There's no doubt that the retail banking and wealth customer journey has changed over the last decade. But as the pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital-first interaction faster than ever before, financial services organizations increasingly rely on their website as the centerpiece of their customer experience — and the ability to deliver on customer expectations there will differentiate industry leaders and laggards.
"In terms of [businesses' digital] priorities, we usually see these top three: revenue, cost reduction, and improving the customer experience," says Ted Schadler, Vice President, Principal Analyst at Forrester. "But the question is: How do you actually improve the online experience for customers in a way that helps achieve the [first two] goals?"
With that question in mind, a panel of experts from Vanguard, Yext, Adobe and Capgemini joined together to discuss how Vanguard is harnessing the power of digital technologies to create positive customer experiences that drive growth and capture new markets. Read on for three key takeaways from the conversation.
1. Digital is the only "pandemic-proof" platform. But shifts in investor and consumer behavior are about more than 'just' COVID — and their effects will endure past the pandemic.
The pandemic has been the dominant driver behind a lot of changes that financial services organizations have recently made with regard to digital – Vanguard included.
But the pandemic is really just a forcing function to what should already be in place. A confluence of other forces — existing efforts toward digital transformation, social changes, political upheaval — have created a new kind of environment that has made an outsize impact on investor behavior and consumer behavior that will affect the industry beyond 2020, explained Michael Roberts, CMO for the retail business at Vanguard.
"Across the industry, we see that call center volumes are up, and engagement with financial advisors is up as a result of [everything happening] today," Roberts said. "For us, we take that a step farther: We don't have brick and mortar stores or physical branches like many financial firms, so our experience is always in the digital context. Our customer experience happens with our excellent service team on the phones, with advisor interactions through video, and through our website.
"We are trying to streamline all of those touchpoints so that they work together [and create] a better experience," Roberts continued. "It's important to focus on making sure that you're in a position to engage with customers in the manner that they want to engage with you."
By allowing customers to "choose their own adventure" in how they want to communicate with advisors, Vanguard is able to create a better customer experience. Couple that with a push to make it easier for customers to search and find information on their own on Vanguard's website, and the organization is also reducing pressure on customer service reps — while keeping support costs down.
2. Personalization matters — but it has to be a two-way street.
When it comes to thinking about how to deliver a more personalized digital experience, the answer isn't about improved ad targeting, for example. Customers don't want to be spammed with messages, even if those messages do meet their interests. Additionally, privacy restrictions in financial services make the entire concept of personalization a different proposition than in other industries. Thus, the idea of a "personalized experience" has to be a two-way street that requires orgs to engage with their customers, and the customer to engage with the org in return — in a way that creates more relevance over time.
For financial services organizations, that means understanding and optimizing the customer journey on your website — how do customers come to your site, and what do they click on? Arguably more important is monitoring site search queries in order to understand what your customers really want to know. Search contains the rich information you need to develop future custom content that answers their most important questions. Roberts mentioned that many questions organizations see today are unique every single day. This influx of complex queries related to the pandemic, global politics, markets, and the like have meant that they need to leverage natural language processing to understand their customers.
That's where tech comes into play. Organizations need website search that understands natural language, and they also "need to create an ecosystem that comes together to solve and meet the customer challenge of a more personalized experience," said Schadler.
Roberts elaborated on that concept: "Personalization in this context is not just about, you know, the right personalized message for the individual. It's actually figuring out where they are in the journey and helping our customer complete the task. That's where we work with Yext in the search channel, for example. We also partnered with CapGemini [on customer-journey mapping], and then we connected all of those external channels to internal experiences through some of the connectivity with the Adobe platform. That has really been a success for us."
3. 65% of customers are willing to change financial firms for a better digital experience. Organizations need to be able to meet these expectations for investors — especially when it comes to digital information.
A May report from CapGemini research institute indicates that 65% of customers are willing to change financial firms for a better digital experience — specifically value added services related to finding additional information. This effect is particularly noteworthy when it comes to investing.
"It's not about changing the whole [digital] experience, but about finding the specific areas where we are having challenges," said Chandramouli Venkatesan, Senior Director, Market Development at CapGemini. "[Organizations] need to be able to fulfill those specific needs — specifically value added services. It was all about finding information, knowledge articles, and the like, and this was extremely pronounced when it comes to the younger segment of investors."
In other words, there's a simple call from investors: Help me find better information online, more easily. Anything organizations do with their website should be guided by this principle.
"Personalization in the investing category is harder," said Christopher Young, Director, Financial Services Industry Strategy at Adobe. "But to use an example: Imagine you have an investor with low marketing engagement. They haven't been interacting with marketing on the website or opening emails at all.
"Then, they have an uncorrelated drop in the value of their portfolio to the market. They visit the Account Transfer page. They make calls to the call center, and there's a high probability of churn. Now, imagine if that investor could receive an email with insights and educational content. Imagine if your website talks about research and investing tools, and there's even an option for an outbound call to talk about a product like a managed portfolio. That's going to help you in terms of retaining those assets, improving customer satisfaction, and retaining that investor in the long-term."
Want to hear the full conversation? Watch the webinar recording on-demand here.