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Instilling customer confidence in the pandemic era

By Monica Hovsepian, Global Industry Strategist for Financial Services, OpenText

For many years, the financial services industry has struggled to shake off the torrent of negative public perception it adopted since the infamous market crash in 2008. Now, as the world is shaken by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is safe to say that banks and financial institutions largely have been quick to pivot, be flexible and extend support to their customers. Yet, despite their actions and efforts to change public perception, customers still believe that the industry is mostly focused on short-term profits over long-term strategy and relationships. This is evident in the Edelman Trust Barometer 2021, which revealed that customers’ trust in the sector dropped by 10 points.

One of the most significant shifts we have witnessed since the pandemic began is the change we see in customer expectations, behaviours and demands. Ongoing restrictions have given people time to reassess their priorities, life choices and forced them to identify what they hold close to their hearts. This has brought personal finance to the top of the agenda, as customers took the time to review their financial wellness. In addition, many have started to make values-based financial decisions. This is evident in research recently conducted by OpenText, which revealed that 88% of global consumers plan to prioritise buying from companies with ethical sourcing strategies in place, compared with 78% before the COVID-19 pandemic. This means customers are becoming more actively interested in the bank’s sustainability efforts and diversity credentials.

As a result, banks need to ensure that they deliver the correct experience to customers. They need to supply every individual with a custom journey that encompasses everything from the communications channel used to the proactive financial advice and information about the business.

While banks often use trust as a key differentiator, confidence would have to take centre stage to move the loyalty needle. As defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, confidence is ‘having trust in people, plans, or the future’. For banks, it is having their customers believe that they will deliver the experiences they want and need in hopes that they will continue to choose them on an ongoing basis. If banks and financial services firms are to secure continued customer loyalty, rebuilding customer confidence would have to be their top priority in the coming years.

For financial brands and institutions to rebuild customer confidence, they must reimagine their business strategy and organisational culture. Building their business in a way that puts customers first and products second will help them build confidence and make them first choice, ahead of their competitors.

What’s important in the customer journey?

Building customer’s confidence requires financial firms to have a clear understanding of what their customers want and need from their bank. This demands that banks move away from the traditional transactional business models that focus on exchanging products and services, and instead, base their engagement models on an intelligent and proactive understanding of each individual customer.

The engagement model should provide customers with tailored and personal experiences that are consistent throughout their journey. Whether people choose to engage with the firm through a banking app, desktop, a phone call or walk-in to their local branch, their experience should be consistent and contextual based on the relationship the bank holds with them and the behaviours of that customer over time.

Why is cyber resilience important?

The other part of building customer confidence is demonstrating how serious the firm takes cyber security and operational resilience. In the past couple of years, we have seen cyber-attacks and outages become a common occurrence. Well-known financial institutions and high street UK banks have faced their fair share of cyber-attacks. This is one of the growing concerns for customers, as the implication of cyber-attacks and outages means that they may not be able to access the services they need to manage their daily lives.

The increased uptake of digital technologies, spurred on by the pandemic, has also increased customers’ concern about their personal data. They want reassurance from firms on how they handle their personal data, how it’s used, stored, if they share it with external parties and the security measures they take to minimise risks.

While remote working has been a saving grace for many, it has also increased the risk of data leaks, as employees can be working with sensitive customer data on insecure home networks. This could also expose organisations and customers to fraudulent activities and cyber-attacks.

Additionally, the increasing use of Open Banking means that our banking services are interconnected with external partners through APIs. Even though this is an excellent development for customers and helps banks expand their service portfolios, it also leaves them vulnerable. Furthermore, while banks might be well protected internally, their partners and vendors might not have the same levels of security. This could open a “back door” to the bank’s system – the so-called supply chain attack.

How can data and technology help rebuild confidence?

Preventing cyber-attacks and providing a hyper-personalised experience for customers requires financial organisations to have access to the right data and technology. Especially if banks are to understand their customers better and ensure the product and services are super relevant and timely, they need access to the right data at the right time. Yet, getting this level of access to personal data requires permission from customers. As reported by EY, they are only willing to share personal data with their banks as long as they can see the benefit from this exchange. Ultimately, if financial services are to be granted access to customers’ personal data, they must demonstrate the best use of data by continuously providing meaningful experiences and ensuring it doesn’t come at the cost of data privacy.

However, delivering the right customer experience doesn’t end when banks gain access to personal data. They must use a digital experience platform to design targeted digital strategies that leverage the data more effectively to give users that rich and hyper-personalised experience. A digital experience platform will equip financial services firms with the right tools and applications that will serve as the foundation for consistent, omni-channel customer journeys across multiple digital channels.

If banks and financial institutions are to remain competitive, they must put their customers ahead of their short-term revenue goals. Utilising personal data and the right technology can help them build cyber resilience and true customer confidence, which in turn can secure long-term customer loyalty.

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