This realisation comes at a time when customers are communicating with the firms regarding a range of important topics. They vary from negotiating a freeze on mortgage repayments to accessing superannuation funds and paying down debts.
The way in which interactions are taking place has also changed. Where once a customer may have visited a bank branch or office to discuss issues face-to-face, they are now more likely to be undertaken digitally.
Unfortunately, many customers find inconsistent experiences when using different channels for communication and interaction. Often, they have to provide the same information multiple times or contact different teams depending on the issue at hand.
This is not to say that no progress has yet been made by financial services firms when it comes to delivering strong customer experiences. A recent survey – “The Digital Mindset of Business Leaders in Asia Pacific”, conducted by research firm Ecosystm on behalf of Sitecore, found the banking and financial services sector has the highest level of customer experience maturity of any of the key industry sectors.
The survey found that, of those in the sector polled, 33 per cent nominated customer engagement as a key business goal during the next 12 months. Also, 25 per cent pointed to leveraging technology to accelerate business success as another primary goal for the year.
Across all industry sectors, 36 per cent of those surveyed nominated driving business growth as their top goal for the coming 12 months. This was followed by cost management (35 per cent) and leveraging technology (33 per cent).
Customer engagement channels
When it comes to the ways customers interact with businesses, the survey found there have been significant changes during 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Websites were the most prominent channel for 83 per cent of Australian firms surveyed, up from 61 per cent in 2019. Next most important is social media, nominated by 48 per cent and up from 29 per cent last year.
Interestingly, in-person interactions, in outlets or customer centres have fallen sharply. It was nominated by just 13 per cent of respondents – down from 44 per cent in 2019.
These results emphasise the importance of the corporate website as a key communication channel. Those firms that continue to prosper in the months and years ahead will be those that invest in their online presence and make it as compelling as possible for customers to use.
Reaching digital maturity
Information gathered during the research also allowed direct comparison between surveyed firms of the stage they have reached in their journey to digital maturity. Sitecore’s Digital Experience Maturity Model was used to place each firm into one of five categories:
- Established where there is no personalisation of communication materials and only a limited number of digital channels are used
- Aligned in which content is created to target the needs of the main customer groupings but there is still no personalisation
- Optimised when customer experience management is seen as a high priority and there has been a shift from gut-level to data-driven decision-making
- Nurtured where the customer base has been segmented for personalisation and a culture of experimentation is highly supported
- Individualised which is the optimal category where every customer interaction is personalised and automated.
Among Australian firms, just 1 per cent achieved the category of “individualised”. This was followed by 22 per cent in the “nurtured” category, 44 per cent in “optimised”, 29 per cent in “aligned” and 4 per cent in “established’. This confirms that, even though progress has been made, there is still much work that needs to be done to improve digital customer experiences.
Australia’s results map well against those of the entire ASEAN region. Of the total survey group, 3 per cent were in the individualised category followed by 22 in nurtured, 44 per cent in optimised, 26 per cent in aligned, and 6 per cent in established.
Overall, there are encouraging signs that firms understand the need to improve their digital customer experiences and are making the investments required for this to become reality.
As Australia and the world slowly recover from the heavy impact of the virus and return to growth mode, those firms that make the most effort in this area will be best positioned to flourish.
Peter Belton, vice-president, sales Australia and New Zealand at Sitecore