What makes a banking experience stand out today?

  • John Aves
  • 30 April 2021
  • Blog | Professionalism and Ethics | Blog
The major UK banks are trying to compete on customer experience (CX), but a look at the published data suggests that none of them are managing to stand out from the crowd.

The failure to differentiate has consequences. Customer loyalty has declined, and most customers spread their purchase of financial products across several providers in a way they did not 20 years ago.  

In the current financial landscape, trust, safety, and security top the list of customer concerns. Customer sentiment, greater consumer choice and regulators that are taking an increasingly tough line are all tipping in the wrong direction for UK banks. And yet, many do not appear to be losing sleep. 

Some customers are turning to the FinTechs such as Revolut, Monzo and Starling Bank. These new banks have gained millions of new customers, many opening second accounts, with their main account being with one of the traditional banks. 

So, what do the scale UK banks need to do to differentiate – from each other and from the ‘new’ banks that have emerged in recent years? How can they inject some fresh thinking into their CX programmes to focus on and deliver on the things customers really care about? 

Three ways to improve customer experience in 2021: 

1. Connect with customers with fresh eyes and ears 

Customer research conducted prior to COVID-19 will not help organisations determine what they need to do to gain trust and confidence today. For most customers, immediate concerns naturally centre around supporting themselves, their families, their colleagues and, in the case of business customers, their employees and their business. The question banks need to explore is not “how are we doing?” (against the list of things identified as important two years ago), but rather “what matters to you now and what is important for your future, as you plan to manage the personal and business uncertainty we all face?”. Bank executives need to ensure they understand the changing needs and expectations of their customers in 2021 so that they can prioritise improvement in the areas that are relevant today.  

2. Focus on a small number of customer journeys 

By understanding the new and altered needs that customers have, banks should be able to prioritise and focus on a small number of customer journeys (no more than six to eight) that are important and most relevant for them. The customer journey for those who have experienced online fraud may not have been uppermost in the minds of most executives before COVID-19, for example, but the consequences of being defrauded are much greater for businesses and individuals in 2021 given the weaker financial position that many find themselves in. So, a question for banks is “how can we work with customers who are the victims of online fraud in a way that helps them and earns their trust?” TSB believes it has found the answer by offering a 100% fraud refund guarantee for any loss incurred. TSB’s guarantee really sets the bank apart from its bigger rivals. The guarantee applies even if the customer made a mistake or has accidentally shared some sensitive information. It is dramatically different from the approach other UK banks adopt when dealing with a customer who has experienced online banking fraud.  

3. Develop a Customer Promise 

A Customer Promise is a description of what the organisation is planning to deliver for customers that will drive their trust, their loyalty and their buying behaviour. Its purpose is to provide clarity and act as a ‘north star’ for employees, managers and leaders about what they should do for customers. Unlike a brand strapline, a Customer Promise spells out what customers can expect from the company. It needs to be specific, granular and is derived from high quality customer insight. A Customer Promise is key to consistency. It also provides the foundation for the redesign of the priority customer journeys and the training of employees so that they can meet the needs and expectations of customers.   

For those bank executives who are unsure how to differentiate they could take a leaf out of TSB’s book. They should inject some fresh thinking into their CX programmes and focus on the things that customers really care about. And right now, safety and security are top of mind for customers as they seek to navigate a difficult and uncertain financial landscape.  

John Aves is CEO of specialist customer experience consultancy cp2experience