Should banks cut spending on the customer experience and digital channels they risk disintermediation – being cut out of the transaction loop at a time of heightened competition.

Banks in Australia must contend with tightening regulations and greater scrutiny after a series of revelations about poor practices and lax controls. They should also improve the customer experience or risk losing business to new, more nimble competitors. In the second of this four-part series, we look at the implications of the new Banking Code of Practice and other regulatory developments, and outline why improving the customer experience is vital.

In our first post, we explored how banks – by addressing employee conduct – could kill two birds with one stone: improving the customer experience while at the same time addressing both the compliance requirements of the new Banking Code of Practice (BCOP), which comes into effect in July 2019, and the findings of the Royal Commission on the financial services industry.

In this article, we will dive deeper into how banks should go about improving the customer experience, and outline the benefits they can expect to reap by doing so.

Broadly, improving the customer experience encompasses three areas:

  • Transitioning from a sales-driven culture to a service culture;
  • ensuring that this culture shift happens across all channels;
  • meanwhile prioritising regulatory spend that also improves customer experience and digital channels.

As the Royal Commission has shown, customer-related outcomes must be central to banks’ planning. Focusing on improving the customer experience by designing for a service culture can not only meet the requirements of BCOP and the Royal Commission; it can also set up banks for a future that places the customer at the heart of their operations – essential for competing in the new banking world.

From sales to service

As banks globally look to regain customer trust, many are dropping sales targets from employee scorecards. The pressure to do so came initially from an independent, industry-funded review of retail banking remuneration, launched to address issues in mortgage broking. The Australian Banking Association’s 2017 Sedgwick review outlined a series of sales-related reforms for retail bank staff, including that banks scrap incentive structures that rely solely on meeting sales targets.[1] Banks have come under more pressure following revelations about sales-related misconduct at the Royal Commission hearings.

The drive now is towards blended measures that limit sales to no more than a limited proportion of incentive payments contributions, while also factoring in elements like customer satisfaction, risk management and team-based goals. The Big Four Australian banks have started to implement such measures. [2]

Although switching from a sales-driven culture to a service culture can take time, it is a vital step as banks look to position themselves in a highly competitive landscape. As much as anything, success requires a change in management culture, and employees need reassurance that customer satisfaction is more important than sales.

A multi-channel approach

The pressure to improve conduct is also commercial, since in the long-term, going down this road also positions banks to take on fintechs and GAFAA competitors (i.e. Google LLC, Apple Inc., Facebook, Inc, Amazon.com, Inc and Alibaba Group Holding Limited -style tech firms offering financial services) that put customer satisfaction at the very heart of their offerings.

The rise of these competitors has wholly altered customers’ expectations of service: increasingly, the standard across an array of industries is a highly personalised, location-based, design-led digital experience. And because banks provide services across a range of channels–in-branch, on human-assisted digital channels such as contact centres, and on self-service digital channels where customers have no human interaction–success means banks tackling conduct risk across all three.

For in-branch and human-assisted digital channels such as contact centres, the switch to a service culture (including adapting revised performance metrics) should be made for all employees. Keeping conduct risk low in self-service digital channels, on the other hand, means designing and testing them with the customers’ best interests in mind. A poorly planned strategy raises the risk of misconduct; entities should strive to build trust by design.

Doing so helps ensure that:

  • Customers get prudent advice with appropriate disclosures;
  • customer requests and records are retained;
  • products used are suitable for this method of distribution;
  • digital controls are in place to treat customers fairly;
  • artificial intelligence is used responsibly.

The fact that 38 percent of Australians would consider banking with Google or Amazon – tech titans with the ability to harvest the rich seam of customer data to offer highly personalised financial offerings – should be sufficient warning.[3] Failing to act could see banks as mere providers of credit, with others owning the customer relationship.

Continue investing in the customer experience

The risk banks face in trying to meet the requirements of the BCOP and the Royal Commission is that they focus their funding and attention on meeting control and risk needs, and entirely neglect the customer experience. That is what happened in the UK a decade ago; there, banks are still struggling to win back what they lost.

Should banks cut spending on the customer experience and digital channels they risk disintermediation – being cut out of the transaction loop at a time of heightened competition.

The key is to keep spending on the customer experience and digital channels, and to do so with a focus on human-centred design (HCD). GAFAA firms excel at HCD: thinking about problems from a human perspective, then relying on collaboration, empathy and experimentation to create innovative solutions that people love.

An HCD approach results in an improved customer experience throughout the journey, creating solutions where the needs of people and business, legal requirements and technical feasibility intersect. Putting this into practice requires input from a range of stakeholders. For instance, earlier this year Accenture and Fjord™ worked with CBA (Commonwealth Bank of Australia), adopting a HCD approach to imagine a transformed CBA workforce in 2025. CBA Amaze invited contribution from young people, CBA employees, customers and partners to co-design a vision of how banking can evolve in future.

Using HCD to design the response to regulatory requirements means banks won’t neglect the customer and employee experience.  Acting in this way can also make regulatory processes seamless and customer-focused and reduce the threats banks face from GAFA and other challengers.

In our next blog in this series we’ll look in greater detail at how banks can work to reduce conduct risk.

For more information on the Banking Code of Practice, read our point of view: “Ensuring Seaworthiness to Chart a Course: How Australian Banking can survive the perfect storm”.

Contributors to this post: Jennifer Pham, Manager, Management Consulting, Accenture; Rimon Nissan, Manager, Management Consulting, Accenture.

Disclaimer: This document makes descriptive reference to trademarks that may be owned by others. The use of such trademarks herein is not an assertion of ownership of such trademarks by Accenture and is not intended to represent or imply the existence of an association between Accenture and the lawful owners of such trademarks.

 

References:

  1. AFR, “NAB reduces sales-linked bank staff bonuses”, 21 June 2018. See: https://www.afr.com/business/banking-and-finance/financial-services/nab-scales-back-saleslinked-bonuses-20180621-h11oj2
  2. Ibid.
  3. Accenture Global Distribution & Marketing Consumer Study, 2017. See https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insight-financial-services-distribution-marketing-consumer-study

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