We are in the age of 'now', with customer demands shaping competitor landscapes, in addition to entire business systems. It has never been more true compared to the financial services sector – where net promoter scores stand for everything, technology is rapidly advancing customer interactions, and physical touch points (especially those on the high street) are under pressure to prove their worth.

Against this backdrop, there's a strong case to show that high quality customer service can deliver real business value within the financial and payments sector – something that has already been proven multiple times, by multiple other industries. Indeed, across a broad range of sectors, 84% of organisations that enhance their customer experience have reported a rise in revenue.

In the financial services world, this point has been made clear by the challenger banks, for example app-based Monzo, Starling and Atom, which have shaken up the industry. The growth in popularity of these digital-only financial services, where customers can apply for mortgages and manage their current accounts from their smartphones, has often been put down to their ability to both provide a high-quality service to the always-on customer, and quickly bring new platforms and services to promote.

To stay competitive, traditional financial services firms need to add value to their offerings, boost customer experience and journeys for these 'now' consumers, whilst still driving efficiencies. They need to, in effect, make customer service demonstrate ROI, and fast.

Matt Phillips, VP Banking, Diebold Nixdorf, UK

More than the usual challenge

Traditional financial services organisations have for a long time suffered from large, complex and inflexible infrastructures. Scalping strategies have been built up over a long time and with numerous layers, which makes it hard to drive agility and competitive differentiation. For instance, Capgemini recently found that many core banking systems were originally developed in the 1970s and 1980s, making most banking system solutions over 3 decades old and counting.

This, understandably, helps make the digitisation of services, such as on the internet and mobile banking, extremely difficult.

Another challenge is always that those within the financial services sector are under increasing pressure to implement engaging digital transformation strategies, often with limited resources. This not only puts budgets under strain, but also puts the teams required to transform the customer experience with innovative technologies under pressure – pushing some organisations towards the limit.

Taking a holistic view

In many instances however, a mind-shift from treating customer services like a separate entity, to putting the customer at the heart of every operation, helps organisations to find a more practical way forward.

This is customer-centricity in the purest form and it involves taking a digital focus to improve and evolve the customer journey – enhancing every touch point and improving the end-to-end customer experience.

This approach could make the overall customer journey more holistic. But to be successful, it must be underpinned by intelligent platforms which could build a picture of how a customer is banking, what platforms they are relying on at different points in the day or month, and just what products they might need help with.

A practical way forward

The reality of putting the client at the heart of every operation needs a mind-shift. But at a processes level, it also involves a change in how internal teams work, how different departments collaborate, and how different platforms communicate.

Making operational changes such as this is no mean feat and there is a new industry trend of banks embracing service providers as a way of provisioning resource effectively, getting access to new skills quickly, or freeing up internal staff.

This so called 'as-a-service' phenomenon continues to be prevalent in other industries for many years. In the retail sector, it's a tried and tested model, with the British Retail Consortium recently finding that 70% of retailers are outsourcing some their operations, with warehousing also it being the most likely functions to be outsourced. This helps them to reduce costs and optimise how their businesses are run.

The transformation from traditional resourcing, to an 'as-a-service' economy is well underway in the united kingdom, with analysts expecting the XaaS sell to grow 38% by 2021. For the financial sector there are clear benefits to be gained, if organisations can boost operational efficiencies, and supply internal staff with the time they need to evolve their current customer support offering.

BankData in Denmark is just one illustration of a financial organisation that is already utilizing an as-a-service model successfully. Rather than spend precious time managing its own huge ATM network, BankData is using a service provider to implement enhanced ATM monitoring tools, newly automated processes and services support across its entire self-service network of 11 Danish banks. This means that internal staff can focus on future-proofing the bank's services and placing customers at the heart of every new innovation.

Even some banking services start-ups are exploring as-a-service choices to improve their growth performance. For instance, mobile-based Coconut, which combines banking and accounting services so that freelancers can pay/ get their bills paid easier, is partnering having a banking-as-a-service provider to run its back-end technology.

Future-focused services

Ultimately, adding value to every touch point is crucial with regards to putting customers first, and therefore gaining ROI. It is encouraging to determine more financial services firms find new ways to boost their offering, with many increasingly embracing service providers to do so.

Every platform must add something to the journey if your customer-centric strategy is to be successful, and the 'as-a-service' model holds the key to striking the right balance between making a customer-centric approach successful, and efficient. Long live the ROI of customer support.

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