If you’re in a financial services business, you know that few things are as personal to customers as their money. Your job may be to help them make wise financial decisions, but you also have to be prepared for time-critical incidents, as when someone is locked out of their account or when thousands of customers are panicking during a market meltdown. Whether it’s business as usual or exceptional circumstances, you need to put customer needs first.
Putting customers first helps every business, but it’s particularly important for financial services companies, because they deal with their customers on a very personal level. Financial services concerns are just as intimate as healthcare issues, and just as likely to be messy if things go wrong.
People such as bankers, insurance agencies, and accountants are personally involved with their customers’ money. Stockbrokers, investment advisors, and mortgage lenders and payment service providers all need to take a sensitive approach to working with customers.
To take a customer-first perspective, you first have to get to know your customers. Start with their demographics, but go beyond that to their emotions. What do they like and dislike? Why would they choose your company over a competitor’s? Uncovering this information doesn’t benefit just you; customers expect you to understand who they are, what they stand for, and why they do business with you.
Like most consumers, financial services customers expect excellent customer service and personalized communications. This expectation for personal attention may seem to be in conflict with businesses’ need for automation, but it doesn’t have to be. You can use customer relationship management (CRM) software or home-grown applications to automate your communications and give customers exactly what they’re looking for. Better yet, you may be able to give customers things they need before they realize they need them.
The best technology for customer communications
Customers appreciate businesses that use the latest technology to make their relationship between you easier. While we’re not yet ready for mass communication via the metaverse (whatever that is) or virtual reality, we have reached critical mass for other communications channels.
Text messaging (officially SMS) has become most people’s preferred communications channel. According to Slicktext, “85% of customers in 2022 prefer receiving text messages over a phone call or email.” That means customer-first financial services businesses need to deliver information and alerts via SMS. Plivo’s SMS API and cloud communications platform are an excellent way to do that.
Text messaging is particularly useful when time is of the essence. According to TechJury, SMS messages have a 98% open rate — higher than email or voice calls — and 60% of customers read texts five minutes after receiving them. That makes texting the best medium for notifications and alerts. Having said that, though, you should be sure that your SMS API provider also offers a voice API as an option for customers who can’t receive texts, or who simply prefer hearing (literally) from you.
Of course businesses can leverage SMS for many use cases. Consider security, which is particularly important when customers’ money is on the line. You can offer two-factor authentication for customer accounts by texting customers a passcode that they need to use to authenticate themselves. In fact your security team may already do this, in which case adding texting for customer communications could hardly be simpler.
Once you have the software tools for texting, the use cases begin to write themselves.
- Financial advisors can send alerts in the event of technical outages or market movements.
- Stockbrokers can share required disclosures, market holidays, and research reports.
- Banks and credit card issuers can send notifications for things such as low balances, overdrafts, and suspicious activity on accounts.
While today’s tools work well today, things change. Consider how the communications landscape has evolved in just the last decade. To stay relevant, businesses have to ask customers how they want to be treated. What information do they need, how often, and via what channels? You need to actively solicit feedback from customers on a regular basis — simple “let us know what you think” messages seldom provide useful insights. Here again, use the channels customers most want to use to communicate — starting with SMS — until their feedback tells you it’s time to change.
Finally, stay true to your company’s mission and values. Go back to why your company exists, and do things that enhance desirable outcomes for your business and your customers. Once you can check off all of these boxes, you can consider yourself a customer-first business.
If you’re ready to learn more, consider the advantages of Plivo’s APIs for financial services businesses.