Containing the sprawl of CX tech

By Ganpath Thanumoorthy, SVP Customer Experience, Firstsource


Why customer experience design is the natural remedy for the tech hype in Financial Services

It doesn’t take much for today’s customer experience (CX) -savvy customers to switch providers or shop around for better deals if they’re unhappy with a brand. That’s why banks, insurers, and other customer-focused businesses are keen to quickly leverage new tech capabilities and keep up with expectations. The problem is: the noise in the tech market is making it hard to tell real value from hype. CX design can show the way.

A customer going through a frustrating moment with a brand today is just as likely to get in touch with customer service (CS) as they are to vent on Twitter. For many, CX has become an important differentiator. Having had their expectations shaped by the pioneers in the space, consumers often effectively dictate the terms – by calling out bad service on social media, or moving to providers who promise to make things easy for them.

This is true especially in “high-switch” industries such as financial services (as well as utilities, ecommerce, and others) where retention is a key concern for the balance sheet. And it explains why CX today is increasingly linked to brand value. Smooth, delightful experiences aren’t just a nice-to-have; healthy customer relationships directly impact the valuation of a business.

A noisy tech market

It’s no surprise, then, that businesses are keen to use new tech capabilities to provide better service, run more efficient operations, and stay on top of the CX game. There’s just one problem: the CS/CX tech market has spawned so many new products (agent assist, conversational IVR, chatbots, etc) in recent years that it’s becoming increasingly hard for CX leaders to navigate the landscape. Add to that the hype around AI-powered solutions, and it’s easy to see that businesses are in danger of falling for fashionable tech, or of choosing solutions that won’t deliver for them.

The truth is: assessing, procuring, and adopting new CX capabilities is hard, costly, time-intensive, and potentially risky – especially when you’re integrating them with legacy technology. But not modernising isn’t an option either: the benefits – higher customer satisfaction, better efficiency, cost savings – can’t be ignored.

Customer Experience Design to the rescue

So how can financial services organisations modernise their CX operations without breaking their systems – or, indeed, the bank? In my experience, the best approach is designing customer experiences on the principle of “CX Realism”: instead of being led by a hyped-up vendor vision of a shiny new omnichannel world, approach the customer experience (re-) design with radical honesty about the sort of business you are, the tech stack you’re working with, your appetite for change, and what you’re trying to achieve.


Here’s why, in my opinion, it’s the better approach:

  • CX design starts with a solid assessment of the status quo. That’s never a bad thing. You may want to bring an independent, tech-agnostic consultancy in for this. They will speak with customers and agents and analyse your historical CX data. By identifying the bottlenecks, error-prone processes, and sources of frustration for customers and staff, they can help you develop a target operating model and ideal future processes.
  • Vendor visions aren’t tailored to your business. Vendors, by default, lead with technology. That means that whatever your challenge, they’ll believe their piece of tech will provide the solution. But what works for a business, like Apple, is unlikely to work for you. Take WhatsApp for instance: while it can be a fantastic way to reach retail customers directly, it isn’t currently a trusted solution for business-to-business adoption. Technology is only a means to an end.
    By starting with your goals – for your customers, your operations, your bottom line – you’ll establish the benchmarks against which new tech will have to prove itself. To illustrate: we worked with a challenger bank whose differentiator is that it fully refunds defrauded customers. This meant its fraud response had to be set up to minimise response times and reduce the stress on customers in this worrying situation. The solution design for such a setup will naturally be different from than that for a bank with another priority focus. It might want to simplify the quoting process for their customers, improve compliance, or speed up KYC.
  • This means that ROI, too, is highly individual. CX design that’s aligned to business goals will help you prioritise new apps and systems that promise to deliver the best outcomes – not just in terms of money but also other KPIs – such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), first-time-resolution (FTR), average speed of answer (ASA), or another one of your priorities.
  • Realistically, you’re working with an existing tech stack. Unless you have an unlimited budget and plenty of time (which, let’s face it, who does?), your job is to complement what you’ve got, not replace it all. This will impact many of your tech choices in the final solution design. You’ll have to work with what makes sense, fills the biggest gaps, integrates best, etc. Experienced CX designers can help you sift through a crowded market and find the best fit for you.
  • Tech can do a lot, but it can’t do everything. Not all of your challenges are going to be solved by technology. Automation, for instance, which is often touted as the miracle cure for broken CX processes, works best for simple, standard requests. For complex, high-value interactions, a well-trained agent is still often the best option. It’s worth taking those nuances into account when planning for new tech, journeys and processes. Again, this is something that a specialist consultancy can support with – to help you make realistic decisions and ensure that the customer remains the focus of your change project.

Sounds full-on…is it worth it?

In a large organisation, any re-design project is likely to require a bit of effort and has the potential to ruffle some feathers. But businesses that follow the principles of realistic CX design are less likely to fall for the hype – and more likely to see measurable outcomes from their change project. Here are some that we’ve seen among financial service providers:

  • A foreign exchange (FX) provider significantly reduced client acquisition costs by embracing automation opportunities during acquisition and onboarding processes. This resulted in $3M total direct cost savings for the business.
  • A fintech managed to automate Know Your Customer (KYC) and got onboarding to down from 24 to four days. It took the time to fully understand its disjointed manual processes, and the delays they caused. The business then implemented an onboarding platform that brought together several legacy systems and made use of intelligent automation.
  • A household insurer boosted renewals and NPS, helping it to retain revenue. It was moving to a new IT platform, which, in combination with its external finance provider’s system, caused unwanted customer issues (e.g., duplicate payments). For them, the solution lay in fully outsourcing customer service and sales, which helped them hit mission-critical KPIs (such as upping complaints resolution rates, reducing after-call logging time, improving FTR) and not just retain customers, but also acquire new ones.

These outcomes may resonate with you – or maybe your challenges lie elsewhere. In any case, it’s more than likely that there is technology out there that can help your business provide better experiences at lower cost, while delivering deeper insight to you. I would advise before you commit to any new tech, take the time to figure out your goals, and identify your biggest challenges. Listen to your customers and agents. Trust the process, it will protect you from the tech hype – and lead the way to better, more considered customer experiences and processes.


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