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1) Discuss the role of Customer Experience management in financial services, analysing the potential benefits to the organisation
Customer Experience Management (CEM) is a concept that best describes how a company can adapt strategies to take control of how it interacts with its customer base. Gupta & Vajic (2000), state “a customer experience occurs when a customer has any sensation or knowledge acquisition resulting from some level of interaction with different elements of a context created by the service provider”. The goal of CEM is to get the most out of these interactions from the customer’s perspective to build and foster customer loyalty. For financial services firms to best manage their customer experience, they should look to create and adopt strategies that are customer-centric encompassing all interactions. Good CEM programs require companies to have a holistic view of their customers, essentially providing a full 360-degree view, supported with integrated and up-to-date data on their customer accounts. Financial products by their very nature are similar in features, perceived or known benefit, the level of risk or reward. What sets one financial service provider apart from its competitors are the experiences customers expect and or receive when dealing with them. CEM is an essential tool in assisting financial institutions to differentiate from their competitors’. A successful customer experience strategy should include the 6 pillars of success and these drive excellence in Customer Experience. Financial Services firms need to understand their customers and their needs and behaviours. Once firms understand this, they can then look to create customer segmentation based on this information. Firms should develop the customer vision by identifying their target audience, produce a customer journey map or customer lifecycle. This map will help identify key customer touchpoints and will allow companies to anticipate how customers will interact with the product or service purchased. This lifecycle or map will be will be valuable in retaining customers in the future, and developing the firms’ retention strategy. One of the pillars of success is emotional connection. Individual attention for customer experience management involves creating a brand personality that stimulates a customer’s emotions and connections and helps establish a relationship between the customer and the financial services company. For a firm to be successful at customer experience management, they need to engage in both customer and staff feedback. This is crucial for financial services firms to help them measure customer satisfaction levels. With the right technology they can gather this feedback in real time. Successful retention strategies that are driven out of well-founded and managed CEM programs will benefit the financial services company by increasing the lifetime value of a customer, while also increasing the likelihood for upselling or cross-sales opportunities to the firms existing long term customers. Example (Reichfeld 2001), states that a “5% reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits by 25 to 80%, and 7 out of 10 customers who switch to a competitor, do so because of poor customer experience”.
Employee feedback surveys, or pulse surveys are important also, because a key enabler of good customer experience management are employees. A key enabler for CEM to succeed, is the human resource or employees. Just as customers must have a good experience, employees need to have a good experience and be able to digest information about themselves. Staff engagement is as important as a well-developed marketing strategy. A good human resources strategy should include communications and training that conveys the economic rationale for CEM and paints a picture of how it may alter work and decision-making processes. Since the frontline staff are key distributors of customer experience, it is always invaluable to study those employees’ individual capabilities, work processes, and most importantly, their attitudes. Motivated staff provide the best customer experience, and are key to delivering customer experience excellence. As for performance management, of course customer experience results should affect compensation, however this must be balanced against the importance of looking after the customer as much as closing the sale. As we have learned in recent years, with the hindsight of the financial crisis from 2008, incentives that are too powerful and more weighted towards sales targets are more likely to distort behaviour than channel it productively. Financial services firms are moving towards rewarding staff for excellence in customer experience as opposed to sales revenue. This shift away from rewarding sales scores will be a contributing factor for success in years to come, as consumers become more aware of the experience of dealing with a particular firm or financial services provider. Research has shown they rate this as high as price when deciding on a particular product or service.
Market research and customer surveys are crucially important in todays’ financial services industry. The importance of capturing a customers’ experience of dealing with a particular provider, or their thoughts and feelings on a targeted product is fundamental to how well structured the customer survey is. Customer feedback helps monitor and track customer perceptions, which in turn helps a firm determine the successes of their adopted customer experience strategy. When firms connect with customer emotions, the payoff can be significant. Research has shown that when a particular bank introduced a credit card aimed at millennials, which was designed to inspire emotional connection, use amongst the target market increased by 70%, the growth of new accounts saw an increase of over 40%. These emotional motivators can be used to gauge a customers’ future value to a firm, including brand awareness. (Harvard Business Review, 2015) Firms are now realising that customer satisfaction can be the most important new source of growth and profitability. Online and banking apps can be a useful source for detailed touch-point analysis to target their customers and gauge satisfaction levels and/or experience. With the increase in online and mobile technologies, financial services firms can develop robust and subtle surveys that consumers can complete to provide insights into how they complete day to day banking and where they can seek improvements to their online or mobile offering. It is important that companies know a lot about customers’ buying habits, incomes, and other characteristics used to classify them, however they don’t know enough about the thoughts and emotions induced when their customer interacts with products, services, or brands. Yet unless companies know about these subjective experiences and the role every function plays in shaping them, customer satisfaction is more a slogan than a realistic or attainable goal. The 2018 Digital Trends in Financial Services report by E-Consultancy & Adobe surveyed over 700 industry leaders at senior management level or above in the finance and insurances industry across EMEA, North America and Asia Pacific. Evidence from this report suggests that more than 36% of those surveyed say that CEX, specifically making the customer experience more fun, easier and valuable will be the primary way they look to differentiate themselves from their competitors through 2018 and beyond. Furthermore, 81% of the finance and insurance firms surveyed are more likely to view CEX as “very important” over the next few years, compared to just 69% from other sectors. When asked “which was the single most exciting opportunity for your organisation in 2018”? 28% of respondents suggested that optimising customer experience compared to just 28% in other sectors. This was ranked above such other ideas as multichannel marketing, Social marketing or using marketing automation to increase efficiency and yield.
The key for financial services firms is to make sure they are optimising the customer journey across multiple touchpoints. The survey shows a 3% uplift in the proportion of companies from within the financial and insurance sector prioritising the customer journey over most other disciplines and other activities. The increase from 78% to 81% shows the priority companies now place on CX and confirms my belief that this is the single most important way companies operating within the financial services sector can differentiate themselves from their competitors.
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Q2 Describe a particular customer (internal or external) and their journey within your organisation paying particular attention to their typical wants and needs associated with that journey.
A customer persona is a short description or biographies of fictional, archetypal customers. (pragmatic marketing, 2014). They are useful tools that facilitate the visualisation of customers and their unique needs for any company or organisation. A Customer persona allows a business or firm to effectively walk in the shoes of their customer, with a view to developing suitable products and services that meet those needs best. (Ford, 2005) defines a customer persona as an “archetypal representation of an actual user group whose members share similar needs and goals”. In order to develop the most complete customer persona, financial services firms need to gather critical information at each step during the customer journey or life cycle. By following this logic, it should provide financial services companies with the best insight on customer behaviour, and provide key data driven segmentation to enable companies to strategically market new products and services to the right customer base (Ramirez, Stephen J. 2013:82).
Ulster Bank Ireland DAC
Ulster Bank Ireland DAC is the 3rd largest bank on the island of Ireland. They offer the full spectrum of banking products, services and online facilities to both personal, business and indeed corporate customers. They are owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, and the vision is to be the No.1 Bank for customer service, trust and advocacy in its market by 2020. Mortgage lending for Y/E 2017 was at €1BN, helped in part by the banks campaign “Help for What Matters”. The Bank has over 1.1M customers, an has been in operation for over 180 years. Mortgage Lending and mobile/online banking are the key focus areas as the bank looks to keep up with technological advancements. Ulster Bank continue to invest heavily in its online and mobile banking platforms, and during 2017 more than 64% of the bank’s customer base was “digitally active”, while also reporting an uplift of 20% in their mobile app users. Ulster Bank offer Mortgages through their branch network, broker centre and via a dedicated mobile mortgage manager team. (Ulster Bank Annual Report, 2017)
My Customer Persona:
Sinead O’Brien is a single lady, aged 30 years old, no dependents. She is a full-time sales manager with Google working typically 50 – 70 hours per week. Sinead enjoys socialising, reading and participating in sport. She rents in Sandymount paying €2k per month for a 1 bed apartment. She is a first-time buyer (FTB) and actively looking for a mortgage. Originally from Maynooth she is keen to purchase in her home town. Currently Sinead is saving hard to secure the deposit required. She is excited at the thought of owning her own place, while at the same time nervous about the process, and she is a FTB she is not very savvy with the mortgage process. She doesn’t have any loans or credit card debt. She is tech savvy, is an avid user of the banking app on her iPhone and uses online banking. Sinead opened her account as a student in NUI Maynooth and has never really required anything more than a basic current account. Overall, Sinead is quite daunted at the process of trying to understand the mortgage process and is nervous about approaching Ulster Bank for the finance to help make her dream come true, but crucially knows exactly what her end-goal is: own her own home.

The Customer Journey
Customer journey mapping is not a new phenomenon and has been used by business to track the lifecycle of a customer through their various stages both within their own lifecycle and with their relationship with the particular firm. A customer journey map is a diagram that visualises or documents the steps of a customers experience with a company from the customers own perspective. Information relating to the customers personal experience is captured on the map each time the customer interacts with or engages with a company, be it online purchase or a retail store product or service transaction. (Harvard Business Review, 2010). Each customer goes through a journey for every product/service that is purchased, whether online or at the bank counter, or using a self-service checkout at their local Super-Value. Each of these experiences will be memorable for the customer, and it is important for companies that each one of these experiences are as good as possible. For every good experience the customer has, the more likely they are to return for a second and third time. When the experience is not good, it is helpful for the company to know what went wrong so they can improve the next time. Companies that perfect customer journeys can reap the rewards, including both enhanced customer and employee satisfaction, reduced churn rates, increase in revenue, reduced costs, and importantly improved collaboration across the organisation. Companies need to combine both the judgement driven evaluations from the top down, and the data driven analysis from the bottom up that identifies key journeys. They then need to engage the entire organisation in redesigning and redefining the customer experience. This will involve the move away from working in siloes to more collaborative cross divisional approaches, and change from the touch point to a journey orientation. (Rawson et al 2013). The journey for Sinead to begin with, involves her searching online for information on mortgage lending, seeking out information on what various lenders offer, how much she can borrow and what the rates are. Her journey will involve going through an application, submitting this to the bank for a decision, receiving the decision. Then next is the Loan Offer being issued, reviewing the conditions with the help of her solicitor, and then finally closing the sale and getting her keys. She begins her application by logging onto the Ulster Bank Ireland website to see information and options are available. She opts for the mobile mortgage manager as she doesn’t have the time to visit a branch for an appointment and requests a call back for the following day. Sinead is excited at this stage as she has begun the journey to owning her own home. More importantly, she is confident that with a mobile manager to assist her, she will have that personalised approach which will be useful through her journey. Her emotional peak will begin at approval stage, re-emerge at loan offer, and ultimately the lasting impression the bank should leave with Sinead is a positive one at the time of her loan drawdown.