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By Fabrice Martin, Chief Product Officer, Clarabridge

When was the last time you visited your bank or building society? Probably not very recently. Digital transformation has seen to it that given a combination of online, mobile and telephone banking, customers are more than happy to spend, manage and invest their money without the need to set foot in a brick-and-mortar bank.

Many branches are closing and banks are realising considerable economic savings, but it does beg the question, at what price to the customer relationship? Of course, regular face-to-face interaction is on the wane, but as customer relationships with banks have become more transactional, now is the time to move the focus away from cost reduction towards proactive, experience enhancement.

This is not just particular to banks. The entire financial services industry has undergone massive change in recent years. This is, in part, due to the financial crisis which necessitated a seismic shift in transparency and trust building. Understandably customers are wary, questioning whether the financial sector always has their best interests at heart, and the propensity to switch bank accounts, or move from one insurance company to another on a regular basis just demonstrates that their loyalty is being tested.

The financial services sector knows this. It realises that the ball is in its court to shape up and put processes in place that actually meet the evolving requirements of customers. Many banks and insurance companies are aware that those customers want highly personalised, responsive experiences.  They want their questions and complaints dealt with quickly and efficiently and they definitely want to engage at a time and using a channel that suits them and their lifestyle. The priority for insurers and banks, therefore, is to do everything in their power to enhance the customer journey through better engagement from the moment that an account is opened to the development of that relationship into the future.

What they also understand is that it is absolutely in their best interests to do this. Ensuring customers are satisfied will nurture their long-term loyalty, but it also delivers up-sell and cross-sell opportunities and drives profitability.

But the landscape these days is different, which makes customer engagement a challenge.  Not all companies in the financial sector have the tools in place yet to be able to effectively listen to and analyse client feedback despite the fact that customers constantly comment on the service they are receiving, both positively and negatively, and across many different channels, on many different topics. In fact, financial sector organisations often proactively ask them for feedback. What is needed is the ability to analyse that feedback by integrating it into a single platform where it can be analysed and correctly understood, whether it comes from contact centre agent notes, emails, surveys, social media or live chats. Some organisations already use platforms, such as CRM, to help them manage customer relationships, but unless those platforms can collate, analyse and prioritise feedback, they are not useful when developing strategies for improving the customer experience.

Customer satisfaction metrics are one way to judge the success of customer engagement. One of the most popular metrics is the Net Promoter Score or NPS[1], that enables organisations to assess and benchmark the satisfaction of their customers. The metric assumes customers can be divided into either promoters, detractors or passives based on their response to the question ‘on a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this company’s product or service to a friend or colleague’. The results are calculated into a score.

NPS does give an understanding of the customer experience, but it has two critical shortcomings: the first is that it relies exclusively on survey responses and the second is that it does not offer a holistic view of the customer experience. Surveys are often used as the barometer of customer sentiment, but the fact is that response rates are down because customers have survey fatigue. Too many surveys are long and complicated, but even amongst those customers that do respond, traditional methods don’t necessarily produce the intelligence that companies are looking for. Either the questions are limited so customers are unable to provide a comprehensive view, or they are unable to remember exactly what happened and how they felt about it.

Financial services organisations really need a more holistic view of their entire customer’s journey, with analytics based on customer feedback from every single touchpoint, that shed a light on how those customers choose to engage, what they are trying to achieve and where there are tension points that need addressing.

This is where customer experience (CX) solutions come in. They help companies to collate data from multiple sources ranging from social media commentary through to recorded conversations with contact centre agents. The smallest detail can often reveal findings that make a huge difference to business strategy, and as the data accumulates across all of these channels it gives companies the opportunity to see their customers through a different lens.

CX solutions also gather both quantitative and qualitative data. A bank or insurance company will need to know when an account or policy started and certain personal information about their customer, but this needs to be combined with qualitative feedback including the unstructured voice of the customer. To do this, CX solutions useText Analytics or Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology, which extracts information and meaning from unstructured data such as a product review or a transcribed call and transforms it into something that can be analysed. Quantitative data reveals that a company’s customer service rating is 6 out of 10, and qualitative data outlines why, and allows issues to be addressed with accurate information.

With this information, financial services companies are well equipped to enhance the touchpoints on the customer’s journey. These might include researching new policies, applying, paying for and receiving policy documents. Customer sentiment can also be assessed at each stage with charts that identify moments of positive and negative sentiment.CX solutions include tools that help to categorise and quantify customer emotions and the level of effort they exert when interacting with the company and its services. This provides clues that enable finance companies to really understand the impact they are having. The data can also be shared across departments enabling business influencers and decision makers to implement changes and improvements.

Customer experience analytics provide insights that lead to better financial products and services, and they help to equip and empower front-line staff. This can have a transformative effect on customer experience and engender loyalty and will fully reinforce a customer-first strategy.

[1]Net Promoter, NPS, and Net Promoter Score are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc., and Fred Reichheld”

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