One of the hot topics discussed at the Boston Financial Client Forum last month was the customer and intermediary experience. On the first afternoon, a panel of industry experts shared their views of this ever-evolving subject. Cheryl Kananowicz, Vice President, DST Systems, led the panel. Other panelists included Catherine Heron Carrol, Head of Global Digital Strategy for IMD Communications, Goldman Sachs; Donna MacFarland, SVP, Chief Marketing Officer, Retirement Plan Services, Lincoln Financial Group; and Elizabeth Gooding, President Insight Forums.
Some interesting findings spanning the consumer, advisor, and retirement plan sponsor and participant side of the mutual fund business emerged. Here are a few of the key takeaways:
Customer experience is not a job or a department but needs to be engrained throughout a company’s culture. If leadership doesn’t make the customer and advisor experience a priority, many initiatives will fail or won’t gain the traction needed. Often employees are not incentivized to improve the customer’s overall experience. Moreover, they don’t have the right means to measure improvements in the overall experience to show a direct or indirect return on any investment.
The shift to mobile and digital; an outside-in look should be driving your customer experience goals. Simply put, the landscape has changed and continues to evolve. Everything should be approached with the mobile and digital users in mind and having this strategy drive offline goals. Without this focus, context and content may not be tailored correctly to the digital users. Let digital drive print versus the previous line of thinking which did the opposite.
Think long term and put away the conventional playbooks of targeting. Gone are the days of using simple age brackets or account types to target certain items to certain users. Think of the Google Now approach: Google uses all available data to predict and tailor what is shown to you. The more you know about your customers and advisors, the better; throw away crude targeting. Adopting this approach will improve the user experience and give you added intelligence about your customer and advisor base.
Respect people’s time: Make usability easy and content “snackable.” Study usability as an external user. You shouldn’t have to relearn an online interface each time you use a site, nor should you need instructions on how to use things. Make content easy to digest and cater the content to the type of device, so users aren’t forced to scroll through eight pages on their phones (for example).
Barriers should be as low as possible. Make everything available to most users without logins, cumbersome registration processes, or worse yet, a call! Think about what content truly needs to be behind a login, and what you can do to make it easier for a user to get access to that content.
With technology and customer expectations changing daily, the conversation around customer experience will continue to evolve. Events like the Boston Financial Client Forum are a good opportunity for the industry to come together around this topic and share best practices. New ideas brought to the forefront help us to evaluate and challenge processes. And this ultimately gives customers the best experience possible.