By: Moussalam Dalati, General Manager in the Middle East at Liferay
Customer behavior in the financial services industry has shifted due to the pandemic and the technological advancements that are moving customers towards a more digital lifestyle.
Many factors including ad-hoc events – such as the pandemic that resulted in social distancing and work from home, personal life changes, technology, and government regulation – can affect customer behavior. In the MENA region, factors such as changing customer preferences, high mobile penetration rates, growing competition between FinTech companies are the main drivers of change.
These, coupled with governments’ momentum towards digitizing financial services to drive global competitiveness, lead to the industry’s disruption. For instance, the UAE Government has put steps in place to drive digital innovation through increased spending and encouraging private investments.
The key to developing your digital strategy isn’t an IT-driven initiative, but one that is driven by customer’s needs, as there’s a vast difference between simply using digital technology and leveraging it to improve customer experiences and better address customer needs.
Specific trends and expectations in financial services
Customers expect that financial services companies will provide digital access to accounts and resources. This digital self-service can take different forms, and businesses should consider what fits their brand best and focus on the outcomes they need.
Customers now want to always access their accounts and functions and with minimal human intervention. Investing in technologies that make the customer experience more independent, can reduce overhead and increase profit. The key is to develop a good transition from technology to real humans where necessary.
Key strategies implemented
Once specific expectations for businesses and customers are defined, it’s time to develop a strategy to serve them best while maintaining a well-oiled internal machine. Some of the key strategies currently being implemented are:
Websites: While it may seem like a simple strategy, it is foundational. In a new age of digital expectations, a website still acts as your business’s front door. Still, it also needs content, tools, applications, and customer service that work together, all supported by accurate, actionable data. Customers are satisfied when they are empowered to manage their finances how and when they want, while at the same time they can count on expert advice and service when they need it. Ease of access while maintaining security should be a focus of financial service businesses.
The more you can make your website interact with email, applications, text, social media, and future innovations in a simple, smooth way, the more seamless and enjoyable your customer experience will be.
Self-service portals: The demand from customers to access and transact with their financial accounts should be embraced by financial institutions. Self-service portals allow customers to do many things that once required an in-person meeting or phone call with a human, and this trend will continue. Customers enjoy the autonomy it provides, and businesses enjoy the cost savings. The key is having the right balance: Your customer shouldn’t have to speak with a manager for something as simple as a withdrawal, but they also shouldn’t be forced to ask endless questions to an AI Bot in hopes of finding a customer service phone number. Businesses should monitor data to avoid either of these extreme cases and find the happy medium where customers are empowered and supported equally.
Headless APIs: Application programming interface (API) allows two devices to talk to each other. In a world where people are using various devices, the need for a seamless experience across those devices is greater than ever.
A Headless API can connect to any end-user device. This not only simplifies integration with your customers’ current devices, but it invests in the future by acknowledging that the next device is right around the corner. Organizations need a single source to deliver content and services to avoid a disconnect in any area of the customer experience.
Listening to your Customers
How you deliver your service is as important as what you offer. Millennials are infamous for their focus on experiences. One side of this is their propensity to spend on travel and other experiences rather than buying things. The other side is that they will be drawn to companies that provide the most effective, pain-free experience. Gen Z is no different and this trend may continue for many years.
Designing a data-driven strategy
When designing your strategy to provide the best customer experience, you must gather data at every customer touchpoint and have a means for organizing that data to give meaningful statistics. With this, you can see the ideal customer experience, how it changes over time, and even influence and personalize it based on if-then tests to see what is and isn’t working.
Most customers cite customer experience as the most important factor in making a purchase. It is a broad topic that deserves all of the attention to get it right because it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Repeat customers are more profitable and easier to keep happy. Plus, they refer to new customers and build your brand and reputation for you. When considering the customer experience, it’s important to think about all the factors that go into it. Your employees affect how your customers rate their interaction. The technology your business leverages can make the experience easy and even fun or painful. A strategy that integrates people and technology to deliver the best service in the best way is a recipe for success.