The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has published a chart that no one wants to top – the bi-annual
complaints list. Complaints across the financial services industry are down 15% – good news for companies and their customers. But at 2,479,029 from July to December 2013, they’re still
People tend to complain because of either bad service or a lack of understanding has led them to purchase the wrong product. Getting closer to customers and tuning in to their changing needs, holds the key to reducing these complaints.
Customers are driving change
The customer experience bar is generally quite low within financial services - this is dangerous because today’s customers are expecting so much more from their service providers. They’re accessing information and real-time data on the move, thinking ahead
and constantly seeking better, easier, faster services. They are interacting with brands from other sectors, such as retail, travel and telecoms that have already embraced a more customer centric service delivery model; integrating multiple communication channels
such as face to face, telephone, TV, web and mobile devices. Because people are getting better-connected services in other parts of their daily lives, the financial services industry is visibly behind the curve.
And now the industry has to handle increasing regulatory pressure, as well as the rising expectations of customers. The FCA is demanding greater emphasis on the principles of clear, fair and not misleading, and there’s a huge push for greater
transparency. So companies need to find ways to engage and educate consumers, to help them make better-informed decisions. We know it’s not easy to present complex financial products and services
in a way that Joe Public can understand and engage with, but it’s certainly not impossible.
Does digital hold the key?
The digital landscape has shifted significantly with the massive uptake of consumer digital devices. The initial ‘wow factor’ of digital devices and applications has lessened as these have become more mainstream. Consumers are now more digitally aware; knowledge
and expectations of digital technology are increasing year on year, providing consumers with a sense of digital empowerment. As much as there is an expectation on the hardware itself to continue to evolve, there are also huge expectations on the experience
offered by the plethora of web and mobile applications/software. Users today have become more savvy and comfortable with digital technologies and experiences and there is a direct relationship between increased use of digital services and the expectations
of today’s users. And unless the experience matches that expectation complaints won’t be going away anytime soon.
People have different preferences when it comes to absorbing information. Some learn visually, others like tactile experiences, or there are those people who just prefer to listen. Customers want to consume information how they want, at the pace they’re
comfortable with and then delve deeper where they choose. For example, visual stimulus, interactive tools and video all help people to engage and improve customer understanding, making them more likely to choose the right products in the first place – thus
reducing potential complaints.
Delivering constant change
Financial services companies need to ask themselves whether they’re set-up to evolve their customer experiences in-line with changing customer needs. Being adaptable and nimble is critical because technology is changing at such a rapid rate. We’re even starting
to see instances where customer expectations are exceeding the rate of technological change. Because people’s needs and expectations are changing faster than ever, companies need to work out how to keep pace with this.
It’s also vitally important that the customer experience is taken seriously at a Board level. Unless people at the top of the organisation are fully committed, they’re never going to be able to deliver the transformational change that’s required within the
financial services world. A committed board will always find ways not to compromise on their customer experience ambitions and as a result they will find customer satisfaction soaring – and complaints plummeting.
So who’s in?
In financial services, there’s been a distinct lack of progress in the digital customer experience arena so far, beyond the banking industry, which is clearly – and successfully – investing. Years ago, customers received out-of-date monthly bank statements
through the post. Then, more recently, people began to log-in on their desktop computer to check their balances. Now consumers carry their bank accounts in their pockets, and are able to make balance transfers, pay bills and much more, wherever and whenever
they want. Far more financial services companies, particularly in the investment and insurance arenas, need to make this leap.