Customers are more open than ever before to allowing financial institutions to use their data to create tailored experiences, according to a new report produced by Salesforce and Bain & Company, The Customer Imperative in Financial Services: Permission to Personalise.
Getting the ball rolling
The challenge for financial institutions now is how to recentre their operations around their customers so they can quickly deliver the convenient, personalised digital experiences customers want.
These experiences might involve pre-populated forms and applications, tailored pricing, and solutions that are more relevant to their needs.
This is proving to be easier said than done for many organisations.
Despite modern software as a service (SaaS) platforms making it simpler for organisations to deliver digital initiatives rapidly, there are two common stumbling blocks that I help financial institutions with in my role at Salesforce Professional Services: making decisions quickly and integrating data with existing platforms.
These two key issues are leading many organisations to either put off starting digital projects or abandon them partway through due to a lack of visible progress.
However, with customer expectations of financial institutions continuing to evolve rapidly, business as usual is no longer an option.
Banks and insurers must act now to deliver the personalised digital experiences customers want or risk being left behind.
Align teams to enable faster decision-making
Fast, effective decision-making is critical for the success of digital initiatives, but it can be difficult for risk-conscious organisations like insurers and banks.
While it is not acceptable for financial institutions to 'move fast and break things' in startup-fashion, that’s not an excuse to let departmental silos, insufficient alignment between senior leaders, lack of clarity about accountability, and inefficient ways of working get in the way of good decision-making.
Design thinking workshops are a powerful and effective way to ensure alignment around a project’s desired outcomes, objectives and priorities.
They allow a broad group of stakeholders to apply their expertise to the project in a meaningful way and are a fantastic way to uncover hidden assumptions and resolve conflicting priorities.
Some leaders are wary of embarking on workshops after experiencing large, time-consuming undertakings that become bogged down in low-level detail.
To avoid this, project owners need to ensure workshops are clearly targeted and remain focused on the questions that really drive prioritisation and impact the key outcome: how a new product will improve customer experience.
A common view
For example, if the goal is to make it easier for customers to change their contents insurance excess online, the focus should be on agreeing what the changes are that will most impact that outcome, rather than on every individual step required behind-the-scenes to achieve it.
With a common view of the project’s objectives and priorities, delivery teams can then move on to making key solution decisions through prototyping and getting the product into the hands of users as fast as possible.
A strong, early user-feedback loop allows teams to refine products quickly and iteratively based on real world observation of actual experience, rather than theoretical expected behaviour.
This approach also helps organisations to test and refine change management strategies and build excitement and momentum with product champions.
Start small and build on results
Having access to the right data and being able to integrate it with existing technology is vital for financial institutions’ ability to make good decisions on behalf of their customers.
However, with data integration usually involving multiple product systems, it is often also the slowest part of a project’s critical path – the sequence of activities that must be completed to finish a project.
With most of the work happening in the back end, business owners and end users can lose patience with the lack of visible progress – which often leads to support for projects stalling.
To ensure data integration doesn’t hamper progress, financial institutions need to recognise up front that it is likely to be a challenge and plan for it from the start – for example, by considering what they can do to deliver incremental results.
This means identifying the smallest set of data and integrated systems that will create a meaningful outcome early, getting that into the hands of users quickly, and then using the momentum to build out the data connections.
Having the right expertise will also help you to get the best possible results from the application you’re using.
This might mean working with an expert partner, such as Salesforce Professional Services, to extract maximum value from your technology.
With digital talent currently in short supply across Australia, banks and insurers need to choose the best possible support to meet the immediate need, in addition to investing in digital skills internally to develop capability for the long term.
Choose progress over perfection
Ultimately, the most important thing an organisation can do when considering how to deliver convenient, personalised digital experiences is to avoid getting so obsessed with achieving a perfect outcome that they do nothing at all.
When talking to customers, I often use the example of a large financial institution that wanted to replace its manual process for changing customers’ addresses with a real-time, fully digital process.
With more than 30 back-end product systems involved, this was a massive exercise.
Overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge, the business didn’t do anything for 18 months, forcing customers to continue sending in change of address requests by snail mail.
Our team came in and delivered an online form in a couple of weeks to capture customers’ updated address details and log an internal case for manual processing.
This wasn’t the straight-through result the organisation was ideally after, but it quickly removed a substantial pain point for customers, improving the customer experience and creating delivery momentum for the bigger task of automating backend systems.
By choosing progress over perfection and delivering digital initiatives in small iterative phases, organisations have the chance to produce positive results quickly and build on them to keep the momentum going.
It will also enable them to address the issues most important to customers and deliver the personalised experiences they’re looking for.
To find out more, download The Customer Imperative in Financial Services: Permission to Personalise.