Operations

Improving Sales & Support Initiatives in the Financial Services Industry

improving-sales-&-support-initiatives-in-the-financial-services-industry

Financial services are intangible, and as such, they can be challenging to sell and support. Unlike a physical product, you can’t see them or hold them in your hand. Also, a lot of people find the nuances of financial services difficult to understand. People tend to pay more attention to financial services when they receive a windfall of money or get closer to retirement and they have to make decisions. Businesses in the financial services realm have to take a proactive approach to sales and support to remain competitive and viable.

Financial services are not only important to consumers, the financial services industry plays an important role in the financial health of our country, which has a direct effect on the national economy. 

Generally, consumers want to work with a financial services advisor they trust. The relationship between a financial services representative and a consumer begins at the time of the sale and continues on with support. To achieve customer success, sales and support services are vital along every step of the customer journey.

The Importance of Sales for Financial Services

Free-flowing capital and liquidity are essential to growing our economy. The financial services industry is instrumental in managing financial risks on a national level and keeping the economy strong.

When the economy is good, workers typically earn higher wages. A strong economy gives consumers the confidence to spend more and borrow for large purchases like homes and cars. When the majority of consumers feel financially secure, it helps the country prosper. 

The reverse is also true. A trend in poor financial sales leads to a decline in the economy. Hints of economic decline can lead to a national recession, such as the Great Recession that occurred after the financial crisis of 2008. A chain reaction of issues typically occurs when the economy starts to decline. Lenders tighten their guidelines, the unemployment rate increases, wages decrease, and consumers stop spending, or at least slow down a little.

The financial services industry includes more than just banks. These industries are also part of the financial services industry:

  • Investment services
  • Credit unions
  • Private lending companies
  • Insurance services
  • Tax and accounting services

After a period of declining economic activity, the central banks tend to drop their interest rates to ignite economic growth. This can be an especially important time for financial services salespeople for making improvements in the sales cycle.

The Importance of Customer Support for Financial Services

Sales in the financial services industry aren’t always easy to come by. Banks and other companies that offer financial services generally offer many of the same products and services. Often, there isn’t very much room to compete on price. The largest competitive advantage that banks and other financial institutions have is ensuring that their customers are happy and satisfied.   

In choosing their financial service advisors, several issues rise to the surface when it comes to selecting a financial services provider:

  1. Personalized service
  2. Someone they trust to help them and solve their problems
  3. Good communication
  4. Availability

In certain types of industries, customers don’t mind dealing with a stranger every time they call. That doesn’t work as well in the financial services industry. Money gives people a sense of security. They feel a stronger sense of security in financial matters when the person answering the phone knows their name and has a familiarity with their account.

The Importance of Personalization 

Personalized services go hand-in-hand with trust and relationship building. Trust in a financial services provider only happens after having multiple good experiences over time. Consumers are more likely to be interested in learning about new financial products or services when they’re convinced that they need to product or service, rather than being pushed into the latest product that the firm is promoting.

Consumers are usually fairly reasonable. They’re aware that problems and miscommunications occasionally happen. When a problem occurs, they just want to know that their financial service provider is willing to correct the problem quickly and keep them informed. Too many mistakes will cause customer churn.

Convenience, speed, and availability are also important issues for financial service consumers. When they have a question or a problem, they need assistance right away. Banks have many ways to interact with customers including online banking, drive-up bank service, mobile banking, phone banking, and ATMs. They enjoy working with banks that communicate with them via email, chat, and text in addition to the telephone. 

How Financial Services Sales and Support Teams Are Interrelated

While sales teams and support teams operate independently of one another, neither of them operates in a vacuum. While each team performs a separate and distinct function, they rely on each other in various ways. Sales teams work with consumers to help them identify and access the products they need to grow and protect their investments. Customer support services back up sales teams, building on relationships to ensure their customers are satisfied for the long term. Customer support teams will have a difficult time providing good customer service in cases where there was a bad fit between the product and the customer. Sales teams will have a hard time selling additional products and getting referrals when customer service teams fail to meet customer expectations. When each team delivers a personalized customer experience, they develop insights that can help each other strengthen the relationship as a whole.

Sales teams and customer support teams share the mission of acquiring and retaining customers. Marketing and sales alignment helps to create a more comfortable, user-friendly buying experience. Generally, consumers want a seamless experience between sales teams and support teams, and any disruption in the customer experience has the potential for churn. The right digital tools work to align sales and customer service teams and result in a more satisfying customer experience.

How to Identify Weaknesses in Your Sales Strategy 

No matter how well you develop your sales strategy, you can always find ways to improve it. Your competitors are likely working on improving their sales strategies, so you’ll want to continually stay ahead of the game.

The following list gives you some of the areas upcoming weaknesses and efficiencies in sales strategies: 

  • Lead generation workflow
  • Sales funnel workflow
  • Sales training in product knowledge
  • Upselling, cross-selling, and social selling
  • Asking for referrals
  • Sales training and understanding the target customer
  • Peer mentorship 

Financial service providers that are proactive in making outbound calls demonstrate that they’re actively managing their customers’ accounts. Customers are pleasantly surprised when their financial service representatives reach out to them to ask if they have any questions or if they’re interested in new products or services.

Call center analytics and customer satisfaction surveys will tell you whether any clients or categories of clients aren’t getting the attention they expect. Through feedback from your call center sales agents, customer service agents, and clients you may be able to identify weaknesses in product knowledge or in the process of sales prospecting. Automated surveys provide an easy way to gauge customer satisfaction. 

Even if things have been going well for a long time, weaknesses can emerge at any time. The right cloud-based phone system and software integrations will help you turn weaknesses into strengths at the earliest opportunity.

How to Improve Sales Performance

Legacy financial programs can be complex and challenging to navigate. It will be easier to make improvements in your sales processes when you use technology to bring software solutions together to form a single source of data. The right cloud-based phone system and digital tools give you the appropriate analytics to help you target specific areas to improve your sales team’s performance. 

Here are some specific ways and areas to improve sales performance:

  • Set up an outbound call center to proactively pursue leads and follow up on referrals.
  • Consider using distributed teams so you have sales experts in various geographical areas (may also give you coverage in additional time zones).
  • Use call-tracking software to analyze calls.
  • Scale your call center to minimize wait times.
  • Use sales automation programs to help you move leads through the sales funnel quickly and track them.
  • Call center software will help your call agents personalize calls by putting the customer’s name, contact information, and call history in front of them.
  • Merge call information with calendars and CRM systems to proactively reach out to customers at regular intervals and strengthen relationships.
  • Cloud phone system features such as call routing and call extensions assist you in getting calls to the right salesperson from the time of the initial call.
  • Use sales automation software for gamification—establishing online leaderboards and sales contests.

Once a sale has been completed, your customers will interact with your customer support team at some point. Let’s take a look at how to identify and address weaknesses within your customer service strategies.

How to Identify Weaknesses in Your Customer Service Strategy

Your customer service strategies typically generate from your strategic planning activities. If you use a SWOT analysis, pay close attention to list of weaknesses, and determine how your customer service team may be contributing to your weaknesses. 

These are some of the common weaknesses in customer service strategies: 

  • Inadequate or insufficient training for call center agents.
  • Failure to follow best practices for call centers.
  • Not optimizing your call center with the most appropriate voice features and software integrations.
  • Failing to communicate the company culture to call center agents, especially for those who work on remote teams or distributed teams.
  • Not communicating to your call center agents and salespeople how your business fits into the overall market.
  • Failing to position your business for future growth in communicating that vision to your salespeople and customer service agents.
  • Not gathering feedback from customers and from customer service agents to identify areas for improvement.
  • Failing to monitor customer complaints and gauge customer satisfaction.

Your company will always face a certain number of external threats; however, weaknesses are internal. It’s often helpful to network with other industry professionals to learn about the weaknesses they’re facing and how they’re overcoming them. One way to do that is to join industry associations and engage in networking.

How to Improve Support Performance

Improving customer support performance in your call center won’t seem so daunting when you take stock of the various touchpoints where your customers connect with your brand. Each juncture gives you an opportunity to enhance customer support performance. 

Here’s a checklist of 7 things that you can do to improve customer support: 

  1. Establish target personas for your products and use them to inform your sales and support agents. Develop profiles that include things like age, gender, occupation, interests, and anything else that seems relevant so call center agents can view them in light of a real consumer.
  2. Personalize calls and work to develop relationships with customers. Don’t just treat them like a number.
  3. Offer incentives such as a free product, upgrade, or loyalty rewards.
  4. Make the customer experience simple and pleasant. Find ways to decrease the customer’s effort such as using their most preferred communication channel.
  5. Verify their phone number and email address to keep contact information current.
  6. Aim for first-call resolution.
  7. Ask for customer feedback or use automated surveys to gauge satisfaction. Make improvements based on the feedback.

Keep making improvements in your call center as new issues emerge.

Creating Alignment Between Sales and Marketing

Customers get a more comfortable and satisfying buying experience when sales teams help them get the products they want, and customer service agents follow through with answering questions and solving problems. Each of them makes a personal connection with your customers, and with that in mind, there are a variety of ways that both teams can support each other. 

Take a look at these 5 things you can change starting today:

  • Salespeople should continue investing in customer relationships even after they close a sale. Customers will form a greater emotional connection with your brand when they regularly hear from sales and customer service agents.
  • Train customer support agents on how the sales process works. For example, customer support agents should be aware of sales promotions and be familiar with circumstances where they can offer a discount.
  • Give sales and customer support agents access to the same caller data and history in real-time to avoid confusion.
  • Train customer service agents on how to identify opportunities to upsell and cross-sell. This doesn’t mean they should try to make a sale with every call. Focus on identifying circumstances where an additional sale would be relevant or helpful. The customer service agent might even be able to send the call over to the salesperson to close the deal.
  • Train customer support agents to flag happy customers who can create brand loyalty by asking them to offer testimonials, reviews, or referrals.

Improving the Customer Experience for Your Financial Service

As you seek to improve the customer experience for your financial service clients, you can bridge the gap between sales teams and customer support teams’ bag utilizing a VoIP phone system and the right software solutions. 

A modern phone system that has a robust offering of voice phone features is a vital component of your sales and customer support call center. The apps in the Aircall App Marketplace give many options for software integrations so you can develop workflows that keep your sales and support teams aligned.

See how these software solutions can add new functions and capabilities for your call center:

  • Sales teams
  • Support teams

Overall, when your financial service customers have a high trust-level with your brand, they’ll be sure to call you first if they want to open a new account or try a new service. Keeping your customers engaged and happy is the key to success in the financial service industry. Happy customers will refer others and that gives your sales and support teams additional opportunities to do what they do best.

Special thanks to our friends at Aircall for their insights on this topic.

About the author

Steve Hutt

Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA. In the early days of online commerce, he achieved Power Seller status at eBay, which then propelled him to become a founding partner of VisionPros.com, a contact lens, and eyewear retailer. After a successful exit from his startup, he embarked on his next journey into agency work in e-commerce and digital strategy.

Currently, Steve is part of the Merchant Success Team at Shopify Plus, where he is a Strategic Advisor helping brands continue to grow and scale with the Shopify Commerce Platform.

To maintain a competitive edge and life of learning mantra, Steve also hosts and produces a top-rated weekly podcast show, eCommerce Fastlane, where he interviews Shopify partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, to help Shopify brands build and scale lifetime customer loyalty.

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