How to achieve customer-centricity
Why are banks and insurers struggling to operate as true customer-centric organisations when they know great customer service is a crucial differentiator? The answer lies in the enterprise operating model, which can create a structural barrier to achieving customer-centricity, writes Sean Tomlinson. head of consulting, private sector, Steria (right).
The problem with the enterprise operating model is that it is designed for the efficient management of resources in delivering services, but efficiency does not necessarily equate to a rewarding and effective customer experience.
So how can you deliver a rewarding customer experience?
Step 1: Identify the “customer purpose” for each customer service offered. In order to do this, you need to have a very clear idea of who your customer is and what the customer requires. You need to understand who makes up your actual, target and desired customer base and where the gaps lie.
Once you have understood who the customer is, you should identify what their purpose is. For example, a customer opening an online instant access savings account wants to deposit money that earns interest and withdraw those funds easily through all available channels.
The bank should therefore be prepared for the customer to have an urgent need to withdraw cash after the initial deposit, or risk customer dissatisfaction. This means the provider shouldn’t think that the task is completed once the account is opened, but should then ensure withdrawals can be made from the account, straight away.
As Metro Bank founder Anthony Thomson said in a response to a Steria survey on customer-centricity in Financial Services: “All of our decisions are based around building the customer experience, not on the return on investment. When we were defining customer experiences, we kept testing ideas to ensure that we weren’t falling into the trap of being company-centric – every time we suggested something we would test it again and again to ensure it was supporting the customer experience.”
Step 2: Plan the process for the customer. Customer journey mapping has been used by web and mobile developments with the intention of improving the customer experience at each touch point and is really effective at highlighting the transactional and emotional impact on customers. However some organisations have focused on technology capabilities, rather than the customer’s purpose.
Too often, strategy mandates the customer journey teams to find ways to make the journey more efficient without experiencing the reality of this efficiency for themselves. Metro Bank has a ‘customer first’ philosophy and, according to Thomson, “we consider the customer experience, not the channel. It is not for us to define what the customer wants, but to give it to them in the right way.”
Step 3: Identify the services required along each customer journey and build the organisation around the effective delivery of these services. A customer journey will typically flow across many different silos, for example from branch, to online to telephone interactions, a lack of integration and alignment between these channels can lead to customer dissatisfaction.
A number of executives canvassed by Steria conceded that organisational silos were a problem, with one commenting: “Yes we are siloed. We have a desire to break this down but there are no concrete actions as yet. The channels are, in some respects, competing, so for example, if there was an idea for the online channel to implement a programme that could help support the store channel or vice versa, they wouldn’t necessarily prioritise this. The lack of an overarching strategy to focus on customers means each P&L is effectively operating alone.”
Alignment is achieved when the services required for each customer journey, including all channel variations, are clearly defined. You can then rebuild the organisation structure around these services.
Step 4: Provide access to the service offerings by whatever channel the customer chooses and allow them to swap channels mid-journey if that is what they require. A channel, whether phone, internet or branch, is a vehicle that the customer uses for their journey. Banks should first be focused on where the customer wants to go (the road ahead) rather than the type of vehicle that a customer may or may not choose.
The channel is just a means to an end from the customer’s perspective, so all channels should be available, and where appropriate, the ability to switch between channels at any point should also be provided. There was a trend some time ago to make websites “sticky” so customers would come back, but this often neglected the reason for the customer returning. True stickiness is achieved by giving the customer what they want, when they want it, not by gimmicks.
In conclusion, there is certainly an appetite for building a customer-centric financial services organisation, but the enterprise operating model can create a structural barrier to bringing this to fruition. Dismantling your enterprise operating system is not an easy task and is one that requires real will power, but unless a company aligns itself to its customer’s purpose, financial service firms will continue to fall short of their customer’s expectations.