The past couple of years in financial services have brought a lot of discussions about the client experience. In fact, that was the topic of my interview last fall with Martin Lange, Director of Client Experience Strategy at BNY Mellon. Is the sudden focus on customer experience all hype?
“Any of us who have been in client experience for a long time would say it’s been around for awhile,” Lange said, adding, “But the industry is looking for new ways of differentiation. And new ways of differentiation– as we’ve learned from other industries– is the client experience.”
So why is a focus on customer experience more important now than last year, last month (or even last week)? It comes down to differentiation.
Last year we wrote about fintechs vying for customer deposits and mindshare by boosting interest rates on savings accounts up around the 3% mark. With the Federal Reserve cutting rates to near-zero, that strategy will be increasingly difficult to follow through with.
Recognizing that this is a difficult time for everyone, banks can offer consumers two simple things that may be hard to come by to improve the customer experience (and no, it’s not toilet paper).
The first is kindness. When customer service representatives have a kind and friendly disposition over the phone it can bring customers a bright spot, especially if they are in isolation from other human beings. Kind words in email and social media correspondence are also easy ways to retain consumer attention.
Financial services companies can also differentiate themselves with compassion. Waiving certain fees, especially when they are small, can be an easy way to only maintain a customer when they are struggling. Even better, banks can follow in the footsteps of Goldman Sachs, GMC, Ford, and other financial institutions by waiving payments for a month without charging interest. When the economy improves clients will remember which firms stood by them during hard times.
When it comes to challenges in creating a stand-out client experience, Lange noted two hurdles. The first is attribution. Firms need to know that a spike in sales or client acquisition is attributed to certain actions or events, such as an improved user interface, and was not driven by other changes such as pricing or an altered service structure.
“The other challenge is a culture challenge,” said Lange. He explained that instead of structuring operations around process improvements, where employees fall into the habit of looking for the next thing to fix, firms need to be proactive and design an experience first and allow the design to follow that experience.
Leading with a design idea, Lange said, “can be emotional, and it’s based on empathy. It’s not based on Excel spreadsheets, which the industry is very used to… there are human beings that are interacting and we want to design for human beings.”
Check out the full interview with Lange below: