Where are financial brands falling down with customer experience?

The stats say it all: according to research from KPMG, mobile is the largest banking channel for the majority of banks by transaction.

Where are financial brands falling down with customer experience?

With mobile capability now a key factor when customers switch banks. Compound that with the fact that the Royal Bank of Scotland, Northern Rock, Lloyds and HSBC are all reducing branch numbers, it’s pretty clear the physical bank branch is now in thrall to the rapid rise of digital banking.

Banks are as susceptible to changing consumer behaviour as every other business. Most have embraced the advantages of that change – after all, what’s not to love about reducing costs and giving customers greater access and control of their finances? But what started out as a win/win for banks and customers is now looking more complex, and as consumer expectations continue to change, there’s a real danger that finance brands across the board are missing a trick.

In this transformed landscape, the need for customer-centricity is as vital online as it was when people visited their bank manager.

Digital promises much in terms of understanding the customer through data. However, the reality is that banks rarely make the most of this data to deliver – and act on – the deep consumer insight it offers. The result is an often painfully fragmented digital experience, far from the meaningful, relevant online relationships which customers are looking for. For example, go online to check your overdraft and you’re a world away from another service like a mortgage calculator. It’s a counter-intuitive and counterproductive disconnection. A live, logged-in customer presents the perfect opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell.

It’s a strategy that can deliver real results. For example, we know that young professionals are interested in saving for the future but there’s often a delay in doing so. In this instance, a behaviour-led approach can work well. Once users are online, an effective tactic is to show how contributions made now will add up to more than the same payments made in later years. Appealing to their specific concerns around risk and growth, our research shows that the age of people taking out pensions can be lowered by as much as 10 years. All through a simple, informed nudge.

To my mind, the reason behind missed opportunities is clear: banks’ digital offerings reflect company structure instead of customer behaviour. While it’s common to see a separate “Log In” or “Product” link in the corner of a web page, the same set-up would be unthinkable in a high street store. Beneath the shiny surface of a financial brand’s website or app, there’s a sense that some services have been added almost as an afterthought.

Brands across all categories are getting over the silo mentality. What they’re discovering is that in cyberspace, it’s far more rewarding to think like the customer. What people want now is information and communication at their fingertips – and they want it when they need it, in relevant and meaningful format.

A team that understands that a customer’s profile should stay with them, whether online or off, is crucial. In order to bring about this seamlessness, customer centricity should be at an organisation’s heart.

Although many brands stick to disparate marketing and innovation teams working in silos that rarely communicate, the path to success starts with breaking down these walls and inviting in the expertise to capitalise on customer-centricity. This can manifest itself through an external team that physically sits within your four walls, as our teams do. But in any case, making the most of digital means understanding the power of a real-time, personalised response.

Some banks are starting to cotton on: Lloyds’ online platform, for instance, provides a live bank statement that can categorise spending to make monthly budgeting easier.

But others still have a long way to go and need to develop a better understanding of customer behaviour. A rethinking of how we view experiences is important here. Bestselling behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman contends that although we instinctively define experiences in the present, it’s more productive to view them in terms of memory.

An example of this is the responsible use of triggers to influence a customer’s thinking. Digital banking activity peaks around pay day, so a memorable communication – perhaps a light-hearted “don’t spend it all at once” – can have great traction. This ‘needs-based messaging’ can then be triggered at a later date, when that customer is considering taking out a loan for example.

Granted, it isn’t easy to deliver this sort of customer-centric communication. But the first step is straightforward. Get closer to the customer and start thinking like them. Only then can you create the seamlessness that customers crave, at the speed at which they crave it.