It's a month of predictions! In this installment, I will be looking into my crystal ball and focusing on the financial services industry. This would be banks, credit unions, financial planners, insurance and more. Much of my background is within this world, so it's fun to think of how far they've already come. The fact that your auto insurance web site addresses you by your name instead of "the insured" is a win from where they came from! But there are also more challenges for customers and these organizations alike than there have been in a very long time.
I like to think things will look up for customers.
1. Communication will continue to get easier to understand.
Reading statements or checking out accounts online will continue to be easier for those customers who aren't interested in becoming fluent in financial-ese. Thanks to the trend to make the complicated simple, some real innovation is happening here. Citi seems to innovate consistently here, providing easier, more accessible sites for their myriad products. Others who are making strides here include Morgan Stanley, who use video to tell their stories on their site. Customers have long asked for easier-to-understand statements and it seems we are getting closer to speaking the same languages.
2. Reviews will drive choice.
Banking and financial service continues to be a word-of-mouth industry, but now customers are turning to their larger networks, just as they do in other parts of their lives. Yelp and Google Local reviews will show part of the story, but more than likely customers will turn to their own cultivated communities to ask who is the best banker in town. From a personal observation, I'd say it's still an area ripe for great service. Customers who feel constantly sold or sold to don't switch because of loyalty - they don't switch because it's still painful. There are rules within financial services regulations around recommendations here, but customers are still going out there and providing them. It's wise to keep an eye on them.
3. Smart institutions will emphasize feedback.
Sharing customer feedback with employees has not become the norm in financial services, but it will be eventually. The best institutions will make it a habit to provide easy ways for customers to provide that feedback. Then they'll make sure it's shared with their employees regularly. Some recent data shows that 69% of banks have reported doing this already, but that's still not high enough. As customers, we know when our feedback falls flat. It makes it easy to leave.
4. Convenience will still win.
Customers report wanting convenience almost more than any other aspect to the experience. Providing convenience through mobile apps, 24/7 support and simple but effective security methods will win customers over. Nobody wants to spend their time waiting in line.
5. Training for emotions should amp up.
These are just a few of the ways I hope customer experience will improve, but it's important to address what obstacles and challenges these organizations will have. There is lots of backlash and anger toward the large institutions regarding the last several years of inconsistent information and reports of wrongdoing. While those working in these organizations might not support those reports, they still have to deal with the emotions of angry customers. It'll be critical to train front-line employees how to deal with people in empathic and compassionate ways. When it's all about delivering bad news to angry people, that takes a toll on the messenger. The best customer experiences will come down to the people involved. The right people need to get hired and then continuously trained on how best to deal with the situations we face now.
The more transparent, friendly and human an institution can be, the better. Perhaps I'm a tad optimistic, but that's ok. Customers in this industry need to feel more in control of their relationships, and the best organizations will help them do that.