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How a Solid Technology Foundation is Helping Financial Services Firms Improve the Customer Experience

December 17, 2019

How financial services firms are transforming the banking experience with technology.

Digital transformation is enabling stronger connections between businesses and technology to move faster and be more responsive to the needs of their customers. In financial services, that means offering products and services that not only help customers meet their financial goals, but also enable organizations to provide richer interactions that go beyond the ordinary business/customer relationship.

The first phase of digital transformation laid the path through adoption of cloud, mobile, big data and social—which, combined, provided a platform for organizations to achieve greater operational efficiencies, better business insights and deeper customer engagements. The next phase involves technologies that promote data-driven intelligence for enhanced real-time decision-making, as well as those that enable or enhance automation to drive even more improved outcomes in financial services.

Creating a better customer experience is at the heart of a growing number of digital transformation projects. According to a report by research firm IDC, more than half (54%) of companies surveyed have recently completed a digital transformation initiative to meet the changing wants and needs of their customers.1 Most, if not all, the technologies included in such digital strategies rely heavily on data to enable deeper and better-quality customer engagements.

Smart financial services organizations understand that transformative technologies require a solid foundation that addresses performance, reliability and affordability, which will enable them to grow their business faster and more securely and position them to take advantage of future technology advancements that add to the customer experience.

Customer Experience from the Inside Out

The importance of customer experience cannot be understated. Beyond simply making the customer happy, a high-quality customer experience can build customer loyalty, increase revenues and more.

Savvy companies understand the importance of customer experience and are willing to pay for it—worldwide spending on customer experience technologies are expected to reach $508 billion in 2019, an almost 8% increase over 2018,2 according to another IDC report. Banking and discrete manufacturing tied as the industries spending the second highest amount on customer experience technologies, following retail, the report noted.

Clearly, the importance of customer experience is well-understood in the financial services sector. In fact, according to McKinsey & Co., three-quarters of the 50 largest global banks are working on some form of customer experience transformation.3 In addition, the company noted that “one bank that undertook a customer-experience transformation concluded that the lifetime profitability of a satisfied customer willing to actively recommend the bank to his or her friends was five to eight times greater than one who had a negative perception.”4

Customer experience in the financial services sector can mean anything from employing bots available anytime to answer customer questions and provide basic information to providing biometric login so users don’t have to remember passwords. For employees, it can mean automating time-consuming tasks that take them away from focusing on more value-added, customer-centric activities, or integrating systems to provide a single view of a customer’s entire financial portfolio— including accounts, loans and even past inquiries— to suggest relevant services or provide better, more personalized service.

Here are some ways customer experience can help in the financial services sector:

Build customer loyalty: From streamlining the onboarding process to resolving disputes quickly, organizations that recognize the value of the end- to-end customer experience, both online and in-person, will gain a more loyal customer base. In fact, according to Qualtrics research, about 70% of banking is done digitally, yet three-quarters of dissatisfied customers said their desire to switch banks is due to “expectation failures” occurring in-person at the bank.5 Technologies such as AI-enabled customer relationship management platforms that can provide a seamless customer experience that spans both online and in-person and deliver data in real-time to assist in problem resolution are critical in building and retaining customer loyalty.

Improve employee satisfaction: Many employees in financial services interact with customers daily, and when customers aren’t happy, those employees will bear the brunt of that displeasure. What’s more, employees saddled with repetitive, mind-numbing tasks are less inclined to do anything that will promote their company to existing and potential customers. Automation coupled with analytics programs that provide relevant customer data in real-time to resolve issues not only can make for loyal customers but also happier, more productive employees.

Increase revenue: A positive customer experience can reduce customer churn, which means financial services firms can spend less on replacing those customers. Instead, the money can be spent on acquiring additional customers and on technologies and services such as predictive analytics and artificial intelligence that further improve the customer experience, leading to greater customer loyalty.

Reduce costs: Automation, real-time analytics and other technologies can help organizations streamline their operations and uncover tasks that don’t require human interaction, such as compliance checks or assessing a customer’s creditworthiness. As a result, not only can an organization save money, but also improve employee satisfaction.

Technologies Helping Advance

Customer Experience in Financial Services Technologies that provide data-driven intelligence for enhanced decision-making and those that enable or enhance automation in particular are helping financial services organizations move forward. In fact, McKinsey & Co. has identified three types of technologies that show the most promise in the financial sector6:

  • Automation and robotics, to help improve processes and reduce the amount of manpower spent on redundant tasks.

  • Data visualization, to provide information in real-time for better decision-making.

  • Advanced analytics for finance operations, to provide more intelligence for better decision- making, and for overall business, to uncover areas of opportunity within an organization.

Automation and Robotics: The McKinsey report noted that finance business leaders believe as much as 40% of finance-related tasks can be automated.7 Such tasks include general accounting actions, cash disbursement, financial controls and external reporting, tax analysis and revenue management. When automated, such activities free employees to focus on tasks that add greater value to the organization’s bottom line.

Automation paired with artificial intelligence can be useful for customer experience in the form of bots to provide account information or answers to general questions and even to assist customers with loan applications or other activities. That on-demand help can be critical in ensuring customer interactions are simple, seamless and relatively stress-free.

For example, Bank of America is using a bot to engage with customers and provide help when necessary. “Erica” can assist with transactions, account information, checking credit scores and online bill payments, among other tasks. The bot understands both voice and text, enabling Bank of America customers to attend to their banking needs at any time.

Chase, meanwhile, has set up kiosks within its branches to enable customers to self-service their accounts, and has set up “Everyday Express” locations with kiosks and an “advice bar” for new accounts or services.8 Automation allows customers to do what they need to do quickly without having to wait for a teller or an account rep.

Data visualization: At its core, data visualization provides users with real-time information that
is accessible to everyone, from the customer to the bank teller to the investment adviser. Data is presented in easy-to-understand charts and visual dashboards tailored to each user’s needs.

Data visualization can be especially helpful in creating a positive customer experience online. For example, customers logging on to their checking and savings accounts can be presented with a colorful graph that shows how they’ve spent their money and even flag transactions that the bank has deemed questionable based on historical data.

Advanced analytics: If data is the lifeblood of the customer experience, advanced analytics are what turns the data into actionable intelligence. In financial services, analytics can be used for internal tasks such as spotting fraudulent activity, identifying customers who are prone to delinquent payments and analyzing potential risks associated with certain customers or transactions.

In the customer experience realm, analytics can be used in a number of ways, such as reducing churn by identifying customers who are at risk of leaving or recommending personalized services that are based on factors such as customer profiles, preferences, buying history, demographics and even behavior.

Customer Experience and the Network

To fully realize the power of the technologies that advance customer experience, many financial services organizations are adding or upgrading their networking infrastructure in ways that don’t require “ripping and replacing” their current technologies and enable them to derive continued value. Adding software-defined networking to complement their existing MPLS network, for example, can add needed capacity to run data-heavy workloads without stressing the network and increase the speed of data ingest from and response to all points on the network.

Likewise, edge networking is coming into its own among organizations dealing with data-intensive workloads. Pushing network intelligence to the edge will enable data to be processed at the edge of the network—on edge devices such as routers or switches—rather than at the data center, reducing bandwidth needs and accelerating response. Cloud and on-premises data centers and ultimately the customer experience can benefit from reduced latency and increased processing power afforded by edge networking.

Financial services organizations that don’t have the ability to upgrade their networks due to cost, capacity or other reasons, can turn to managed services providers to “fill in the gaps” in their current infrastructure. Managed services can benefit network, security and IT operations and business analytics, enabling organizations of all sizes and business models to take advantage of the latest in digital transformation technologies for superior customer experience without spending all their time and efforts on managing their networks.

Conclusion

Customers today expect their experience to be the same on any device, online and in-person. Financial services organizations, therefore, are embracing new technologies and services that address the increasingly important customer experience to retain current and attract new clients.

Building on a digital foundation that includes cloud, mobile, big data and social, financial services firms are expanding their technology portfolios to include those that promote data- driven intelligence for enhanced real-time decision-making, as well as those that enable or enhance automation to drive even more improved outcomes in financial services.

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[1]“Empathy at Scale How Data and Technology Will Fuel More Human Customer Experiences,” IDC, November 2018
https://cbcommunity.comcast.com/browse-all/details/empathy-at-scale-how-data-and-technology-will-fuel-more-human-customer-experiences

[2]“Spending on Customer Experience Technologies Will Reach $641 Billion in 2022, According to New IDC Spending Guide,” press release, IDC, Aug. 6, 2019
https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS45422819

[3]Nicolas Maechler, Jonathan Michael, Robert Schiff, and Thomas Rüdiger Smith, “Managing a customer-experience transformation in banking,” McKinsey & Co., October 2018
https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/financial-services/our-insights/managing-a-customer-experience-transformation-in-banking

[4]Ibid

[5]“The Banking Customer Report,” Qualtrics,
https://www.qualtrics.com/customer-experience/banking-report/

[6]Kapil Chandra, Frank Plaschke and Ishaan Seth, “Memo to the CFO: Get in front of digital finance—or get left back,” McKinsey & Co., July 2018
https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/memo-to-the-cfo-get-in-front-of-digital-finance-or-get-left-back

[7]Ibid

[8]Tanaya Macheel, “Chase is rolling out advice-driven ‘Express’ branches next month,” Tearsheet, January 2018
https://tearsheet.co/modern-banking-experience/chase-is-rolling-out-advice-driven-express-branches-next-month/

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