Client Journey Design & Management. Lessons from Financial Services client-centric transformation.
Updated: Jul 6
For every industry the pandemic has accelerated transformation of businesses' interactions with their customers. Companies had to quickly shift to rely on remote servicing and distributed teams working remotely from numerous locations including homes. Customer-centric banks, investment houses, wealth managers, insurers and other financial services firms have been investing in client journey transformation for a while already when Covid-19 hit in March 2020. The pandemic, however, has forced organisations to act quicker and delegate more resources and budgets to client journey design and digital projects - investing in people, processes and technologies to meet clients’ expectations and rapidly changing circumstances.
The experience of 2020 has also further shifted customers' attitude to being serviced remotely and digitally. Those companies that failed to adapt quickly found it extremely challenging to serve customers remotely with ever increasing volume of calls, emails, queries and complaints. The volume of complaints against financial services firms submitted to the Financial Ombudsman Service throughout 2020 has peaked by the end of Q4/2020. Throughout 2020, FOS continued to see the wide-ranging impact of Covid-19 on people’s lives and their finances, with individuals and small business customers getting in touch to complain about problems they couldn’t resolve with the business involved that have failed to serve them in a professional and compliant manner.
The most forward thinking financial services institutions have recognised that looking at their businesses through a client journey lens rather than back-end operational one is fundamental for achieving customer satisfaction, business success and sometimes even business survival (given numerous restrictions on physical operations that have been introduced by governments in UK and across Europe). That strategy includes aligning people, processes and technologies around client journeys, so that an entire organization can work together to provide integrated, seamless experiences for every customer. The operational model, or the 'to be' operational model that an organisation aspires to deliver through a transformation project, usually evolves around a service blueprint.
Over the last few years financial institutions created number of new roles such as a client journey manager, client journey designer or simply service designer to help their organisation transform to remain modern, relevant and contemporary.
The first step in creating a differentiated client experience and embarking on a client journey transformation is to understand your clients’ circumstances, needs, goals, expectations and pain-points. Then to look at your overall proposition and servicing model through a customer lens.Yet many enterprises are still focused on optimising specific channels, processes or interactions in an effort to achieve elusive CX (customer experience) improvements rather than looking holistically at end-to-end client journeys. Thinking about objectives of a transformation project in relation only to specific department, like contact centre, or service proposition , usually leads to opposite results than intended. Your clients may interact with multiple parts of your organization simultaneously, sometimes in more than one journey.
Let's take a contact centre as an example. Do your agents really understand the context and circumstances of your customers? Where are they coming from? What part of their individual journey are they in, or what journeys have they recently completed? You certainly want to avoid a scenario when a customer receives an irrelevant sales pitch email in the middle of dealing with their recent complaint.
For banks, their relationship with clients can be organised across a client lifecycle stages, underneath which numerous client journeys exist and are managed by empowered and accountable leaders. Instead of structuring teams by function they are creating hubs or cross functional teams aligned to stages in the client lifecycle or individual client segments. Such an operational model enables much deeper appreciation of every client's requirements and expectations at each stage of the client lifecycle and the treatment that will resonate with them.
The client journeys design could be directly linked to Customer Jobs to Be Done.
Examples could include larger proposition-type journeys and smaller ones linked to a task that a customer is looking to complete:
- I want to borrow some money (business or personal loan journey);
- I want to open a new account;
- I want to invest my money, I need an advice;
- I want to grow and protect my wealth;
- I want to change my personal details;
- I want to replace my credit or debit card;
- I want to register a power of attorney;
- I want to educate my kids about managing their finances;
- I want to purchase a house and need a mortgage.
A comprehensive journey management strategy also includes empowering bankers and contact centre agents with holistic client journey-driven insights, such as:
• What led a client to contact the service center or the banker? • The journey or journeys a client is currently taking or has recently completed.
• Client's behavioural analytics based on their usage of online/ mobile banking, website, recent transactions or spending patterns. • A client's goals, needs, interests, expectations or dissatisfaction and complaints. • How to respond and help clients reach their goal and how we might expect their life needs may evolve in the next few years.
Often customer service agents struggle to support customers effectively because they lack customer context, cannot access the right knowledge and data, and are unable to keep up with the pace of emerging issues or with the volume of contacts they need to handle. Essentially, agents can’t help customers effectively without understanding the customer’s overall experience and their current journey(s).
Improving your customer experience program requires a shift in mindset from individual interactions in siloed touchpoints to the holistic journeys your customers take to achieve their unique goals. Adopting a strategic customer journey management approach will fuel your organization’s ability to deliver exceptional customer experiences, evolve more rapidly and still serve customers in spite of many unexpected restrictions and changes in how consumers prefer and want to access services, be serviced or to learn about different propositions and products.
Globally, the speed of response to the pandemic has been a key factor in the success for many governments and organisations, but agility and rapid design should not be limited to crisis responses. In response to Covid-19, business rapidly established new service models and ways of working, including new temporary work stations at home and adopting Zoom and other tools for video calls, reviewing their supply chains, implementing new apps for call centres and shifting to more digital remote interactions with their customers than traditional face to face / in-branch / in-store servicing.
Technology and Covid have dramatically impacted the way we all communicate with one another and with different services. Communication has become increasingly primarily digital. With many channels available to us it remains crucial, however, that we respect the preferences of each client, to avoid being considered too 'difficult to do business with' - especially as wealth and purchasing power continues to transfer from one generation to the next. The recent research I conducted suggests that many clients who previously would have preferred a face to face meeting with their relationship manger, now favour a video or phone call, as long as they are re-assured of the security and confidentiality. This is unlikely to revert in the future. In private banking or wealth management, the right blend of digital and personal communication channels offered remains crucial to build and strengthen client relationships.
Perhaps the area where there has been the most successful change in service design is financial services, since a lot of financial institutions have embarked on their service transformation years before the pandemic. Often those were inspired by Fintech startup such as Revolut, Monzo or TransferWise. The pandemic has simply accelerated further this transformation and also made their experience more relevant to other businesses across different sectors. Coutts & Co, for example, the private bank and UK's oldest financial institution (part of NatWest Group), managed to quickly shift the way it interacts with clients to a suite of digital tools, including moving its exclusive client events online and enabling private bankers having confidential conversation with their clients over secure video calls.
With existing clients growing accustomed to less face time and more innovative digital interactions I expect a holistic matrix of seamless digital and physical interactions becoming a must and a baseline for any business rather than a reference for innovation and aspirational operational model. The recent reports from Forrester or KPMG on 2021 predictions further reinforce that direction for a modern business strategy.
Introduction to Service Design