programme that helps their clients get the most out of Continuum’s services.

The company is a partnership of like-minded independent Financial Advisers that operate through a dual-distribution model that includes face-to-face financial advice, as well as online consumer-facing propositions created to enhance the client experience and offering.

Continuum made it their mission to inform their customers more and get them involved in the process by educating them about savings through the ‘Customer Education Programme’.

The company believes that wealth management and financial advice should be accessible to everyone, without making them feel intimidated by the process. Because of that, they make sure to share all the knowledge they have with their customers in order to get them involved and aware of all the issues that could affect their wealth.

Understandably, this model addresses the increasing expectation for customer success while also going further and establishing a high degree of customer loyalty as a result.

Barclays’ Mobile Banking App

Greater accessibility and better service go hand in hand, and Barclays Bank knows this very well. Smartphone apps now cover nearly every aspect of our everyday lives, and banking is no different.

However, Barclays took it one step further by enhancing their smartphone app with a 24/7 mobile chat service, allowing customers to talk directly to Barclays’ Mobile Chat Team.

With the introduction of their new channel Barclays was able to provide a service that goes hand in hand with customer expectations in regards to better accessibility and faster service while also cutting costs.

Introducing the new channel came naturally since customers were already used to web chat and instant messaging services through sites such as Facebook and apps such as WhatsApp. It was also received well by the Y/Millennials generation as well as Barclays’ staff since the new initiative also made their job as customer service agents much simpler.

As a result, customer experience and satisfaction is much higher than before, with the NPS (Net Promoter Score), at +45, with many customers reporting often at just how easy the service is to use.

Adapting to Changing Trends

Adapting to customer expectations doesn’t have to be difficult. Most customers only wish to be given a platform where they’re regarded as a valuable part of your organisation.

Especially in the financial industry where customer centricity hasn’t been at the forefront of business strategy in the past, customers expect to see changes implemented in accordance with their evolved attitudes centered on honest service.

This is also due to the fact that expectations jump from industry to industry now since all services are perceived to be on the same pedestal and thus deserving of criticism when failing to care for the customer.

Customer success, great experiences and positive interaction always leads to customer loyalty and it could be said that it’s easier than ever before to attract and retain customers by just caring about and keeping the service ‘human’.

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