Disrupting the customer experience in financial services

Customer experience (CX) expectations are dramatically changing the face of the financial industry.

Banks and credit unions are feeling the pressure to innovate or risk slowly losing their aging customer base – and their financial foundation along with it. According to a 2017 PWC study, 80% of financial organizations believe their business is at risk to innovators. While the industry embraces the idea behind CX strategy, it’s not always easy for financial institutions to move quickly, despite threats from newer and more agile financial brands.

Now more than ever, it is critical for banks and credit unions to embrace a true CX focus and drive innovation in their customer experience – even when it feels risky to make those changes.

One way to soothe the feeling of risk is by grounding CX decisions in valid customer data. The large number of customer touchpoints in financial services (ATM, phone, in branch, online, mobile) means you can gather a staggering amount of data from customers and members. Typically, this data is unstructured, unorganized, and confusing to dissect, which can complicate identifying truly valuable and actionable insights.

Often, this data goes straight to the financial institution’s marketing department or external agency to understand how it all fits together and create a map of each customer’s history of interactions and preferences. These data-driven journeys are the foundation to unlocking innovation in the end-to-end customer experience. Each touchpoint is an opportunity to exceed customer expectations and drive deeper engagement and loyalty.

However, financial marketers may face challenges in bringing these maps from just understanding customers to truly driving CX innovation in their bank or credit union. Some of the roadblocks to implementing successful CX strategies in financial services include:

  1. Lack of executive leadership and alignment.
  2. Inability to align internal organizations
  3. Cohesive view of the customer with real customer data.
  4. Commitment to a long-term strategy for customer experience.

The first step in taking on a customer-centric approach in financial services is to create alignment across the organization and ensure that executive leadership agrees that embracing a customer-first mindset is critical to long-term financial success. This alignment is a major factor in ensuring that customer data collected in day-to-day operations of the business will be shared within the organization in a way that is actionable and valuable for all involved – especially the customer.

Other challenges you might face in shifting to a CX focus include strict budgetary, compliance and legacy-system issues. These can be overcome through executive leadership buy-in and organizational alignment. Taking a customer-first approach does not mean you can keep doing things the way you have been doing them for the past decade and just call it “customer-centric.” It means a change to data-driven, customer-focused decision making and functions, and it may impact areas from marketing spend allocations to product offerings as you enhance customer experience across digital and physical touchpoints.

To drive CX strategy, you’ll need to create a cross-functional team that will immerse itself in a deep understanding of the customer via personas. The key here is not creating esoteric personas that live in a PowerPoint deck, but to use an appropriate platform to activate them into data-driven and insightful dynamic personas that provide an accurate and actionable perspective that informs product and CX decisions throughout the organization.

With these dynamic personas as guide, the CX team will map customer journeys and identify the critical touchpoints where customer data is collected. This team will also need to address pain points for the customer (you know where they are, you just might not discuss them very often) and execute an action plan to resolve these issues and opportunities.

Embracing a CX focus in a bank or credit union is a commitment that needs to be made for the long haul. The industry disruption felt today has only just begun. While many financial organizations are investing in CX initiatives and modern digital platforms, only 37% have a formal CX plan. You can’t address this disruption with a few CX projects every couple of months – you must develop a multi-year roadmap with quick wins and long-term milestones.

Customer expectations for banks and credit unions will only increase, and your clientele won’t hesitate to go elsewhere if you don’t innovate. In a time when switching banks or credit unions is easier than ever, an investment in creating, building, and maintaining customer loyalty is required for ensuring long-term financial success.


Ready to make a plan? From assessing your current CX state to creating a roadmap for your innovative future, we can help.

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