What financial institutions do you know that have been viewed as the epitome of trust and empathy for the last 243 years?
Building societies, owned by their ‘members’, offer banking and related financial services such as savings and mortgage lending. The first of its kind, Ketley’s Building Society, was founded by Richard Ketley in Birmingham in 1775. This was part of a local movement to foster innovation and economic success, and was considered radical – far removed from the received wisdom that profit should be the key force driving financial institutions.
Fast-forward 243 years; what characteristics do you typically liken building societies to? Old-fashioned, stuffy or overpriced? Despite this, to this day there is still one label they can be proud of – they are genuinely focused on their members, driven by long-term relationships and attending to their members’ needs. Of all the industries, reports suggest they have a very genuine association with customer engagement – and are uniquely placed to achieve this.
It will come as no surprise to any of us that the business world is currently facing an interesting challenge when it comes to customer engagement. As customers expect more, they are demanding higher levels of service and value and, according to a recent PWC Retail Banking 2020 report, the customer level of trust is currently at an all-time low for the big name financial service providers.
What can industries, such as the financial industry, who do not necessarily have the ingrained “customer first” ethos of a building society, do to win that all-important customer experience race in 2019?
Stay relevant amongst competition
Whilst often difficult to achieve, customer engagement is fundamental driver for all industries, institutions and organisations. Best practice customer engagement needs to stand out and be seen to set an industry standard amongst competitors.
Every business will come up against dynamic market entrants, who have influence and dominance over customer experience expectations due to their scale and reach. Characteristics and services will include seamless, advanced technologies such as apps and websites that make customers lives that little bit easier. For the majority of businesses however, budgets and resource can often hold innovation back but there are ways all companies can replicate this. Take a step back, look at the customer journey, and consider if the experience feels like a partnership between provider and customer.
The idea of partnership runs through building societies DNA. Therefore taking a leaf out of their book, FS businesses should try to understand the customer as much as possible by using insights from online and offline touchpoints, to ensure you meet the customer as soon as their need for the service arises.
Once this audit has been made and the customer journey pain points have been outlined, personalisation will be the key for businesses to tie this altogether. Ensuring all services, communications and business outputs are tailored to the individual customer throughout both online and offline interactions will create a thoughtful service, which keeps customers coming back repeatedly.
Letting go of the outdated channel approach
One of the biggest barriers to success businesses come up against is adapting to constantly evolving customer expectations. Today’s customer expects a seamless experience across all channels, based solely on their preference at that moment in time. Meaning wherever a customer enters the journey, the channel communication has to be stellar without exception.
Whether it is buying something from your favourite brand every month, booking a cleaner, ordering a takeaway or having a quarterly retained client relationship, these are all pivotal customer conversations no matter what the focus. However, this dialogue is more than just data orientated and it has never been more important to get it right. A recent study conducted by Accenture highlighted that 89% of customers become frustrated with having to repeat their story to multiple representatives and many old fashioned businesses are often guilty of this.
Therefore, the relationship a customer has with your business will be fortified by demonstrating an in-depth knowledge of individual accounts and transactions. Also ensuring every interaction is tailored to the conversations they have had, or could need to have and in a timely, friendly manner is very important.
Mindful engagement will equate to business growth
In a recent Bain & Company report, they discovered that slow adaptation to new technologies could be responsible for holding financial institutions back. For banks, this means they are “vulnerable to losing the special status they once enjoyed”.
Customers across a range of industries expect a high standard of customer service wherever they part with their money, and their pursuit of value means they feel no loyalty to any one institution. With tons of choice and options, switching companies to find a better deal is a click away, if the service is not adequate.
Let us look back to 1775
One of the most important factors all businesses can take from building societies' traditional ethos, timely check-ins. When customers see incoming calls from a business, they can only assume that their contract is up for renewal or something has gone wrong – why else would they be contacting you?
Reinstalling the human element within business is essential to form customer loyalty. By engaging in conversation with your customer, by observing and listening to crucial signals from personal conversations with customers - and transforming these into business objectives and goals - companies will know the right platforms to invest in, to understand customer intention, and deliver what the customer really wants. This is something that has been in the foundations of building societies since 1775 and is an attribute FS providers can take on to set them apart in 2019 – when they have the opportunity to set the bar for customer experience again.
It is time all businesses see customers as the sociable, reactive human beings they are and not just a financial bottom line.