Real-time CX Measurement Helps Financial Institutions Shift on the Fly

Customer experience improvement can't wait for quarterly adjustments these days. By then unhappy consumers will have found alternative providers among other banks and credit unions or fintechs. Financial institutions must find ways to measure consumer sentiment continuously — and react to those feelings instantaneously.

It takes vision, investment, refinement and engineering to transform an industry. In 1901, Ransom Olds was the first to use an assembly line to manufacture cars. However, in 1913, Henry Ford introduced the moving assembly line. By bringing cars to each worker to do one task repeatedly, output was more efficient and less costly. Ford was influenced by the Chicago meat packing industry, which was using electric conveyer belts in their slaughterhouses.

These weren’t minor tweaks and they went beyond simply introducing a new feature or technology. This was wholesale re-engineering of the process from beginning to end, based in part on observation of improvements in other industries.

Real-time customer experience is sensing and analyzing customer service issues or opportunities in real time and acting upon them in real time to immediately change that customer’s experience (and all future ones).

Real-time customer experience should be more than just a buzz phrase or the application of new technology or a feature. It requires the same grand-scale transformation that car manufacturing underwent because of Ford’s breakthrough innovation. Resources are deployed; policies are flexed; websites, apps and kiosks are changed and improved — all automatically, in the moment.

Imagine an airport that is able to seamlessly open and close security lanes, ticket gates, and boarding gates to redeploy agents where they are needed on demand. This happens based on real-time data from airport operations, from passengers, and from external sources like weather, traffic, etc. You’d need sensors, data, decision-making tools, and notification solutions, not to mention agents trained to do their jobs seamlessly in one location one minute just as well as the next location the next minute.

We believe banking will adopt this same type of transformation, because the payoff is there. The link between customer experience improvement and revenue is clear. For each 1-point increase in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index score, the average multichannel bank with 15 million customers is projected to see an annual revenue boost of $123 million; for an average direct bank with 3 million customers, the projected annual revenue increase is $29 million (via Forrester report, “How Customer Experience Drives Business Growth, 2018”).

Bringing Real-Time Customer Experience Improvement to Consumers

Yet the financial services sector has hurdles to clear to achieve such a major transformation. Cost, massive data, disparate channels and businesses, security, and even regulation all stand as major barriers.

But the industry has also led innovation. In 2009, USAA became the first bank to enable check deposits with a smartphone. In 2015, Discover allowed customers to instantly freeze their Discover Card using an app. Live chat help; instant money transfers via PayPal, Venmo and Zelle; and real-time app notifications of credit card purchases and potential fraud have become commonplace. More importantly, customers embrace these innovations quickly.

Customer experience is about your customers’ perceptions and emotions, not your brand’s intentions or marketing messages. Those experiences and emotions happen in real time and need to be addressed in real time. Customers are fickle, and switching costs keep falling all the time. Indeed, every impression is now a first impression, and you can’t rely on yesterday’s surveys.

Dynamic real-time CX is the next evolutionary step in customer experience, and it requires massive structural changes in a company’s infrastructure, operations and culture. This is a complete reworking of banking’s “factory floor.”

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Building a Real-Time CX Process for Banking

What does this look like for financial services? It’s re-engineering the systems, processes, technologies and the culture to be able to:

1. Sense change in real time. This means exploring individual issues and opportunities — on apps, at ATMs, when talking to customer service or in branches — at every single customer touchpoint possible, as well as sensing sentiment and understanding the customer journeys.

It requires pulling in data from everywhere — social media, transactional data, operational data, weather and financial markets — that can impact customer experience, whether that data is intuitive or not. This is not easy. Much of this data is sitting in places not designed to be accessed and protected in real time.

2. Analyze in real time. This means discovering correlations, making predictions, suggesting next best actions and augmenting decisions. Machine learning is critical, as often the correlations and predictions that are made to serve customers aren’t readily intuitive. All these require massive architectural gymnastics to assemble.

3. Act in real time. This means acting to help the individual customer in their moment of need but also recognizing in real time when a policy, process, staffing situation or other issue exists that should be adjusted in real time to benefit the next immediate customer.

Roles, expertise and tools must be designed to nimbly bring the right capabilities and actions to the right places.

Let’s take a closer look at some examples:

  • Confusing or broken web/app touchpoints changed on the fly.
  • Predictive loan clearing — an appointment to a car dealership sets up and pushes out loan clearance automatically.
  • In-bank agents redeployed in real time to changing needs.
  • Online agents redeployed in real time to changing needs
  • Highly accurate personal banking recommendations based on real-time events and transactions.

To achieve such re-engineering requires buy-in from the board, the CEO and the entire enterprise. Henry Ford knew he could make and sell more cars cheaper and faster with his transformation, but real-time CX is going to be a little harder to sell. For most companies, it is too big and visionary to get that buy-in, especially without direct revenue benefits.

Don’t be daunted — there are steps you can take that can get you ready for this kind of overhaul, demonstrate the benefits and possibilities, and have immediate impacts on today’s customer experience (and revenue).

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Create Pockets Of Real-Time CX

Do small, concentrated pilots with eager participants. Try the following, perhaps in one branch, on one section of an app or website, or with one application process.

1. Begin by collecting real-time data. The first key to real-time CX is sensing changing sentiment in real time. Start by collecting real-time data, not surveys, which grow stale quickly. Real-time data includes immediate short pulse questions with simple answers. It also includes related observed data — transaction times, traffic, response times, etc. Don’t overwhelm yourself with data at first — start simply.

2. Then try using real-time data to augment decisions manually. The first experiment can be extremely obvious. Look at what the data is telling you and determine what changes or actions you could make as a result. Form a hypothesis and create an experiment to test it.

3. Learn and iterate, in three ways. Define success as learning what works and what doesn’t work for your financial institution. Start simple, and with each success, expand a little bit in each of the following dimensions:

• Data. Imagine a bank or credit union that places a kiosk at the entrance that asks, “How was your experience here today?” The next step could be to go wider — perhaps collecting data at more discrete touchpoints in the customer journey in that same location — “How was your experience opening an account here today?” Alternatively, the query could go more deeply — perhaps sticking with the original single question but trying it at three branches. Another step is introducing another source of real-time data, like transaction time or weather.

• Decisions. As you examine the data, experiment with decisions. Get bolder each time you demonstrate success. Redeploy staff when a data threshold is reached and see if it affects the data. Tweak a process or a policy at one location and see what happens.

• Time. Once you determine how a specific real-time operational change can affect customer experience, shorten the time it takes to sense the data, make a decision, and act on it. Now you’re realizing true real-time customer experience.

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