Too often, companies look for differentiation in all the wrong places. Financial brands in particular are guilty of this.
In the face of increasing competition and encroachment of market share by fintech disruptors, many of these organizations look to retain and win new customers via a myopic focus on the products they provide.
But there’s a major problem with this strategy — it doesn’t work. And the reason it doesn’t work is because it ignores the most important factor customers use to differentiate between brands.
Customer Support and Customer Experience
Data points to the reality that the differentiation that drives competitiveness overwhelmingly comes from customer experience. In fact, some have argued that customer experience is the ONLY differentiator between brands. Financial brands that understand the importance of crafting awesome customer experiences across their organization have a huge opportunity to make inroads in their differentiation efforts.
The omni-presence of customer support makes it a key area for customer experience differentiation. While other departments may try to help customers in their specific domain — such as mobile or branch banking — CS is the department down in the trenches with its ear constantly to the ground, handling the praise and complaints from customers.
In other words, it’s the one department specifically charged with helping customers who are facing problems at any touchpoint. This dexterity enables CS to lead the charge of differentiation.
Unpacking the Customer Journey
For starters, mapping the customer journey is essential to providing great customer experiences, and customers come to CS at every stage of that journey. Unlike other departments that only engage with customers in specific capacities, CS sees the full web of customer interaction.
CS acts as a repository for knowledge about customer touchpoints with a financial brand, giving them a complete picture of the when and how and why of customer contact. From marketing to onboarding, product sales to ongoing relationship maintenance, to offboarding and exit interviews, CS has data about customer interaction.
Financial brands that aren’t collecting, systematizing and analyzing this CS information miss opportunities to improve.
The Support Team as Customer Experience Ombudsman
A common obstacle to optimizing customer experiences is a lack of coordination. Every department in a financial institution has its own responsibilities, processes and team members. For example, the advisory and sales division often has very little idea what the IT department is doing. Even though all of these parts are interrelated, the result is often ’silos’ where each department will expect things to be done a certain way.
It’s precisely because the CS team has a complete picture of the customer journey across these various departments that it’s also the best positioned to break through the morass. Financial brands should rely on it to find a common thread and unified standard for all its customer interactions.
An example of how to do this is hiring a Head of Customer Experience, a sort of ombudsman whose role is to maintain standards of quality control for interactions at every touchpoint.
Use Community Support Forums to Understand Customers Needs and Collect Feedback
Finally, CS has access to the community forums where customers interact with one another, leave direct feedback and are available for the financial brand to interact with freely and openly. In a world where it’s hard to get a customer’s attention, forums offer the opportunity for financial brands to give and receive one-on-one treatment. This interaction not only gives CS feedback about its other roles, it also offers an opportunity to provide excellent customer experiences.
Brands that are attentive to their support forums and offer customers quick response times and helpful answers can often create customer experiences with huge value to the brand. Research shows that winning over an irate customer creates the best kind of advocate.
Financial brands must properly moderate forums, use them to offer up free advice and resource opportunities and maintain a lively and inclusive atmosphere. Overall, Customer Support forums must be a place where customers can turn for simple yet clear advice about how to handle their financial problems.
Customer Support — the Ultimate Differentiator
As financial brands seek a competitive edge to differentiate them from fintech disruptors, they need to get out of the “product” oriented mindset. Today’s customers are increasingly less interested in price than they are in how they are treated.
Brands that meet this challenge by using CS to thoroughly map their customer’s journeys, provide quality control at every touchpoint and interact positively with customers will ultimately create experiences that differentiate them from the competition.