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Lessons in customer experience from leading banking and financial services brands

Illustration of a smartphone, a credit card, coins and a shield with a lock icon, all meant to symbolize customer experience for banking and financial services brands

Customer expectations are evolving.

If you have read articles on customer experience (CX) recently, you've likely seen this sentence used ad nauseam. It's not a lack of creativity in CX writing; it's a testament to a simple truth. The wants, needs and preferences of consumers are a moving target and brands are continuously adapting their processes to ensure they have the best chance of hitting it.

For example, a decade ago, the notion of leaving the house for a night out equipped with nothing but a smartphone seemed improbable. Fast-forward to today, and digital payment systems like Google Pay and Apple Pay have seamlessly woven themselves into our daily lives. Consumers can use their smartphone and wearable devices to pay for an increasing amount of goods and services. And according to Clearly Payments, the popularity of contactless payments is only going to increase over the next few years because of its convenience, efficiency and security. In fact, the credit card processor estimates that contactless transaction value will more than double in less than five years.

The banking and financial services industry knows the challenge of meeting changing consumer expectations well. According to Deloitte Digital, "in recent years, the banking marketing environment has changed radically: Low barriers to entry in the wake of new regulations, technological advancements and customers with digital affinity have attracted not only global service providers with digital DNA, but also FinTech companies." Simply put, competition in banking and financial services is fierce and in this uncertain economic environment, customer experience can be the strategic differentiator.

The stakes are high. According to research by McKinsey, "Banks that are frontrunners in customer satisfaction lead in financial metrics such as total shareholder return (TSR), increased growth, and decreased costs." With so much on the line, banking leaders have had to align their customer experience initiatives to not only weather the challenges of a dynamic marketplace, but also emerge as trailblazers setting new benchmarks for others to follow.

From innovative digital solutions that redefine convenience to providing employees with the right tools to make their job easier, the insights derived from leaders in the banking and financial services industry can provide a blueprint for businesses across all sectors. Read on to uncover three invaluable lessons in CX that transcend industry boundaries, providing actionable insights any brand can implement in their pursuit of elevated experiences.

1. How a multinational bank prioritizes innovation in a highly regulated industry

With the banking and financial services industry's extensive regulatory requirements, it's not surprising that some organizations would be wary of trying new things. However, the key to delivering stand-out customer experiences lies in a brand's willingness to experiment with cutting-edge technologies.

Despite the challenge, one multinational bank has successfully cultivated an ecosystem that fosters an inclusive and secure approach to assessing innovative opportunities. This commitment to innovation has generated a number of customer-centric solutions. Most recently, the organization partnered with TELUS International and WillowTree, a TELUS International Company, to explore how generative AI (GenAI) could be used to improve customer service and productivity.

The client leveraged the GenAI Jumpstart accelerator program — an eight-week engagement designed for companies at an early stage of their AI journey. The primary objective of this project was to serve as a 'playground,' an arena to experiment and test the potential of GenAI in enhancing CX, supporting customer service agents and leveraging the bank's rich content to address customer queries.

However, maintaining a delicate balance between regulatory compliance and innovation is critical. Stringent data protection regulations can impose strict guidelines on the collection, processing and storage of personal data, and failing to comply with these regulations — and others — can lead to severe legal consequences. In fact, according to a recent report by Everest Group, supported by TELUS International, when it comes to their organization's ability to adopt and implement GenAI solutions, CXM leaders in the banking, financial services and insurance industry cited AI regulatory compliance as the top roadblock, followed closely by data security and privacy concerns and exposure risk from GenAI.

The team received comprehensive guidance from the bank regarding guardrails and designed a Dual-LLM Safety System to help the client mitigate the risks associated with the misuse and possible failure of GenAI. This dual-LLM model featured a supervisor functionality, ensuring the AI assistant stayed on task and avoided sharing inappropriate information. Extensive testing of the proof-of-concept generative AI chatbots in a secure environment will allow the company to understand GenAI's potential for enhancing CX.

As this example demonstrates, working closely with a customer experience partner well-versed in the development of cutting-edge technology and the intricacies of industry regulations can help brands innovate in a safe and secure manner.

2. How a large U.S.-based financial services corporation elevated its CX during a period of rapid growth

As brands look to scale their operations, it can become difficult to enhance, let alone maintain, their CX standards.

TELUS International recently worked with a large U.S.-based corporation that provides financial services, property information and business intelligence across consumer credit, real estate and capital markets. Having undergone substantial growth over the past decade, the company faced the complexities of managing dispersed customer support centers. The organization was looking for a business process consulting partner with customer experience management capabilities to assist them in assessing their existing contact centers and provide innovative solutions to drive efficiencies, improve technology and increase client satisfaction.

Tapping into TELUS International's CX process consulting expertise, the client underwent a transformative journey. Through meticulous analysis and innovative solutions, including a redesigned Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, the introduction of an agent-facing chatbot and an overhaul of their internal knowledge base and agent reference material, the client achieved notable results. Enhanced self-service capabilities resulted in reductions in call volume of 20%, reductions in average handle time of up to 30%, reductions in average IVR journey time of 33% and improvements in call deflection of up to 49%.

Brands can face the challenge of maintaining high-quality customer experiences during periods of significant growth by embracing agile and adaptive strategies that can evolve with the changing landscape. Some examples include:

  • Making use of scalable technologies that can grow seamlessly with the increasing demands of your customer base. Cloud-based solutions, for example, allow for flexible and scalable infrastructure and ensure that as your business expands, so does your capacity to deliver exceptional CX. Additionally, chatbots or virtual assistants can efficiently handle increased inquiries without compromising on response times or quality.
  • Ensuring a seamless omnichannel experience across online and offline touchpoints. As the customer base broadens, so does the diversity in communication preferences. Consistency in service quality, whether through digital platforms, mobile apps or in-person interactions, is key to sustaining positive CX.
  • Leveraging data analytics to understand customer behavior, preferences and pain points. This enables personalized interactions, making customers feel valued and understood, even as the client base expands.

And working collaboratively with an experienced CX partner can also be an asset for brands as they scale. "A trusted CX partner brings valuable expertise to efficiently manage and enhance the end-to-end customer support ecosystem, addressing a wide range of needs," said Lori Branton, global vice president of client success at TELUS International. "A knowledgeable partner can play a crucial role in pinpointing information gaps, overcoming workflow obstacles and resolving user experience issues — aspects that significantly influence customer experience and become more pronounced as operations scale. A partner can also collaborate on transformational solutions to drive the best business outcomes for the brands they support."

3. How Ascensus improved user satisfaction and reduced operating costs by prioritizing UX

In an era dominated by digital interactions, brands must recognize the importance of a superior user experience (UX). Intuitive mobile applications with seamless, user-friendly interfaces enable customers to effortlessly interact with a brand.

One example of the power of a great UX is the work WillowTree did in collaboration with Ascensus — the largest U.S. independent record keeping services partner, third-party retirement plan administrator and government savings facilitator serving retirement, education and disability-related savings plans. At the end of 2021, additional states opened auto-IRA State-Facilitated Retirement Savings Programs (SFRPs) — low-cost retirement savings accounts aimed at addressing the needs of small business employees, low-wage and part-time workers.

Ascensus was at the forefront of administering the nation's first SFRPs in 2017, and with over 250,000 employers set to register for the SFRP by the deadline, Ascensus understood that ensuring a smooth onboarding experience would lead to higher adoption rates, improved employer satisfaction and reduced calls for support.

"Ascensus knew the adoption of SFRPs was a movement," said Kirsten Duke, product researcher for WillowTree, in a LinkedIn article by Jarrod Cady, chief marketing officer at WillowTree. "A difficult onboarding might scare off future employers, but if the process is smooth, it will have a huge ripple effect on all the other states preparing to adopt these policies."

The WillowTree team dedicated their efforts to enhancing the employer experience, focusing on intuitiveness and overall program efficacy. The primary project goal centered on redesigning and streamlining the initial process for employers to register and provide essential details about their employee base. The result was a revamped dashboard that not only significantly improved the registration flow but also offered a more intuitive user experience.

The redesign brought about impressive outcomes. Ascensus and their state partners witnessed an increase in successful registrations, with a 24% uptick in employers adding an employee roster to enable savings, and a 600% surge in employers completing enrollment on the same day. Additionally, the time required to complete key enrollment steps saw a noteworthy reduction. The enhanced user experience not only benefited user satisfaction but also translated into tangible cost savings, with a $1 million annual reduction in operating costs attributed to decreased call center volume.

Transform your CX

In today's dynamic landscape, the aforementioned lessons — from embracing innovation and prioritizing user experiences to navigating growth without compromising CX quality — are a compass for businesses across all sectors. The success stories showcase the tangible rewards awaiting those who take the necessary steps to enhance and innovate their customer experience.

Yet, the path to CX excellence can be intricate. This is where the role of a knowledgeable and experienced CX partner becomes paramount. Engaging with a partner who understands the nuances of your industry, and has a proven track record in navigating the challenges and opportunities of digital customer experience, can accelerate your transformation journey. Whether it's navigating the complexities of scaling operations, redefining user experiences or implementing cutting-edge technology, a seasoned CX partner can be your guiding force.

Now is the time to take the lessons learned from the financial sector's trailblazers, and with the support of a dedicated CX partner, embark on a journey that sets new benchmarks for your industry.

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