CX is a key strategic asset that financial institutions mustn’t forget

Financial services firms have reaped the reward of investments in customer experience, but as a more normal business environment resumes it’ll prove costly to allow complacency to set in

The unique pressures on companies during the pandemic triggered a golden age for customer experience. While the initial transition to remote working and a fully digital service model without physical branches was no doubt difficult, the outcomes for trust and loyalty were hugely positive.

This was a long time coming, of course, and stay-at-home mandates merely accelerated, albeit very suddenly, the digital transformation strategies that financial services companies have been honing for a decade or more. The digitisation of other consumer services has recalibrated customer expectations, but to keep up financial institutions have first had to deal with their legacy systems.

The extreme circumstances of lockdown forced them to finally make the investments in cloud modernisation required to interact with consumers on their desired terms. A high-touch operating model for acquiring, servicing and advising customers was no longer fit for purpose. At the heart of investments was a focus on a more frictionless customer experience, powered by technologies such as artificial intelligence to facilitate self-service and hyper-personalisation.

“As customers have gotten more used to the digital experience offered by non-industry players like Netflix and Amazon, the question they have often asked is: why can’t my bank offer me the same experience?” says Rahul Kumar, senior director of financial services strategy at Talkdesk, a global leader in customer experience solutions. “We absolutely saw an increase in the adoption of digitisation, and cloud-based modernisation of legacy systems, during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Unable to rely on their physical branches for the first time, financial institutions had to meet customers when and where they wanted to meet with them, on the device of their choosing,” says Kumar. “As a result, there has been rapid demand for the emerging innovations needed to offer the experience that customers are looking for, including digital tools and automation technologies like AI. It may have been out of sheer necessity but it really boosted customer trust and loyalty.”

As customers have gotten more used to the digital experience offered by non-industry players like Netflix and Amazon, the question they have often asked is: why can’t my bank offer me the same experience?

The return to pre-pandemic behaviours, however, appears to have caused some complacency. Assured by their Covid-era enhancements, along with the return of physical branches, many companies feel they can handle additional call volumes while also serving customers across digital channels without further investment. Such complacency could harm them in the long run.

The impact is already being felt. A recent report by a leading CX analyst found customer experience quality has fallen back to early 2020 levels, reversing gains made in 2021. Meanwhile, customer trust in banks fell for the first time since 2018.

A separate study by Talkdesk found that seven in 10 customers are more loyal to financial services companies that are actively investing in customer experience and accelerating their pace of innovation. However, expectations are failing to be met, in large part because banks are using traditional contact centre solutions which are not built specifically for financial services firms.

“The pandemic forced people to break their routines and come out of their comfort zones. Crucially, they no longer needed to maintain loyalty with a bank just because it was the closest branch to their home or on their commute to work,” says Bhavana Rana, director of product and industry marketing, financial services and insurance, at Talkdesk. “That caused a change in customer behaviours and, naturally, warranted quite urgent investments in customer experience.”

“Customer loyalty was up for grabs. If an organisation did not quickly adapt to the changing behaviours, they’d very quickly lose customers,” Rana continues. “But now, with continued supply chain issues and volatility in the market, the focus seems to be shifting more towards cost-saving measures, with less emphasis on customer experience. That’s a mistake. Reverting to the old way of doing things will alienate customers. Financial services firms must continue to use customer experience as a strategic asset.”

Talkdesk, whose automation-first cloud-native contact centre solutions optimise the customer experience, has been working with financial services institutions to help leverage their CX learnings from the pandemic and, importantly, maintain momentum. Last year, it launched the first enterprise-grade contact centre platform built specifically for financial services firms. Talkdesk Financial Services Experience Cloud enables banks, credit unions and insurers to deliver connected, intelligent and secure interactions more effortlessly, across any communication channel.

The modern, unified customer experience platform is tailored to meet financial services needs, with features and functionalities that support essential industry workflows and bespoke AI models that solve specific issues within the financial sector. The plug-and-play solution includes pre-packaged industry integrations, significantly accelerating the timeline for any digital transformation happening in the financial services industry, enabling organisations to realise value from investments in days rather than years.

An innovative contact centre solution designed to address banks’ and insurers’ top customer service priorities, such as account servicing, lending, policy servicing and claims, will be vital as customers continue to expect hyper-personalised experiences accessible immediately on the device and channel of their preference.

“The pandemic challenged the traditional ways that financial institutions operated, and it’s crucial now that banks take those learnings forward rather than leave them in the past,” says Kumar. “To differentiate themselves going forward and explore new business models, such as embedded finance, companies need to first ensure they are engaging how their customers want. Investing in a modern CX platform will allow them to deliver a connected, cohesive experience, irrespective of where the interaction starts and where it then travels.”

Rana adds, “One thing that has been constant through all of the upheaval is our need for a human connection. Customers will always seek convenience and value offered through digital channels, but maintaining a human touch is equally important. Our goal is to help financial services firms deliver the greatest experience possible, utilising an end-to-end customer experience solution which gives them value on day one. That’s what will deliver the loyalty that financial institutions and insurers crave.”

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