Why understanding the voice of the customer reaps long-term dividends

By Fabrice Martin | 16 March 2018

Over the last few years the financial services sector has made significant improvements in the decisions it makes that affect customers. The major fines that resulted in big newspaper headlines a decade ago have dwindled, but at the same time customers still lack trust. A YouGov poll last year found that more than half of British consumers (55%) don’t think banks are working in their customers’ best interests. Given that it has never been so easy to switch a bank account or change insurance companies this has long-term negative consequences for financial institutions.

Today’s more demanding, sceptical consumers won’t hesitate to jump ship if they feel they are not getting the service they want, so it is incumbent upon companies offering financial services to improve customer satisfaction, build loyalty and reduce churn. Surely this is common sense? Making customers happier increases their long-term commitment, provides up-sell and cross-sell opportunities and drives profitability. Which begs the question, why is this still a problem?

The likelihood is that the financial services sector is not effectively listening to client feedback. Customers are willing to give their opinions, not just in criticism, but across many channels and on many different topics if they believe those opinions will improve the service. Indeed, many organisations actively seek feedback, but unless it is being analysed across all the channels that customers use, such as contact centre agent notes, emails, social media, live chats and in CRM data, it can’t be collated, prioritised and built in to broader business strategies aimed at improving the customer experience.

A better way to listen

We work with one healthcare insurance company that does take a customer-first approach, and talks not just to its own customers, but also to the people who use competitor services. The company is not satisfied with improving against the competition, it’s aim is to be the best in its class of insurance, and one of the ways they judge this is by using customer satisfaction metrics.

These are a management tool used by many businesses, and one of the most commonly used is called Net Promoter Score or NPS[1], that allow companies to assess and benchmark the satisfaction of their customers. The metric assumes customers can be divided into either promoters, detractors or passives based on their response to the question ‘on a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this company’s product or service to a friend or colleague’. The results are calculated into a score.

Our customer uses the NPS results alongside other customer satisfaction metrics to differentiate itself from the competition, to get away from what its VP of Enterprise Customer Experience Strategy describes as being ‘stuck in a sea of sameness’. What they are doing is listening and then taking action.

The customer journey

NPS, of course, is just one mechanism for understanding customer experience better.  Ultimately, what financial services organisations need to achieve is a holistic view of their entire customer’s journey, with analytics based on customer feedback from every single touchpoint, that shed a light on how those customers choose to engage, what they are trying to achieve and where there are tension points that need addressing.

Customer experience (CX) solutions allow companies to gather this level of data from sources that range from a comment on social media through to a recorded conversation with a contact centre agent. The most minute detail can reveal very interesting findings, and as the data accumulates across all of these areas, it provides an accurate, and often unexpected perspective.

It is also important to bring together both quantitative and qualitative data. A bank or insurance company will need to know when an account or policy started and certain personal information about their customer, but this needs to be combined with qualitative feedback including the unstructured voice of the customer. To do this, CX solutions must use Text Analytics or Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology, which is designed to extract information and meaning from unstructured data such as a product review or a transcribed call and transforms it into something that can be analysed. Quantitative data reveals that a company’s customer service rating is 6 out of 10, and qualitative data outlines why, and allows issues to be addressed with accurate information.

Armed with the data, financial services companies can segment it into the logical touchpoints on the customer’s journey, such as researching new policies, applying, paying and receiving policy documents. Customer sentiment, emotions and effort can be assessed as they move through the journey, and moments of positive and negative sentiment or frustration can be easily identified. Charts are created, and these can also include actual customer comments in order to illustrate and reinforce the insights conveyed by those charts.

The beauty of gathering the data is that it can then be shared across the organisation, so decisions can be made about how to take action.   A good customer experience solution will include interactive dashboards and the ability to create illustrations, which will then help to drive change where necessary and improve processes. Interactive dashboards also allow for real-time root cause analytics that throw light onto issues being faced by customers, allowing companies to address them.

Of course, customer experience analytics are not just useful for addressing problems. They deliver a level of insight that helps companies improve their financial products and services, and front-line staff can be empowered. In turn this has a transformative effect on customer experience and thus increases loyalty.

If banks and insurance companies are determined to win customer trust and long-term commitment they need to act now and put in place comprehensive strategies that are focused on the customer experience. They must listen, analyse and act on the feedback that they get and if they don’t have the tools and processes to do that easily and efficiently, then investing in a Customer Experience Analytics tool will help them. In the age of the customer, doing nothing is not an option.

 

[1] Net Promoter, NPS, and Net Promoter Score are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc., and Fred Reichheld”

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