Abi Acland, Business Consultant, Strategy & Analytics at Acxiom
The pandemic has changed the customer experience across all sectors – whether this is retail, healthcare, or financial services. Every industry has had to rethink how they deliver services, while simultaneously transforming their business operations. Despite the difference in the way that each industry has responded to these changes, one thing is certain – there is no longer an excuse for poor customer experience, and organisations need to step up if they want to retain customer loyalty.
Focusing specifically on financial services, we know that the industry was already undergoing significant change before the pandemic as digital technologies and mobile platforms became more common. The push towards remote working and the closure of physical branches has further driven the normalisation of digital banking tools, and a drop in the use of cash. In fact, recent research found that half of people say they are using cash less than they were pre-Covid, with only 25% saying they are using the same amount.
Elsewhere, upstart fintech brands are continuing to emerge and scale up – for example Greenlight, a $2.3B fintech focused on children, recently launched a credit card for parents, and UNest, a platform focusing on helping parents invest and save for their children, announced plans to offer crypto as an investment option for parents. Many of these companies are equally if not more accessible, particularly to younger to middle-aged customers, and so the traditional players must explore how they can optimise customer loyalty to ensure they are meeting people where they need.
Understanding your customers = business success
There’s a dichotomy in the behaviour of customers post-pandemic. Some have eagerly adopted digital tools for banking, while some remain keen to return to analogue ways of life and cash. No matter how it’s carried out, transacting money is a key process of life, and banks as service providers play a significant role in maintaining accessibility and familiarity for the most isolated and reluctant to make the switch to new tools or mobile apps. Transactions must be seamless, positive experiences across the board for all types of customers, regardless of their demographic.
Financial service providers, both fintech and traditional banks, need to work with the existing permissioned customer data they have available as this will be crucial in stepping up the personalisation they are able to offer with their services. Data has become the critical ingredient in understanding customers and tailoring experiences to their evolving needs.
By getting closer to customers and understanding their preferences and past interactions, banks and finance providers can make more informed decisions to drive the kinds of personalisation and service that encourage repeat purchases and grow customer trust, all while developing their product portfolio loyalty through partnerships.
This is especially important as we shift to using services such as mobile-first banks with no single physical branch. New services will require building a clearer picture of how customers feel about evolving ways to bank. Put simply, knowledge is power, especially for those fighting for market share.
Managing data risks and keeping customers happy
However, when shining a spotlight on data, businesses need to make sure they are treading carefully – and using data ethically – because there are risks in not taking the collection and management of these assets seriously. This is especially true in the financial services sector, where organisations hold masses of confidential data. Whether it’s through regulation like GDPR, or the impact on brand image and customer trust, business leaders need to take caution. There’s a fine line between maximising the use of data-driven tools, and falling foul of data regulators, customers, and partners.
Our recent research highlights that the number of UK consumers who view the exchange of personal information as essential for the smooth running of modern society has grown dramatically over the previous decade, rising from 38% in 2012 to 60% in 2022. This is a great start for organisations, and they need to continue building this loyalty with consumers. It’s also why there’s a need for a considered approach to data handling.
As an example, the four Cs of data quality can be a useful framework here, helping ensure organisations not only achieve regulatory compliance, but are also making the best use of their investments in data. This includes making sure data is correct and complete by building a complete picture of the customer, for example by asking who the user or spender is, whether they are still using specific products, and removing outdated information to ensure the data to hand is accurate and in the right format.
Making sure data is current is the next consideration. Individual records might be complete, and a database might be easily searchable and accessible, but if the data is several years or even decades old, it is likely of limited value, especially for customer data. Life events such as house moves and marriage can make customer data outdated, and so organisations need to be regularly refreshing and checking when records were last updated. Keeping on top of existing records is an ongoing task to not only make sure that experiences are as personalised and useful as possible, but also to avoid errors like duplicating communications, or sending information to people at an old address.
Finally, data must be legally and ethically collected. Any transaction or business relationship is built on trust, and the business of building brands is no different. High-quality customer relationships can only be delivered if people are confident that the organisations they are sharing their data with will go above and beyond to make sure it is being used ethically, and stored safely in line with any agreements or statements made when the data was provided.
Why financial services brands need to turn to technology to help
Identity resolution and management technologies play a big part in helping businesses secure this vital data. They can collate data from many channels to create a single view of the customer, and this gives firms a deeper understanding of individuals – regardless of the channel they use – so they can authenticate real requests quickly and enable personalised offers where and when they’re needed most.
As these technologies develop and are paired with more powerful predictive models, it opens up the opportunity to proactively provide customers with precisely what they need before they’ve asked, and send recommended offers based on what they’ve previously purchased.
Technology will help support the financial services industry in taking customer support to the next level, but the foundation of good customer service rests in organisations recognising their constantly changing needs, amidst a background of evolving services, and making sure their solutions are tailored to this. And this is where using data insights effectively and managing data responsibly will be the make or break for the financial services sector.