Speed, convenience, and the ability to execute transactions accurately. These are well-accepted, core customer expectations every financial institution must meet. Yet any time money is involved, there’s a heightened level of emotion inherent in those expectations, providing brands with both new risks and opportunities.
In our recent CX Trends study, we asked more than 20,000 consumers and 10,000 brand representatives across 12 countries to weigh in on a variety of topics. The point of this annual study is to understand how these two groups feel about different aspects of customer experience. While the findings have broad applicability to a range of industries, the findings around emotion and personalization are particularly relevant for financial services brands.
Head vs. Heart
According to the analyst firm Forrester, emotion is now the No. 1 driver of customer loyalty—outpacing ease and effectiveness.
I remember the pride I felt when I got my first paycheck, riding my bike to the closest bank and making that first, albeit small, deposit. Back then, my options were limited to how far I was willing to pedal, and my youthful expectations were simple: I wanted a safe place to put my money. But even at that young age, much more than the practical was at play; there was the whole collection of emotions tied to starting the journey toward adulthood and self-sufficiency
In fact, there’s so much emotion attached to money, financial institutions must understand that when a customer opens an account, takes out a loan or purchases a policy, they bring strong, personal emotions around security, family, future, and even legacy. Customers want more than a transaction; they want to know their finances—their future—are safe. Sounds reasonable.
The CX Trends Report gave us a deeper look into the relationships between customer emotions and expectations. Past reports have revealed that customers are moving toward more of a relationship vs. transaction orientation with brands. This year’s report found that customers are both satisfied and loyal when brands simply deliver on what customers believe they’ve been promised. One Danish consumer summed up the verbatims around that finding: “They had what I was looking for.” In other words, customers, by and large, have very reasonable expectations.
But don’t take that as an excuse to deliver a mediocre customer experience. Because customers view interactions with brands more like relationships, and their expectations are reasonable, when those expectations are not met, strong negative emotions arise.
“Disappointed, inconsequential, belittled, insignificant, worthless.” —United States consumer
The three emotions customers associated most closely with bad customer experiences were disappointment, frustration, and disrespect. When asked that same question, brands tended to underestimate the downside. They ranked the much more neutral emotion of “unsure” nine points higher than consumers, and “anger” 10 points lower.
More than a Number
The other area this year’s trends study delved into was that of personalization. Our data scientists asked customers to rank the importance of personalization in three key journeys: advertising/marketing messages, support/service, and purchase. Across every market, customers ranked personalized support interactions as most important.
“When I call my bank I appreciate being recognized, as the telephone advisor knows my record, and that I don’t have to repeat myself. I feel like a valued customer.” —French consumer
And while support ranked highest, consumers also expressed appreciation for personalized advertising/marketing messages, as well as sales interactions—as long as the brand delivers real value in exchange for the customer providing their personal information.
In light of the study’s findings, following are five practices that financial services should consider in order to positively differentiate themselves and create high-value customer relationships:
Deliver the Basics
Of course you must deliver on the basics. Are your locations convenient? Do you make it fast and easy to receive service? Are your fees reasonable? Are online instructions simple to understand and your website easy to navigate? Is your staff knowledgeable? If you don’t get the basics right, the next four steps won’t matter.
College students are too busy partying studying to worry about retirement and Roth IRAs. But they probably need a place to deposit a paycheck with ease (ideally on their phone without missing a tweet or leaving their dorm room). There’s no one-size-fits-all approach in financial marketing, so your messaging—and products—must be personalized and relevant to the audience(s) you’re trying to reach.
Make Consolidation Attractive
There was a time when every financial institution wanted to be seen as the expert in a given field, such as mortgages or wealth management. Now businesses want to be everything to everyone. Consolidating accounts, loans, and policies with a single company sounds nice in theory, but if the process is a hassle, and there aren’t significant advantages involved, who really benefits?
Know Your Niche
The insurance industry has been great about making brand promises and differentiators clear, and banks have a huge opportunity to follow suit. One company positions itself as the expert in identifying gaps in coverage and potential liability. Another says it pays out claims the fastest. Yet another promises to cover you under the broadest range of circumstances. So in an industry with much of the same old same old, what really sets you apart from the competition?
Ultimately, brand loyalty is about relationships. Support is ranked as the No. 1 stop along the customer journey where customers want personalization. Yes, customers want processes that don’t require human intervention to be automated, but they also want situations that necessitate intervention to be quick, easy, and painless. And when something goes wrong, make it right—quickly—because there are few circumstances more stressful than having your financial security hanging in the balance.
In an industry often seen as cold and sterile, adding some personal touch can turn a pimply-faced teenager into a loyal power investor down the road. And it begins with trust. If you earn trust, make processes simple, interactions personalized, and meet customers’ reasonable expectations, then you won’t have to ask your customers for more business—they’ll bring it to you.