Consumers in the UK expect their financial services provider to know who they are based on previous contact with them. That was one of the key findings of a new survey of 2,002 UK consumers conducted by Leadership Factor on behalf of 7.
The most annoying element of financial services customer service amongst all 18 to 55 year olds was having to start afresh at each point of contact, with firms forgetting previous conversations and customer history. Around half of respondents admitted to getting frustrated when financial service providers do not know who they are or what their issue is, despite having interacted via another channel previously. Other issues highlighted were uninformed customer service agents unable to tell customers the required information, with 11% of consumers saying that was most annoying, and long call waiting times.
I can see why consumers might get frustrated when firms do not know what they want despite previous interactions they have had in other channels with the same company. Financial service providers hold a lot of data on their customers and using this data to offer a predictive and intuitive customer service should be achievable for most of them. Big data is used for marketing and sales targeting so using it to get a better understanding of what your customers want and offering them better customer service strikes me as a tangible and extremely worthwhile use of big data.
Customer service in financial services is growing in importance too. More than a quarter (26 per cent) of UK consumers have considered swapping banks after bad customer service, with 24 per cent admitting to considering swapping insurance providers. There are an estimated 54 million active bank accounts in the UK, so the potential loss is huge and no reason for providers to offer the intuitive service that customers are starting to demand.
The research also revealed that consumers want omnichannel customer service from their financial services provider. Omnichannel customer service incorporates all the interactions that consumers have with firms which are multichannel, multi-device, and multi-modal. People are increasingly using a variety of channels to communicate with financial services providers, with 93 per cent of people regularly using more than one channel to interact with them.
The most popular ways of interacting with banks and other FS institutions remain in-person and via landline; however 16 per cent of consumers regularly use their mobile with that figure rising to more than a third amongst 18-24 year olds, suggesting that smart phones are becoming a significant customer service channel.
Social media’s role in FS customer service was minimal, with just 3.1 per cent using Facebook and 1.2 per cent using Twitter. The research also revealed that only 2 per cent of people use bespoke FS mobile apps for customer service, despite a number of FS providers offering this as an option. 12 per cent admitted they would consider switching FS provider to one that offered omnichannel customer service.
Omnichannel needs to be a focus for financial services firms in their customer service interactions as consumers have shown that they want to contact their provider via the channel of their choosing. That channel will change from interaction to interaction and the service consumers receive should not differ whichever channel that happens to be.
The public have shown they will take action when customer service levels are not as they expect and financial services firms will ignore that at their peril.
Mike Hughes is the Managing Director for European Operations at 7. He has over 20 years of experience in Customer Management, Change Leadership and IT and is passionate about raising the standard of industry best practice using technology to create a smoother customer experience and lessen customer effort.