Can financial services ever crack the customer-centric code of Netflix and Amazon?

Ever get the slightly unnerving feeling that sometimes the technology you use knows you better than you know yourself? It sounds strange, but how many times have you opened a web browser to buy something very specific from, let’s say,, only to reach the virtual checkout with two or three extra items that the website has suggested you might like?

Alternatively, how often have you settled down to watch your favourite programme on Netflix, only to be side-tracked into watching something completely different that the content provider has suggested you watch instead?

The truth is that, as consumers in a new, digital age, our behaviours and expectations have changed, and that today, we now expect organisations to be able to understand our needs and predict what will appeal to us.

One of the main reasons for this is that the way organisations interact with us is undergoing a fundamental shift, meaning that they can now use information from the devices we all use to gather information about us and profile our likes, tastes and behaviour much more easily.

> See also: The three digital concepts customer service innovators need to grasp

The upshot of this is that it’s no longer enough, it seems, for businesses to be able to offer their customers what they want; the real value, it seems, lies in offering customers what they don’t yet know they want!

The key to this lies not, as you may think, in some ancient mind-reading technique, but in the increased use of connected devices, such as smart phones, smart watches, connected cars and other ‘Internet of Things’ enabled technology.

These devices all provide enough data to enable businesses of all shapes and sizes to analyse and understand their customers, their behaviours and their preferences – and even to predict what they might like. In short, this data is allowing many organisations to become customer obsessed, and an increasing number are reaping the dividends as a result.

For financial services organisations in particular, this has the potential to prove problematic. Let’s be clear: consumers of banks, insurance providers and others in the financial industry have exactly the same expectations as those of on-demand television and online retailing.

If past customer behaviour tells us anything, it’s that if they see that one provider offers them a new, innovative service that they like, they can be fickle when it comes to changing their provider. So as an industry that, by its own admission, can sometimes have difficulty keeping up when it comes to technological innovation, how well prepared are financial services organisations to be able to offer these services?

The answer is that while many are better prepared than you might think, many are still struggling to embrace the new age of customer obsession. In a recent global survey conducted across 56 different countries by Pegasystems and Cognizant amongst 500 senior executives in the financial services and insurance industries, it was clear that there’s a huge appetite for being able to offer customers personalised services.

For example, 68% of respondents said that they expected to be able to use data from wearable devices to offer personalised services to customers within five years, while 59% said that they expected to be able to use the data from connected cars to achieve the same goal, within the same period.

However, despite this almost a quarter (24%) of all global financial services executives surveyed said that they currently had no plans to offer their customers full personalisation.

The reason? Put simply, the legacy infrastructure they currently have in place is unable to cope with the demands of the changing technological landscape, and they are either unable or unwilling to invest in systems that can.

79% of those who said that they had no plans to provide personalised services said that the lack of a single customer view was an obstacle to achieving this goal, while 85% cited the difficulty of using legacy systems to process very large data sets as a barrier.

Significantly, the biggest obstacle to personalisation given was the lack of availability of sufficiently rich customer data, with 88 per cent suggesting that their existing systems are unable to connect to data flows from newer, connected devices.

> See also: Customer data could drive most sales decisions by 2020 – but is it accurate enough?

What this means is that although both customer demand and trends in industry as a whole point towards being able to gather customer data to offer personalised services, there are still a significant number of organisations who are stuck using tools that are no longer fit for purpose.

Let’s face it, using traditional customer segmentation tools that are, in some cases, more than ten years old, to manage complex data flows and offer a single view of customers that can allow you to understand and even predict their behaviour, simply isn’t possible. It’s like asking a caveman with a piece of flint to replicate the beauty of Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel.

Data, and its ability to shape personalised experiences has become an integral part of the way the modern organisation operates. By interpreting information from a range of devices, organisations in the financial services sector take a bold step forward into the future of not only customer engagement, but also business as a whole.

Customer obsession is integral to this, and it’s becoming clear that the key to understanding your customer completely is through understanding their data. Isn’t it worth asking yourself whether or not you are going to embrace the age of customer obsession, or get left behind as your competitors take the plunge?

Sourced from Graham Lloyd, Industry Principal of Financial Services, Pegasystems

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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