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2021: The year the financial services sector will enter the era of boundless customer engagement

2021: The year the financial services sector will enter the era of boundless customer engagement

By Steve Bell, VP EMEA Solutions Consulting, Verint Systems

It can feel like businesses lurch from one disruption to another. From macro-economic collapse to aggressive competitors, changes to regulations, political uncertainty, being slow to innovate; all these and more can undo the years of hard work that has been spent building up a viable, profitable company. 

Yet dig beneath the surface of those issues, and despite the apparent variations there is a fundamental truth in all of them – that the reason for failure is an inability to change. History is littered with the names of once industry-leading companies that did not change their business model to reflect the evolving needs and demands of the market. Some have gone completely; others are shadows of their former selves. 

Accelerated consumer demands

It’s likely that we will see more names follow them in the coming months and years. As we’ve seen in previous crises, not even storied banks are too big to fail. The pandemic will be blamed for much of it, and it will be a significant factor. But in all likelihood, all it will have done is accelerated what was already going to happen – just as it has done for digital transformation. We’re at a point now where consumers are expecting much more intuitive experiences and services from the brands they buy from, and that includes financial service providers. 

From new channels and ways of purchasing, to heightened expectations of what good looks like, banks are having to do much more with, in many cases, a workforce that is dispersed, disengaged, and underequipped to meet customer demands. 

That means they need to adapt. They need to be able to offer self-service, social-media based customer interactions, mobile, ecommerce, and they need to be able to offer it at the same standard as innovators, all with a remote workforce. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling mortgages or fridges, whether you’ve been in business 12 months or 50 years – consumers are taking their experiences from other sectors and expecting everyone they interact with to be at the same standard. Put another way, financial service providers are no longer just judged against their sector competitors. 

Steve Bell

Steve Bell

Decision-makers know this – a new study from Verint found that understanding and acting on rapidly changing customer behaviours was a top concern for 71% of financial service professionals. Their top challenges highlighted concerns relating to remote workforces, with maintaining established relationships with clients, a lack of physical interaction between employees and customers and inefficiencies in managing urgent client matters all causes for concern.

Ushering in a new era of customer engagement

It all points to creating a new approach to customer engagement. Banks and other financial service providers need to recognise that they have to deliver an always-on experience, irrespective of channel, while at the same time taking into account the fact that their workforce isn’t going to scale to meet the challenge. 

What’s the solution? The answer combines culture and technology to create an approach known as boundless customer engagement. 

It’s cultural because it demands a mindset change. One that sees the entire organisation as responsible for delivering an exemplary experience, not just customer service, or a subsection thereof. Where key performance indicators and objectives across all functions are dialled into how that department or team supports the delivery of better customer experiences. It’s also about empowering workforces to act appropriately and deliver the best response to customers, allowing the entire organisation to adapt and act faster. 

Combining technology and culture

It needs to be cultural, because culture defines how the next part is used. Technology is inherently neutral – it is only through its deployment and adoption that it becomes either a force for good or simply a quicker root to short-term margin improvement. If the right cultural mindset is in place, then the technology that underpins it all will deliver boundless customer engagement. 

It will do this through enabling the right balance of automation and human touch, allowing teams to scale without leaving customers feeling as if they are at the mercy of an impersonal algorithm. With artificial intelligence, everything from front-end chatbots to back-end knowledge management systems serving up the right information at the right time, can be deployed to meet accelerated customer expectations. 

2021 – the year of boundless customer engagement

By combining a culture shift with the deployment of technology, financial service providers will be able to break down the barriers that disrupt better customer experiences and meet demand. And they’ll be able to do it without having to massively scale up or put teams under intolerable pressure. 

Whatever else happens, the consumer experience in 2021 is going to be one characterised by speed, by intuition, and by a vast array of touchpoints. For financial service providers to be able to deliver on this promise without dramatically undermining their own employees will take a new approach – one that connects the realities of work today with data and experiences to build enduring relationships through boundless customer engagement. In doing so, banks, wealth managers and other finance organisations will drive real business outcomes that cements ongoing performance, irrespective of the wider economic climate. 

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