By Nick Mitchell, managing director, EMEA, at intuitive consumer experience firm [24]7

Amazon has changed the nature of the modern customer experience. It makes such good use of the data it holds on customers that it can anticipate and predict the type of products that customer is interested in. But Amazon hasn’t just changed the retail customer experience; its influence has spread to other sectors as well. Banking and financial services is most definitely one of those other sectors. When consumers use Amazon, they get instant gratification and they expect similar speed and efficiency when dealing with their bank.

But are they getting it? The challenge for banks (and other financial services organisations) is to be able to apply that Amazon-like experience to their own customer service. How can they best go about doing so?

The importance of the right customer experience

It is more important than ever for banks to deliver a superior customer experience. Even 20 years ago, consumer choice was much more limited and banks could get away with not always delivering good service. But now it is easier for consumers to switch banks so they are less inert when doing so. The advent of the internet also means there is far more choice for when they do decide to change. In short, consumers are more empowered to switch service providers than they have ever been.

But part of the problem is that many banks only pay lip service to the idea of providing a good customer experience and because they have been around so long can be overly cautious about deploying innovations to improve the customer experience. A good example in the UK is the 2010 launch of Metro Bank PLC, the first high-street bank to be granted a licence by the Financial Services Authority (now the Financial Conduct Authority) for more than 150 years.

Nick Mitchell
Nick Mitchell

In February 2015 Metro Bank opened its 33rd branch in the UK and is seen a true success story. It has achieved this by placing the customer experience at the very core of its proposition, focusing on high quality service and customer convenience, traditional banking qualities working hand-in-hand with the latest technology.

Metro Bank canvassed the opinion of consumers and used this information to inform its proposition and overall customer experience. All stores provide instant printing and replacements for lost or stolen debit cards, free coin counting for customers and non-customers alike with Metro Bank Magic Money Machines and, Safe Deposit Boxes for customers’ valuables.It even has a ‘Dogs Rule’ policy, where customers in some branches can bring their dogs in with them and those dogs will get their own treats.

Using prediction analytics to deliver the right customer experience

This in itself is not necessarily key to delivering a superior customer experience, but it does show that anticipating your customers’ needs is an important part of delivering an experience that puts customer requirements at its core.

Metro Bank applied this to offline, high street banking. But the good news is that there is no reason why banks cannot be doing this online, where more and more consumers choose to do their banking. Every single time a bank has an interaction with a customer, they learn more about them and these large volumes of data can be used to introduce new offerings that target pre-defined segments based on location, demographics, psychographics, and other factors. Banks can then more accurately anticipate financial needs and provide an improved service, identifying and anticipating market trends.

[24]7 works with FS organisations to deliver a predictive experience for their customers that anticipates requirements to smooth the path of their interaction. This is done by analysing the customer data and developing smart models, which learn to adapt and intuit customer needs. Using these big data techniques to reduce customer effort will pay dividends in brand loyalty and reduce resources required for managing enquiries, not to mention complaints. However, the benefits can also extend into the capability to support cross-selling and upselling:  the system learns to understand customer requirements and patterns, then suggests relevant complementary products and services in any channel.

So not only can predictive analytics based on customer data help anticipate customer needs, it is also a growth opportunity.  Leveraging big data predictive analytics with customer service can help a brand focus on building this customer trust, thus leading to overall higher profitability.

Don’t let customer experience be an afterthought

The ultimate in FS customer experience would be if banks could just ‘know’ what a customer is looking for on their website. Or if when calling the bank, the agent would already know what page the customer is visiting on their website or mobile app and be able to offer a solution to any problem.

We are really not too far away from that situation. However, many large FS organisations tend to put different departments in silos. Customer service becomes an afterthought because products have to be delivered, then marketed and then bring people into a branch or onto a website. The process goes on and on, and then the last thing that gets discussed is the customer experience.

Yet the customer service experience is part of the product experience, and it’s hugely important. Banks must start getting their customer experience teams define what they will provide to the customer at the very start, and base their products and services on this. Once they start approaching banking from this perspective, deploying predictive analytics to anticipate customer requirements, then they will be able to offer a truly modern banking customer experience.

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