The COVID-19 pandemic led to a rapid acceleration of technology adoption in the UK, and it didn't just change how we shop. It also significantly impacted how customers interact with Financial Services (FS) and Public Sector (PS) Services. According to a McKinsey Global Survey of executives, companies have accelerated the digitisation of their customer interactions and their internal operations by three to four years.
Financial services have been democratised in recent years. Different FS businesses are known for excelling in different customer service areas. Challenger brands like Monzo and Starling are becoming known for product innovation or design. First Direct topped the charts for customer service in 2022. Bank of Scotland scores highly for their app, and others offer superior account security.
During the pandemic, consumers moved toward online channels out of necessity. The pandemic also highlighted the importance of digital transformation in PS, with many organisations accelerating their plans for digitisation. The NHS App is an obvious example; after launching in 2018, its usage skyrocketed during the pandemic. Car tax and TV licencing had also moved online. It's important to acknowledge that customers have differing needs, and providing access for all is critical. Identifying those needs means that users can pay their licence fee or car tax via different channels, be it over the counter, via direct debit, post, phone or online.
Organisations can't maintain the status quo or provide poor experiences to stay competitive in this evolving landscape. Customers demand more, and it's even more imperative that we know our customers and offer a personalised customer experience. So how do we do that?
While specific practices may vary across products and services, many commonalities contribute to their success. The majority can be mapped back to the 'Voice of the customer' concept.
What is the Voice of the customer?
Put simply, it's the process of capturing and understanding customers' needs, expectations, preferences, and feedback. Gathering information directly from customers to get insights into their experiences, opinions, perceptions and feelings about a product, service, or brand.
It's a concept which focuses on putting the customer at the heart of the decision-making process. By listening to the customer, businesses can better understand their consumers. Allowing them to identify areas for improvement and make informed decisions to increase customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
It's all in the data
We've never had so many data sources available, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Of course, data is only as good as its quality and recency. Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs) hold a wealth of customer data, transaction information, service interaction and more.
This can provide invaluable customer insight, especially when coupled with techniques for capturing real-time feedback through text message surveys after accessing support, online interviews, new product focus groups, website service and feedback channels, social media monitoring and complaints analysis. Together, these channels provide valuable data that can be analysed and used to uncover trends, identify patterns, and extract actionable insights.
Organisations often use the Voice of the customer to drive continuous improvement, product development, and innovation. By incorporating customer feedback into decision-making processes, businesses can align their offerings with customer needs and stay ahead in a competitive marketplace.
Asking the hard questions
At Target, we conduct Client Satisfaction Surveys on a twice-yearly basis. We don't shy away from asking the difficult questions. We ensure the survey isn't onerous or time-consuming to complete. We know our clients are busy, and we value their time. Questions range from clients' general satisfaction levels and their confidence in our approach to risk management to the quality of services provided, IT response times and the quality and frequency of interactions with their Account Manager.
We're also sure to collect feedback on their customer experiences, the end customers we serve on our clients' behalf through our loan management or collections servicing. Clients rate their experience and can provide qualitative feedback where appropriate. Crucially, we ask clients if they'd recommend us to others. Our Net Promoter Score (NPS) is an excellent barometer of how well we serve our clients. We know we're doing something right if they're loyal and satisfied enough to recommend us. And if they're not, we want to know that, too, so we can improve.
We never rest on our laurels; we can't. The financial services landscape moves so rapidly that we must consistently innovate and iterate our processes to earn the continued loyalty of our clients. That's why we ask an important question about how they feel about our innovation and continuous improvement.
We're delighted that our NPS increased by 8% in our last survey. We're already incorporating client feedback into our service delivery model; this year, we're implementing more customer self-serve options into our user journeys.
Here's my eight best practice tips for getting the balance right
Exceptional customer service begins with understanding and empathising with the customer's needs. Companies that prioritise personalised interactions, actively listen to customers and tailor their solutions accordingly tend to excel.
Evaluate and map the customer journey. With the increasing digitisation of services, it's essential to understand all the potential routes customers take and each touchpoint online and offline. Understanding the journey provides insight into friction points, allowing you to optimise customer experiences across all channels.
Timely and effective communication is crucial in providing excellent customer service, especially for the "I want it now" generation. Businesses that prioritise responsiveness through phone, email, chat, or social media and ensure clear and concise information delivery are more highly rated on forums like Trust Pilot.
Offering customer support through multiple channels allows customers to choose their preferred method of communication. Companies that provide comprehensive support across various platforms, such as phone, email, live chat, social media, and self-service portals, tend to cater to a wider range of customer preferences. Enterprises need to be careful not to exclude those without access to digital services.
In today's digital age, organisations that provide user-friendly, intuitive, and secure digital platforms are often praised for their customer experience. This includes mobile apps, online banking or payment portals and self-service tools that streamline processes and empower customers to manage their finances easily.
Anticipating customer needs and providing proactive assistance can significantly enhance the customer experience. Organisations that leverage data analytics to offer personalised individual recommendations, proactive fraud detection, and relevant product suggestions tend to stand out.
Well-trained and knowledgeable customer service agents are vital in delivering excellent service. Companies that invest in training programs, empower their employees to make decisions, and nurture a customer-centric culture tend to have more satisfied customers.
It's one thing gathering the data, but you must act on it, too. Acting on the feedback is crucial for improving service quality. Financial Services and Public Sector organisations that actively ask for customer feedback, conduct regular surveys, and implement improvements based on customer insights demonstrate their commitment to providing exceptional service.
Whilst customer needs across different sectors may differ, adopting these best practices can help all organisations transform their customer experience. Voice of customer and feedback in general, plays a critical role in helping organisations meet and exceed customer expectations, enhance their products or services, and build stronger customer relationships.