The Financial Services sector places in the lower third of the rankings in comparison with other sectors. Customer experience in financial services is influenced most of all by the Integrity and Time and Effort pillars, in all the sector sub-categories: banks, insurance companies, building savings schemes, consumer credit, and financial advisory services. Concerning the Integrity pillar, customers most often ask if the conditions they are offered are fair enough. They also want to know if any important information has been kept from them, and if the brand representative is sufficiently reliable and trustworthy, and thus competent to deal with their issue. Given the complexity of financial products and the considerable doubts customers may have about purchasing them, this issue is extremely important. The customer’s faith in the company employee may be more important for the resulting customer experience than the actual benefit of the terms and conditions offered. Clients are also concerned about the mismatch between advertising and the terms and conditions when they take out a policy, an issue affecting some providers of consumer credit. Regarding insurance companies, clients are dissatisfied mostly with unresolved claims, the complexity of processes, and the unwillingness of insurance companies to interact with them.
If a financial institution does well in the integrity test of meeting customer expectations, it then faces what is known as the time and effort test. Customers notice how quickly brand representatives respond, and the flexibility and simplicity of services. They are often irritated that matters cannot be resolved online or by telephone. Demanding regulations, making it difficult for the financial sector to simplify services, play a part to some extent in this, although in some cases this comes down to over-cautious interpretation of such rules on the part of financial institutions.
For such companies wishing to improve their customer experience, the sole option is to make customers the centre of attention and to focus strictly on their needs. International leaders in this sector can be found in the Anglo-American world. Organizations such as Metro Bank, Nationwide Building Society, Co-op Insurance, and USAA take into account the customer when designing services (how customers can, on the website or in the app, find even more quickly the information they need; how to slash the waiting time on a helpline to under a minute; how to make travel insurance more accessible to customers with disabilities/health problems, etc.) and adapt their internal culture and organizational structure to the client.
British building societies serve as a good example for Czech financial institutions. They were based on the co-operative model and aimed at giving participants access to affordable housing. In the modern era, they have focused on the long-term unaffordability of housing for the younger generation. They have also started looking for ways to bring together the younger and older age groups and to transfer knowledge and funds from senior citizens to young people as well as digital skills from the young to the old. Product and process design were tailored with these two goals in mind. Given that 70 per cent of building society clients were over the age of 50, the benefit of digitalization was not a matter of course for them. Companies therefore organized “bring your grandpa along” events, at which older clients could try out new technology in a friendly, stress-free environment, with the help of younger people. At the same time, a reward system was introduced for using such technology. The campaign resulted in visible changes in the customer portfolio: companies attracted more young customers without losing their older ones.
When it comes to Czech customers, banks are far ahead in the rankings; non-bank consumer credit providers and insurance companies are placed at the other end of the spectrum. Air Bank, Equa bank and Fio banka (1st, 3rd and 5th overall in the study, respectively) win in terms of customer experience across generations. In all three cases, clients appreciate the free service, simplicity, and helpful staff.
Despite a similarly good customer experience, each of the “small” banks has a different focus. Their business models and strategies vary (directing clients to other products versus focusing on future sales). This arrangement also affects their attitude to customer experience: some banks, because of their business model, can offer excellent value for money. Others want to use great customer experience to recruit as many clients as possible. And some banks are positioning themselves as a “lovebrand” – doing so increases the value of the bank in relation to its competitors. For these banks, what is most important is not the number of clients or profitability, but how enthusiastic their “fans” are.
Traditional banks can be divided into three categories:
a) They have a defined identity (“what we are”) and a target group (“what type of customers we want”). They know how they want the client to perceive them.
b) They know that customer experience is important, but do not know what that is or what type of customers they want.
c) Purely product-oriented.
With traditional banks, their long-term history comes into play: on the one hand, they can build on a firm foundation. On the other hand, they are burdened by old practices and legacy systems. The strategies of small banks would not work for them, so they have to approach their customer experience differently. A dependence on (or independence of) their foreign owner is important here, as well as being aware of where the pressure for improvement really comes from. Banks with their own, local initiatives tend to be more successful in their efforts.
“My wife and I went to a branch with a problem that they managed to sort out immediately. What’s more, the bank solved another problem that we didn’t go to the branch about but came up in the conversation anyway. It’s the only bank that I can recommend with a clear conscience.” (Air Bank, Generation Y)”
“Over the internet, I entered into a building savings contract thanks to an offer I came across in an advert. The responses were what I expected from an online store. Then, the documentation was sent to my permanent address. Satisfaction.” (Stavební spořitelna České spořitelny, Generation X)
“I got a text message from Equa bank about suspected card fraud. After speaking to an operator, I discovered that the card had been registered in China. I blocked it, and the operator advised me how to apply for a new card.” (Equa bank, Generation Z)