The six CX rules the best banks follow - and that all brands could benefit from


Research into those banks that are top rated in customer experience has surfaced a number of commonalities. And the findings have implications for organisations outside of the financial world too. 

22nd Sep 2020

No matter who you are or what your financial needs are - consumers and businesses alike - you need an institution to help you manage your money. From national, regional and community banks to Credit Unions and “non-banks,” there’s no shortage of choices.

But even as banking services become more perceptually commoditised, smart customers recognise that not all banks are created equal. But what is it that sets leaders apart? We decided to take a look at those institutions with the top ratings in customer experience and see what they had in common.

Unsurprisingly, they get many things right when it comes to serving their customers - many of which ladder up to the six “customer experience rules” these banking leaders follow that most CX laggards don’t.

And if you aren’t a bank, there’s still a lot to learn. As customer expectations of customer experience everywhere are increasingly driven by the best experiences they receive anywhere, CX leaders across industries aren’t shy about taking ideas from others.

To that end, you can learn from and leverage these six rules today…

1. Be transparent, fair and easy to understand

Not only do CX leaders keep fees and balance requirements to a minimum, but they also ensure their customers know what those fees and balance requirements are. For these leaders, gone are the days of hidden fees and opaque, complex contractual language.

They recognise that clear, open communications and decision-making criteria that is clear, to the point, and easy to understand is the best way to win and, perhaps more importantly, keep their customers. We all know that banks need to make money. But when it comes something as important as your money, you need to trust your institution to have your best interests at heart while they do so.

2. Provide advice, don’t just sell products

Gone are the days when customers frequented a bank for daily money needs, thanks to online and mobile banking. But leaders and their customers understand that physical branches are not obsolete. They recognise the future of brick-and-mortar branches is to be advice centers. These physical locations are a great place to serve customer needs for professional, practical, and personal advice for their financial decision making.

At leading banks, products take a backseat to advice. Leaders know customers don’t want to feel that they’re being “sold” to. Plus, aggressive cross-selling tactics can put short-term profits ahead of long-term relationships — though an extreme example, witness Wells Fargo’s huge reputational loss and an ex-CEO hit with a personal fine of over $17M and banned from banking for life.

3. Make money easy to access

In today’s “digital-first-but-not-digital-only” world, online and mobile banking is a non-negotiable for today’s consumer. That’s why truly customer-centric banks make money access seamless across all touchpoints. Leaders know that customers want to deposit checks, transfer funds, withdraw cash, and make payments — and they want to do so quickly and easily.

Take ATMs, for example. Their number and accessibility is one of the top four factors customers consider when choosing their bank. Compared to their competitors, CX leaders simplify how customers access their money — from ATMs and mobile apps to websites and branches, they recognise that customers want their money when they need it and how they want it, with no friction, hoops or hassles to go through to get it.

4. Leverage (the right) innovative technologies

Keeping abreast of the latest technological advances is tough. But experience-focused banks know it’s a necessity. That’s why top banks are adding partnerships and integrations with apps like Zelle to make it easy for customers to send money to family and friends on the go.

They’re also empowering customers to pay from their phone or smartwatch, using programs like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, and… the list goes on. Unsurprisingly, several of Forrester’s top-rated direct and multichannel banks for customer experience have partnerships with innovative tech partners like Zelle and others. CX leaders understand that making it as easy as possible to send or receive money isn’t just something customers want; it’s something they need.

5. Embrace AI… but don’t ditch humans

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the game in data-driven product and service areas like investing as well as intelligent customisation of customer interactions across apps and services. For example, if your most frequent transaction is to deposit a check, then your ATM or mobile app screen shows that first.

Banking leaders also use AI to track trends and patterns so their staff doesn’t have to, freeing them up to manage more accounts and better serve customers instead. But it’s the top banks that use it most; while 75% of banks with assets exceeding $100 billion actively use AI, less than half of banks below $100 billion do so. Opportunity — or threat — for smaller banks? After all, most customers don’t want to talk to a person; they favor digital channels. Of course, this holds true only until they do want to talk to a person — then they want to do so immediately.

6. Provide hassle- and friction-free problem resolution

While all banks try to avoid problems, that doesn’t stop them from happening. Which is why true experience leaders focus on how to consistently and quickly resolve them when they do happen. After all, customers crave timely, effective resolutions… but don’t often get them. In fact, recent Gallup research found that only one in four customers was satisfied with their bank’s problem resolutions in the last six months.

More than almost any type of interaction, poor problem resolution can destroy a bank’s relationship with their customers. This same research found that more than 80% of customers who were dissatisfied with their problem resolution were “actively disengaged” from the offending bank. Unsurprisingly, there are powerful links between problem resolution and customer engagement. And there are equally powerful incentives for banks to make this capability a priority and to get it right.

In banking, there are lots of options available and little obvious difference between financial products and services. For customers, the decision-making criteria on which institution to choose are clear: winners are those with better experiences, less friction, more seamless interactions, and clear communications with their customers.

So if you’re in banking — or honestly, almost any financial services sector (think insurance, mortgage, investments, etc.) —following these six rules can literally change your game, driving increased loyalty, revenue growth, and profit.

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