Financial services, like others before it, are changing from a product and service industry to an experience industry. The difference is that in an experience economy the customer relationship starts long before the time of purchase. It starts when the customer’s need for a product or service arises. The implication for companies is that cultivating good customer relationships is both more difficult and more important than ever before. Although there is no silver bullet, or copy-and-paste approach, there are a few principles that we believe underpin success.
Know thy customer
Being relevant is at the core of customer experience management. The starting point is having a deep understanding of your customers. We can’t just assume what customers think or how people live their lives. Companies need to see their industry through the eyes of their customers. That doesn’t mean using your imagination to empathize with customers. It means making the effort to find out how they actually feel, when they feel it and what context they are in at the time. It’s the “surround sound” of customer experience. The experience needs to be intuitive, fast and designed from the customer’s perspective. Companies need to empower the customer so she can decide when and on which platform to engage with them.
In China, for example, Manulife has introduced WeChat claims, which enables customers to use the popular messaging app to submit claims. It has not only made the process simpler, but reduced the time customers’ medical claims are processed from a week to one day.
Emotion trumps logic
In real life, people make important decisions more by emotion than logic. Yet most companies still tend to focus on rational factors, like listing out product features and benefits. Companies that understand the emotional drivers of how they add value to the customer are the ones that get it right. Take the insurance industry as a case in point. When thinking about medical needs, people experience one of the strongest human emotions - fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of losing control of their lives, fear for their loved one’s wellbeing. In this context, the customer journey needs to be seamless, and feel empathic. In that context, companies need to help customers to focus on their health, not worry about understanding industry jargon, filling out pages of forms or struggling to make a claim.
Walking the data tight rope
There is a fine line between personalization and intrusion. We are living in an information economy and data is its lifeblood. Never before has the use of big data and analytics been so instrumental to customer engagement. There are two fundamental questions: are we using the power of data to create value for our customers? Second, are we keeping our customers’ data safe? The first issue is in many ways is harder to crack, as it ventures into new territory. Managing how the almost infinite availability of data affects our business and value propositions. We need to keep in mind how it is changing the way we build and service our products and – importantly – how this will directly benefit our customers. The interesting point where these two come together is data privacy. Even though data is safe, we need to be mindful about using customer data to predict and influence their choices so that we don’t cross the line from being surprisingly helpful to overly intrusive. Above all else, delivering a great customer experience is not about technology or project methodology. It is the ongoing management of all factors that affect customer experience across an organization – including people, policies, processes and culture. To be sustainable, customer experience must be managed internally on an ongoing basis. If you are making a fundamental shift to the experience economy then no one person, or department owns it, it becomes every body’s job.