The cost of living crisis is already increasing the number of vulnerable customers, as people struggle to manage their finances and pay their bills on time. Many are having to make desperate choices between heating or eating, and this will only get worse during the winter.
At Capita, we understand how important empathy is in these situations and wanted to get the view of clients from across the financial services sector to see what more we can all do to support vulnerable customers and create better outcomes for them.
We invited a select group of customer experience (CX) and business leaders from organisations within financial services, from banking to pensions and motor finance, to discuss how we can all deliver customer experience that drives emotional engagement.
We held the intimate roundtable event at a bespoke venue in London on 14 June. We also invited Ipsos, a global leader in designing, measuring and delivering value from customer experience programmes, to help facilitate the discussion with us.
We started by exploring the social and cultural barriers that some customers feel when discussing money matters with financial organisations. Some people won’t be open about their difficulties until they are under immense strain, so it’s important to be able to spot the warning signs early. We also discussed how financial services is an integrated part of all our lives and touches almost every milestone moment from getting a new job and buying a home to planning for later life. Financial services have an important duty to customers for life, so it’s important to make it a meaningful one.
During the event we discussed why industry leaders should focus on empathy to help drive a positive Return on CX Investment (ROCXI), how innovation can enable empathetic customer experience and personalised engagement to meet customer needs, and finally how financial services balance technological and ‘human centric’ innovation to drive confidence among all generations.
We asked three key questions and held interactive live polls:
- What is your view on how great customer experience and emotional engagement is measured and influenced?
- What is the single greatest challenge/blocker to CX success in your sector or organisation?
- What technology needs to be embraced now to better serve future generations?
Measuring and influencing great customer experience and emotional engagement
When we asked about measurement, it was clear that customer loyalty is what people believe is a key indication of customer experience, followed by NPS scores. Importantly, a deepening share of wallet as a good measure of CX came last.
It’s encouraging to see that people understand that chasing more revenue is not going to support customers during this difficult time, and that the lifespan of the relationship is what’s important; therefore, driving Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and, so, ultimately, ROCXI. We all need CX measurement frameworks that give us the insight to spot where we are falling short and the ability to act. Of course, great customer experience is about how you make customers feel, and this isn’t something that they forget, particularly when times are tough. But our attendees felt that it’s not always easy to empower contact centre employees to deal with problems in a heavily regulated industry. There isn’t always the freedom for them to simply ask the customer; “how can I put this right?”.
Barriers to CX success
To be able to deliver great customer experience, it’s important to understand the barriers that prevent it. We looked at the Ipsos CX Maturity Assessment and asked attendees for their thoughts on the main challenges they face. Once again there was a clear frontrunner with over half of them saying that failing to understand customers at a deep and empathetic level is the main barrier they face, followed by failing to develop a clear, strategic CX plan.
When we discussed what’s holding organisations back from developing deeper empathetic relationships with customers that reach out to these financial organisations, it came down to a relentless focus on call times and cost per call. When eyes are on the clock, and there’s pressure to answer the next call, it can be harder to understand when customers need more support. Customers may be dealing with a wide range of external pressures which are affecting their mental health, and it’s important to be able to give them the time they need to be properly listened to. Empathy is about listening as much as it is about taking supportive action and it's important that time to provide that care is included as part of the overall CX approach.
Embracing technology to better serve a multi-generational society.
Finally, we discussed how organisations should be embracing technology to better serve a multi-generational society, and what was interesting was that we uncovered existing biases and assumptions that many people didn’t know they had. Many assumed that younger generations are more tech savvy and want to use technology more, while older generations would prefer to avoid it. But in reality, the coronavirus pandemic has turned generational use of technology on its head. It’s now more important than ever to distinguish between customer groups with a more human-centred approach. While technology can be an enabler, we discussed how sometimes organisations may offer too many choices of ways for customers to get in touch which can be overwhelming. Instead, technology and innovation should enhance the customer experience and journey, not placing a barrier in the way of true empathetic connections.
This led us on to discussing the shape and design of a typical contact centre environment and the profile of employees within it. We agreed that there is a need to hire people who have the emotional intelligence and empathy to confidently have emotional engaging conversation with customers. And when dealing with emotional and challenging calls, we must also consider the employees’ wellbeing. How can we support a call handler to provide genuine care to a customer who is extremely vulnerable and needs support?
Building a supportive community to create better CX outcomes
The event highlighted that there is much to be gained from speaking to fellow CX leaders from across the financial services sector. Although the attendees were from different organisations, they all agreed that they benefitted from sharing similar challenges. We plan to continue the conversation and hold similar events in future.