Money fuels the finance industry, but there would be none coming in without loyal clients to hand it over. Although cash may be the reason you’re in business, customers are the more important commodity when it comes to keeping that business afloat.
Trust plays a huge role in finance and banking. When it comes to protecting, investing and being responsible for customers’ money, they need to trust in the financial services company. Although years of experience, impressive credentials and exclusive benefits might draw in a crowd, nothing will secure and retain a loyal client base like providing an excellent and user-friendly customer experience.
Customer trends are constantly shifting based on the needs and wants of the modern buyer, but solving issues promptly, personalized customer service, embracing digital technology and proactive support are key customer service expectations that dominate CS in the financial services industry.
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What Does Customer Service Look Like in the Financial Services Industry?
The financial services industry, which includes commercial and retail banking, and wealth management, has become a hub for innovative ways to improve CX. As financial services organizations continue to feel pressure from competitors and the pandemic-driven shift to digital services, they are relying on CX to set themselves apart.
There is so much to keep in mind when trying to create the ideal customer experience for your clients. Customers expect banks and lenders to be honest about their product; they want retail financial service providers to respond to their issues quickly; and they have grown accustomed to instant gratification.
No matter which expectations you choose to prioritize in your CS strategy, it’s important to avoid getting overwhelmed by starting small and building from there. Here are seven key components to building a financial customer service strategy.
- Measure Your Customer Satisfaction
Before you begin mapping out a financial customer service strategy, it’s important to understand the state of your current customer satisfaction. Is your company meeting customer expectations? Do your wealth advisors build and sustain relationships with their clients? How are customers finding your financial services and why are they choosing (or not choosing) to use them? These are all important questions that can make a huge impact on your CS strategy moving forward.
Get started on understanding your current CS performance by determining your customer satisfaction (CSAT) score. A CSAT score is one of the most insightful customer service metrics. It’s used to measure a customer’s feelings immediately following an interaction with an employee. CSAT is measured through a Likert scale question.
CSAT score is just one of many tools that can be used to measure customer satisfaction. As you decide which metrics are best for your company, monitoring customer satisfaction will help you to identify what you’re already doing well and stick to those strategies. The data will also help you to uncover new pain points and gain insight into areas that need improvement.
Professionalism in banking and finance is vital on every level, starting with maintaining effective regulation and compliance. A healthy, sustainable and quality financial services organization should keep up with and adhere to any and all local laws and regulations wherever they operate.
While following regulation is an important first step to trustworthiness, these measures alone cannot guarantee customers will be treated fairly or that market participants will act with honesty and integrity. It’s equally important to employ people who have the client’s best interest at heart. Intentionally hire advisors and financial services providers that care for the financial health of their clients and have a proven history of ethical and compassionate behavior.
Focus on building a company culture that is receptive to feedback, invites mistakes to be recognized and learned from and understands professionalism is the normal and expected standard. Consider going beyond compliance training and incorporating professional skills training into your company onboarding process as well.
From effective communication, to time management and conflict resolution — building these essential skills throughout your firm will have a huge impact on overall performance and customer satisfaction.
Professionalism is so much more than following the baseline rules. Customers not only expect your company to comply with regulation requirements, but they also expect to be treated with compassionate customer service and given truly caring CX.
- Industry Knowledge
Customer-facing employees should be trained on industry-specific knowledge and learn the details of the financial solutions offered: from unfamiliar industry jargon and niche financial services CS needs, to checking and savings account options and tax and estate planning services.
Whether hiring people with industry experience or training beginners, all new employees should experience the same training suited to your business and be required to take refresher courses to keep their skills sharp and up-to-date.
Employees should immediately apply their new knowledge in practice situations. Studies show that if we just teach someone how something is done without actually having them apply the new knowledge on their own, they’ll forget the majority of what they’ve learned. Combat this common training mistake by focusing on real-world application of knowledge in training courses, and make sure employees directly apply what they’re learning in exercise scenarios like practice client calls.
Building employees’ competency and skill-sets will strengthen their confidence. Confident employees feel better prepared to do their job and provide better financial customer service to clients, creating a higher quality customer experience company wide.
- Build Trust With Your Clients
Trust is one of your most important customer service tools in banking and wealth management, if not the most important, and building client trust should be at the center of your CS strategy. A lot of distrust in the financial services industry stems from feeling as though information is being withheld, so it’s important to be transparent with clients.
Of course there are often situations where a client cannot be promised a definite outcome. For example, if your company is investing a client’s money and that client wants to know what the outcome of their investment will be 10 years down the line, no one can really say what will happen to that investment. However, avoiding the question can come off as purposefully withholding or dishonest.
Navigate situations like this by being upfront with your clients. Inform them that the outcome of an investment relies on a number of factors, and educate them on the historical data and trends that are driving your predictions, while again reminding them that these are only predictions.
Another trust building tool is to set expectations early. Be transparent about your firm’s various rates and fees from the beginning, and communicate with your client that the best outcome in many situations is dependent on outside factors. Being upfront and honest with clients gives them the information they need to make informed decisions.
Empowering clients to make the right decisions for themselves will build trust, while keeping proactive customer support and communication top of mind will maintain (and improve) customer loyalty. As you cultivate these relationships, continue to keep your clients informed of their personal finances. Whether good, bad, or neutral news, be open, honest and direct.
High on the modern customer expectation list is a personalized experience, which is why customizing the client journey can be an important tool in financial CS. Research shows that with personalization customers feel in control of customer service conversations, less stressed and defeated and more empowered.
Disrupt the common idea that financial institutions provide detached, impersonal customer interactions and don’t care about individual needs. Remembering your clients’ names and offering them customized solutions is a good start, but utilizing technological resources could elevate your entire CX.
CRM (customer relationship management) systems, AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) algorithms can help financial services companies understand customers better and use technology — from automated messages to apps — to provide personalized CS.
Integrating personalized financial services into your firm’s CS strategy leads to more meaningful conversations, enhanced client trust and overall improved customer satisfaction.
- CX: Balance of Service and Sales
Many banking and wealth management positions are customer-service based, some are solely to bring in sales and others fall somewhere in between. For example, financial advisors may have a portion of their pay tied to signing up clients for a specific service; however, they also need to provide great customer service to maintain loyal and trusted client relationships.
Employees should be encouraged to sell with the benefit of the client in mind, rather than prioritizing their own personal gain from the sale. Acting in the customer’s best interest comes off as more authentic, leads to higher customer satisfaction, and will, in turn, yield more sales.
Keep in mind that employees must feel empowered to prioritize customer needs, which starts at the top. Making service just as important as sales to your employees’ sense of value to the company sets a workplace culture that selling is not their only goal.
- Get Buy in From C-Suite
Building a better CX requires the support of senior executives. So before rolling out a new financial customer service strategy, it’s important to get corporate buy-in from C-suite. Understand what is important to each stakeholder, and start small by getting individual people interested in your strategy for providing quality CX. Work closely with individual stakeholders who support your ideas, and start to build evidence (through research and the results of your own efforts) that calls attention to important data and strategy results.
Focus on getting stakeholders to understand the benefits that making the right CS choices can bring, and make sure to show them the, ideally, positive results of those benefits. With C-suite onboard, senior executives can bolster your initiatives and elevate the importance of the customer by showing employees how their CS affects CSAT and profitability.
Make the Shift to Modern CX with Kustomer
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