Confirmit - Time for confirmation: raise the bar for customer experience

Banks are not only competing with other financial institutions and new market entrants encroaching on their traditional territory, but also with the biggest names from other industry sectors in the area of customer experience. The big question is how to turn banks operating on old technology into modern and customer-focused service providers without prohibitively expensive and time-consuming IT programmes. Claire Sporton of Confirmit gives some insight.

Many years ago, the dynamic between banks and their customers was very different. Then, the banks were in charge, but now, customers are in the driving seat. That is the idea, at least, though the reality may be lagging somewhere behind.

Customers know what great service is like because they see it every day from big retailers, technology companies and the leading names in many industry sectors. Now, they expect the same from their financial services providers, and the banks that can outshine the competition in the area of customer experience are those that will take the lead.

"There are always a significant number of challenges in the financial services industry, but the biggest one at the moment is around customer expectation. Expectations have always been high, but because of people's experience with other industries they have risen even higher. They want the same level of customer experience from their bank as they get from organisations like Ritz Carlton, Apple and John Lewis," says Claire Sporton, VP of customer experience management at Confirmit.

"The industry has been a regulated environment for many, many years, and a key challenge was to accept and engage with the regulators. I think we're getting there to a certain degree and the regulatory environment is helping us from a customer experience perspective. It is helping us to understand that we must listen to our customers better and that we are visibly acting on their feedback," she adds.

Confirmit helps financial institutions create stronger customer relationships. Its 'Voice of the Customer' solutions allow banks to better capture feedback and understand what their customers want. By using that information to shape product and service offerings, banks can improve loyalty and boost positive word-of-mouth brand marketing.

Programme insight

The key ingredient is responsiveness and banks must respond quickly when customers raise issues about products or services. Confirmit can help banks avoid the substandard customer experience that might arise from complex internal processes by providing insight into the blockages that hold them back from resolving issues quickly. The customer experience programme can also highlight the areas in which investment will have most impact - whether it is enhanced staff training, new channels or innovative technology.

"It is so important to turn data into useful information and that is true for all industries. We are inundated with data we have collected, but the key piece is how you pull out the learning and the knowledge. The vital first step, with which many organisations struggle, is to bring that data together into one place. In many organisations, this data sits in separate silos, so it is important to link it and then be able to ensure the key pieces of information get to the people who can use it," says Sporton.

"Let's help people in the organisation understand what data will be useful for them and deliver it to them in a way that is useful so that they are not drowning in data. It is the nature of organisational structure to have silos for different business functions, but it is really important to bring people together and understand the common goals. The trick is to take those goals back into our silos and work cross-functionally, particularly from the customer experience perspective. Customers don't go from one silo and then to another, they look across the customer journey at the experience as a whole," she remarks.

A connected data universe

In the multichannel financial services environment, it is essential that banks allow customer to communicate through their preferred channels - the contact centre, at a branch, online or via mobile channels - and that they can respond quickly to insight provided through any one of these contact points. Insight must drive action, and that action must be rapid and relevant in order to increase customer engagement.

Part of Confirmit's solution is the alerts management console, which enables banks to act fast when a customer raises an issue. Another key component is dashboard reporting, which enables leadership teams to drill down into their data to identify the best-performing employees, understand trends, and compare results at regional and divisional levels.

"Organisations grow over time and I often hear companies say they will organise a single repository of data 'next year', but when the time comes, they have gone through an acquisition or a reorganisation and are still looking for that single source of all data. The trick is to pull data together and link it at a customer level to understand the whole view of the customer. Then you can turn that information into knowledge," explains Sporton.

"Customer feedback systems capture information from customers, but that only becomes useful when it is linked to other sources including financial and operational data from the business. That is key challenge number one. The second challenge is about the cross-channel perspective. Customers expect a joined-up view across different channels. It is no longer good enough just to capture feedback from an online customer survey or the IVR system in the call centre. We have to understand how customers want to communicate with us across all those channels," she adds.

Goal oriented

A multichannel approach of that kind covers a lot of ground and there are so many details in which an organisation could get bound up that it is important to keep a clear view of what a bank wants to achieve. The solution, according to Sporton, is to ensure that customer engagement is looked at from a holistic perspective. It is essential that engagement should be viewed from the customer's point of view, so that no single contact point becomes the prime focus of any process to transform and improve the customer journey.

"Over the past few years, we have been focused on two levels of feedback. The first is relationship feedback - how customers feel about a brand as a whole - but many organisations are also looking to individual touch points, such as the quality of call management in the call centre. The key piece now is somewhere in between. I am talking to many organisations about outcomes. The customer always has a particular goal to achieve, so rather than looking at specific touch points, it is more important to understand whether the organisation helped the customer to reach that goal; focus on goals - on outcomes - rather than the component parts," she observes.

"The Voice of the Customer is a hot topic for financial institutions and most accept that it is relatively easy to put in place methods of listening to customers. Where they struggle is in how to use that information and how to take action off the back of it. It is easy to ask customers about their experience, but they will become frustrated if banks don't do something later. Banks need to listen, but they also need to understand how to use the insights their customers give them to drive action. Then they need to communicate back to customers what they have done."

Data driven

Whether it is the structured data that banks gather through surveys or the unstructured data that comes from sources such as social media platforms, banks must ensure that all flows of customer feedback come together to drive meaningful change in how they deliver their services.

"Banks must understand that different parts of the organisation will be using customer feedback in different ways. The social-media channel is key and gives customers a fantastic voice that enables organisations to learn, but banks can't listen only to social-media feedback. Whether a customer calls a contact centre or communicates through social-media action, banks must be consistent in how they use that data to drive brand values," says Sporton.

Claire Sporton, VP of customer experience management at Confirmit.