By Sean Tomlinson, Head of Consulting, Financial Services Sector, Steria
We are all customers. In day-to-day life we buy products and services that meet our needs and we make choices about the organisations we choose to spend our money with. We all understand what makes a good customer service, and more importantly bad customer service. However, when we act as the provider, it is not always so simple to deliver great customer service.
In the financial services sector, customer trust is key. We are still counting the cost of damage to customer trust caused by security problems, PPI mis-selling, and fixing scandals. Since the banking crisis, financial services firms have been falling over themselves to regain the higher ground by claiming to be customer centric. In reality, however, despite this willingness, financial institutions still appear to structure themselves in such a way as to immediately damage that customer promise. Independent surveys highlight continued issues with long queues in branches, unhelpful call centres and untrained staff.
The enterprise operating model in financial services is currently designed for the efficient management of resources in delivering services. These are usually delineated by grouped skill sets and are often focused around groupings of these skills within product lines. The ‘powers that be’ have worked out constituent parts of the product delivery process then taken as much cost out of them as possible. However proficient management of resources is from the company perspective, it clearly doesn’t always deliver a rewarding customer experience. In short they may be efficient, but are they effective?
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So what should the financial services sector be aiming to achieve? At Steria we have identified four key steps that can assist in truly putting the customer at the heart of everything a financial services enterprise does:
- Identify the customer purpose: In order to start this process you need to be really clear about the products and services you offer and how they are perceived by the current and target customer base. Once you have clarity on the customers and the services you are offering it is then possible to identify the customer purpose for each permutation. This should be a simple statement of what success looks like for that customer. It should also be framed in terms describing what the customer can now do based on having achieved their customer purpose. For example, a customer is looking to open a new online instant access savings account, the service doesn’t end when the customer has completed and submitted all the forms. Instead the end point is when the customer is able to achieve their purpose, which is to deposit money that is earning interest and to withdraw funds easily through all available channels. So if the account provides access to use card withdrawals or make payments online, the purpose has not been achieved until a) the customer has made a deposit into the account, b) it is attracting interest, c) the card has been fully activated with the ability to withdraw funds from it, and d) the customer can make payments online.
- Plan the customer journey: Customer journey mapping is no longer a new discipline, but it has tended to be used in Web and mobile developments to assist in improving the customer experience at each touch point. Whilst valid, this tends to focus minds on the technology capabilities rather than the customer purpose, which should, unless clear expectations have been set up front, be channel agnostic. Too often strategy mandates the customer journey teams to find ways to make the journey more efficient without experiencing the reality of this efficiency for themselves.
- Build the services-based organisation: Once you have clarity on all the services it is then possible to rebuild the organisation structure around these services, combining them to deliver the customer purpose in the most effective way. The aim of this approach is to change the unit of work from a process, or a process step, into a delivered service. It is outcome focused and the key measure of success should be the achievement of the customer purpose, not a step on the journey. The primary objective of this service-oriented approach is not to create centres of excellence, which themselves could become silos, but to create centres of service focused on delivering the customer purpose. As Peter Norris, Director of Group Lean and Service Management at RBS, explains “Start with the customer in respect of the service they need. Understand the customer journey and moments of truth – and ignore the current organisation while doing that thinking”.
- Provide cross channel access: When customers engage with the service offerings to achieve an action the channel is merely a means to an end, not an end in itself. There have been many channel initiatives where all the benefits are seen from the company point of view, rather than the customers. For example there was a trend at the turn of the century to make web sites ‘sticky’ – to provide a reason for the customer to return again and again. What this forgot entirely was the customer purpose in returning. Now there is a rush to provide a mobile solution, but many of these solutions are pushing to provide an exciting mobile experience rather than integrating the mobile solution into existing customer journeys. The initial outcome should be to make what we do now even better and tangibly so, for the customer.
Looking to the future, it is clear that there is an ambition to build the customer-centric financial services enterprise. It is easy to see why: financial services are, by their nature, intangible; not something physical that can be picked up, handled, eaten or worn. As such, service becomes a vital differentiator.