One of the key takeaways from Australia’s recent banking Royal Commission scandal was that banks and other major financial service providers need to rebuild trust and satisfaction with consumers, or risk losing business to more agile competitors.
A recurring theme from the scandal was a lack of communication and transparency between firms and their customers. To reset their reputation, financial firms need to do more than just offer better services – and shift a greater focus to becoming more customer-centric.
A customer-centric organisation means more than just saying “the customer is always right.” It’s about being prepared to listen to customers, understand their needs, and advocate for their success. It makes it possible to build experiences that delight customers, win their loyalty, and ultimately help the company grow.
Advantages of being customer centric
So what makes a customer-oriented approach so important? Consider a daunting statistic: a Deloitte survey found that almost half (47%) of Australian consumers did not trust their own financial services provider, with banking and insurance ranking as the least trusted sectors.
At top of mind for customers are data protection and privacy, ethics and social responsibility, and belief that their interests are being put first.
Customer trust can make or break an organisation. According to a recent Harvard Business Review study, trusted organisations are more than 2.5 times as likely to be high financial performers than low trust ones. They are also more resilient, and more likely to recover from events such as regulatory changes or negative publicity.
The importance of a customer centric workforce
A shift to a customer centric culture starts with mapping out your customer journey, and analysing every aspect of it from the customer’s point of view. How can you deliver an experience at each step which is consistent with the core values of a customer centric organisation?
A customer centric approach throughout is critical, and needs to be supported at both the individual and organisational level. From a recruitment perspective, it means that every new hire needs to be selected on the basis of their ability to leverage a customer-oriented approach for the benefit of the business. Key skills and attributes to look for include:
Empathy and problem-solving
When it comes to financial advice and products, the stakes can be very high for customers, who want assurance that their financial provider has their best interests at heart. This requires staff who are able to listen to customers, understand their situation, and use this knowledge to build a relationship that is more than just transactional.
Rather than getting the customer to sign off on the biggest mortgage or car loan, the focus should always be on ensuring that the customer gets all the information they need to make an informed decision. This will help to deliver an outcome that delivers lasting mutual benefit, rather than just immediate profit.
A Salesforce survey found almost three-quarters (73%) of customers are likely to switch brands if they don’t get consistent experience in products and services.
To remain relevant, financial services companies now need to serve customers in the platform of their choice, including mobile, social media, the phone and in-person. Accordingly, staff need to be well trained and effective across all channels in order to deliver a unified, consistent customer experience.
Understanding of data
Customers know the value of data, and are willing to disclose their own in exchange for customised, personalised benefits. This could be as simple as ensuring that customers don’t have to repeat their questions or re-enter their contact information during the onboarding process.
The larger goal is that employees should be able to leverage customer data to ensure no mistake is repeated, and to innovate new products or services that will delight customers.
Recent research by SurveyMonkey found that employees in a customer-centric company are significantly more engaged, and more likely to stick with their job for the long term.
Building a team that is aligned with a customer-centric vision and strategy depends on not just making the right hiring decisions, but also ensuring staff receive the ongoing support and training they need to deliver the best possible customer experience both now and later.
Financial service providers have a great opportunity to win back the public’s trust and deliver experiences that will keep customers coming back. By combining empathy with innovation, they’ll be better positioned to compete and grow as the financial industry realigns itself to meet the expectations of the digital age.