Finding Your Financial Institution’s ‘New Normal’ CX

With banking experiences changed by the pandemic, it's vital to be sure you're still delivering on your brand promise. Launching new customer journey maps may not be feasible in the short run, but banks and credit unions can discover critical information by creating simple and inexpensive service maps. Here's how to get started.

It may not seem like the time to invest a great deal of money into new customer experience endeavors. While that’s understandable given so much economic uncertainty, there actually may never be as important a time to invest a modest amount to determine how COVID-19 has changed your customers’ experiences with you. And there are plenty of questions to address. Here are several:

Before COVID hit, how many consumers continued to use cash and branches primarily because of inertia? Many of them now have become reluctant to do banking in-person because of health concerns, research shows. Will these people be coming back when (and if) their pandemic-related worries go away?

Pre-COVID digital adoption followed a traditional pattern: early adopters, the majority, followers, and laggards. Since the start of the pandemic a new product adoption group has been added: “forced-to-adopt.” Is the customer experience of this new group like previous groups? How does their experience measure up compared to your brand promise?

The average consumer uses three financial institutions. So it is likely that many of your customers were forced to adopt digital services at two competitors as well. How do these customers’ experiences with you measure up against their experiences with the other financial institutions?

Tap Employee Customer Insights

So, how can you start measuring these experiences? The forced-to-adopt group is the one most likely to be on the phone with your employees. This is a nice fit because in most retail banks and credit unions, the best source of information about your customers is your employees. In order to mine that source, however, you need a forum where employees can share their insights in a structured way.

During the pandemic employees at many financial institutions may have taken on different roles, are working in different places, and work with (or without) different people. If you cannot get them physically together, get them on a video conference call. A good way to provide focus for the sharing of insights this way is to use a service map, done virtually.

A service map is a quick version of a customer journey map, in which you map the customer’s journey based on your best assumptions of (rather than research of) the customer’s experience. Although the journey is based on assumptions rather than facts, it introduces the concept that you need to be thinking about what is going on with the customer even while you are focused on your own service delivery. Especially when back-office staff are first time participants in a CX project, it helps to keep the customer journey visible on the map. That allows you to keep asking, “What’s going on with the customer?”

You can do a service map yourself with inexpensive online tools or have an outside resource lead the discussion. Either way, begin by selecting one of your institution’s services that has recently added a significant number of new customers. Ask your employees to talk about what is happening to the customer, your own operation, and what the customer’s perceptions (or feelings) might be.

” To get front-line staff and back-office staff to ‘walk in each other’s shoes,’ there is no better tool than a service map.”
— Dan Long, Long View CX & Marketing

With a service map, you do not know for sure what the customer experience is because you do not have the research to prove it nor the focus on a single customer or persona. But, you do have much more than a good guess. You have employees who know their customers and you have provided a forum where they can share and inform each other.

If you want to get front-line staff and back-office staff to “walk in each other’s shoes,” there is no better tool than a service map.

Five reasons financial institutions should service map now:

  1. For some of your services, you may have changed how you deliver and/or who you deliver to.
  2. Some of your customers are using services new to them and in some cases, services they did not want to use.
  3. You may have employees that are being fully paid but cannot be fully utilized — they can participate from home.
  4. You may have employees that are currently in different roles. For example, you may have sales staff in your contact center. Get one or more of these people involved.
  5. Your employees are now much more comfortable with web conferences.

Sample service map for in-branch account opening using virtual sticky notes

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Preparing for a service map session.
Let your creative agency know what you are doing and ask for their input throughout the process, but do not have them participate in the map session. Ideally the session leader should have previous experience with service maps. After a few sessions, however, a good leader may surface from within the group.

Be specific regarding the service you want to map including start and end points.
Pick the right employees to be in the service map session and keep it to six — or no more than eight — participants. Get one representative from each relevant area.

These sessions tend to surface things that can be addressed with a quick fix across two or three departments. If officers and/or managers are in the session, remind them of the authority they have to make these small fixes. It would be a shame for such items to have to go all the way up and down the chain of command. Also, make sure the participants understand what kinds of things you expect them to fix on their own and what does, and does not, need to be “run up the flagpole.”

Running a service map session.

  • Pick a format. The one pictured above is a quite simple format that uses virtual sticky notes and three “rails”: Customer Emotions/Perceptions, Customer Experience (customer is aware), and Internal Operations.
  • Keep it high level. Observations should be able to fit on a sticky note.
  • Capture the details. If a detailed discussion breaks out, be sure to capture it, but then steer the group back to the map.
  • Walk through the process from service start point to end point. The facilitator’s favorite question should be: “What is going on with the customer right now?”
  • Focus on experience. Do not worry if you do not have much on the emotional rail but be sure the customer experience rail is well populated.

Using the Results of a Service Map Session

Try to have someone provide a quick report at each of the department meetings represented by one or more of the participants. These departmental updates generate more employee engagement and productivity than one big presentation to management. Also, encourage each of your participants to walk their supervisor through the map.

Make sure that there is a report going to whatever level of management has the authority to continue the program. If several “find and fix” issues were addressed by the map session, get one of the participants to write it up in a “success email.” Everyone, including customer experience skeptics, values operational fixes that did not require a gathering of the “Knights of the Round Table.”

You will want to highlight cross-departmental progress and employee development. Bullet-point any specifics — especially time savings, cost savings, and next steps. If possible, identify the financial gains you are targeting.

All participants and departments involved in the journey should be informed of the service map results. Be sure to highlight any “aha moments.” If possible, include a copy of the map itself. Note the items where there are follow-ups and/or questions that need to be answered.

What you can expect from an effective service map session:

  • One or more quick fixes.
  • All internal players understand the operation under the new normal, as it evolves.
  • Customer contact staff and back office staff have walked in each other’s shoes.
  • A better understanding of how well your standard procedures are holding up under the new normal.
  • You will have identified the important touchpoints to consider when you create your persona for the customer journey map to follow.
  • You may uncover an opportunity to highlight an employee “bright spot.”

There are many good things that come out of a service map session, yet to really understand the customer experience it’s vital that banks and credit unions continue to the next stage and run a customer journey map. As great as a service map is, you need a journey map to fully answer questions like the ones raised earlier about the changes in consumer banking habits.

Only with consumers sharing their experiences will you know, for example, if the forced-to-adopt segment is planning to return to using physical ATMs, branches, and meeting in person.

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