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What are customer expectations in a post-recessionary world and how can financial services organisations change to deliver customer excellence in this new age?
Forged in the twin fires of recession and mis-selling revelations, post-recession customer expectations are very different from those which went before. Almost in the blink of an eye businesses within the Financial Services sector went from trusted advocates to mistrusted sellers, adding their profession to the walk of shame which had claimed estate agents, politicians and journalists before them.
But whilst dissatisfaction with some of these other professions can lead us to change voting patterns or to stop buying newspapers, people still need bank accounts, life assurance and investments. So what are customer expectations in a post-recessionary world and how can financial services organisations change to deliver customer excellence in this new age?
We’ll start with a reality check. A survey by the FSB in February 2015 revealed that more than three quarters of respondents thought that big business put profits before ethical standards. It’s no wonder therefore that the FRC and FCA are taking a close look at organisational culture in 2015. They recognise that unless the underlying culture is right, no amount of advertising and corporate spin will convince customers that organisations have changed and no amount of clever phrases in corporate documents will convince investors that organisations are now looking to provide long term returns.
From the customer point of view, in essence they want what they have always wanted; a safe repository for their funds and investments. Customers want to feel as though they are getting a fair deal and that the products being offered are in their long term best interests. They don’t want terms and conditions which are longer than a Shakespeare play, they don’t want to fill in endless forms and wait weeks for a decision and they don’t want to feel that they have paid into a policy for years only to find that it doesn’t pay out just when they need help most. So they are looking for products which are easily understood and which have been designed with their best interests in mind.
Stepping up to meet this demand is not difficult but it does require an effort on the part of the entire organisation. No longer can departments such as IT claim that they are not customer facing and therefore don’t have to consider customer concerns when they design systems; no longer can traders use the excuse that they are working solely for the organisation as they fix huge deals which will potentially affect the long term stability of the business and no longer can leaders and departmental managers set targets which force employees to sell unsuitable products or face disciplinary action.
When the culture is customer facing, then everyone is customer facing. Every product, every process, every interaction is designed to provide an excellent product which meets customer needs. It may be a wrench to move away from short term profitability but the rewards for getting it right are profound. Customer focus is rewarded by customer trust, customer longevity and customers actively seeking to take further products from an organisation which they admire. Short term profits may suffer but long term profitability is assured, as is reputation; making the business more attractive to investors.
It’s a win-win scenario but be warned it is one which existing financial services organisations have to adopt, and adopt quickly. Waiting in the wings are new players in the market and without the baggage of past culture they are already looking to design products which customers actually want to take up. Adapt or die may sound melodramatic but it is a message which financial services leaders would do well to remember in 2015.