How to restore the human touch to financial services

Posted on Apr 04, 2019


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The age of digital disruption has delivered many opportunities for the financial services sector to improve its service to customers, from faster, more convenient payments to improved cybersecurity; personalised, intuitive products to greater transparency and accountability. Customers have more choice, control and expectation than ever before.

But with the positive changes, there are challenges. One risk is that the rush to adopt new technology inadvertently squeezes the personal touch. If the balance tips, relationships with customers become too transactional, and that’s not what customers want.

A UK survey of 4,500 financial services customers by Accenture found that the relationship with customers had become “dehumanised”. While they enjoy the added convenience and efficiency brought about by digitisation, human contact remains important to them, especially at key moments in their lives when they need advice and reassurance.

Additionally, one of the five key findings in their 2019 Global Financial Services Consumer Study is that customers increasingly expect a fully personalised offering from their financial providers. Another key finding is that many consumers now want integrated propositions that address their core needs, not just traditional financial services. This requires a more personal touch and greater insight into individual customers’ needs.

The disconnect between what customers want and what’s on offer has long-term implications, according to Deloitte’s Banking Industry Outlook. It lists customer centricity as one of the six themes critical for sustainable growth. The report says “banks may risk losing control over customer experience” as they grapple with technology innovation and the pace of change.    

With so much at stake, how can banks, insurers and finance companies build more meaningful relationships with customers in the age of digital transformation? One key piece in the puzzle is training. 

Building key customer centricity skills

It’s a mistake to think that as human beings we can all naturally build rapport with others and feel empathy. It’s something that often needs knowledge, practise and nurture, especially in organisations where a product-led culture may have dominated for a long time.

With the right blend of learning, your customer-facing teams can quickly transform customer interactions into the valued and personalised relationships that build customer loyalty for years to come.

Global insurance company AXA is a shining example of what can be achieved with customer centricity training. Working with Sponge, AXA introduced a blended learning campaign, called Inspiring Customer First, at its UK business insurance contact centre. The programme has won multiple industry awards, including gold at the Learning Technologies Awards.

The focus of the campaign was equipping insurance advisors with the skills and techniques to connect with customers, personalise conversations and deliver outstanding customer service. By cleverly combining digital learning elements, such as short elearning modules and game-based online scenarios, with face-to-face group sessions and one-on-one coaching, the campaign generated a measurable difference in the response of customers.

Within a few months, feedback on an independent customer review website showed positive comments had increased by 113%, while formal complaints were down 24%. In addition, the company’s own measure of top-rated calls more than doubled.

AXA’s Inspiring Customer First programme has given its people both the skills and confidence they need to get ahead in customer service.  It’s proved that devoting time to soft skills, which aid natural conversation and personalised relationships, is worth the investment.

What’s clear is that financial services companies need to continue to pay attention to both digital and human skills; their employees will need them in equal measure to deliver on the customer centricity aspirations of the industry. Digitisation shouldn’t rob the customer of the human touch, instead it has the power to make it even better. 

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