It’s no exaggeration to say that many people today would feel lost without their mobile close to hand. We rely on it to manage almost every aspect of our lives, including our schedule at work, connecting with friends and family, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and staying entertained to name a few. So ingrained has this technology become, that we often overlook how embedded financial services have become in our day to day lives.
Rahul Kumar leads the Banking & Lending strategy for Talkdesk, focused on driving thought leadership and industry solutions. In his 13 years in financial services, he has helped multiple financial services organisations lead large scale digital transformation.
Here he shares his thoughts on putting customer experiences at the centre of digital payments strategies.
The capability to be digitally connected anywhere, at any time, has also led to a revolution in digital financial services, resulting in the emergence of payments as a distinct fintech segment securing billions of dollars in investment funding. From the advent of online banking in the ‘90s to the proliferation of contactless, digital, QR and social payments during the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers increasingly expect fast and seamless experiences at every touch point.
According to a McKinsey report, there has been a clear shift in buying behaviour, with consumers spending 30% more online today than pre-pandemic. Additionally, UK Finance reports that more than 90 per cent of UK adults use Direct Debit, and they make a staggering 4.5 billion payments using this method every year. This is clearly good news for businesses, not least because it gives them greater cash flow certainty. However, as well as investing in their payment capabilities, it’s also critical that their customer experience (CX) infrastructure enables them to meet consumers’ high expectations.
The challenge for fintech companies, and increasingly traditional providers, has always been to deliver consumer-centric experiences without having a physical presence on the high street, as well as the resources to resolve customer issues. Using data to align their products and services with customer requirements, and empowering people to self-serve via an app, has been key to achieving this. A nimble, AI-rich, cloud-based CX platform provides fintech companies with the ability to augment their product offering and deliver an exceptional customer experience.
Emerging partner ecosystems
As digital payments become increasingly embedded into our daily lives, this integration has opened up adjacent business opportunities for fintechs and traditional payment providers – possibly as large as the core payments revenue pool. These elements of the payments value chain are attractive to emerging players not only because of increasing consumer demand but also due to less regulatory scrutiny. The emergence of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) is a primary example.
There are further opportunities for fintech companies to work with businesses outside the sector to streamline transactions by embedding payment systems into their websites. Shopify, for instance, recently teamed up with Stripe – a partner of Goldman Sachs – to offer cash management capabilities to vendors on its platform as a way to not only extend its core marketplace offering, but also increase customer ‘stickiness’ to their platform. Customer lifetime value adds thousands of dollars worth of revenue opportunity over a sustained period of time.
But this also brings to light a customer experience challenge that companies need to cater to. In the example, if a vendor has an issue with cash management, who do they contact? Shopify, Stripe or even Goldman Sachs? The challenge of an integrated ecosystem is this – who exactly owns the CX and ensures it meets expectations throughout the customer journey. We will see more examples like this in the future, and companies exploring this business model need to be prepared so they can avoid customer experience disasters!
Differentiating CX using Artificial intelligence
The use of AI in customer contact centres is going to be the equaliser for all companies looking to make the customer experience their differentiator since it enables companies to bring together, and make sense of, data from every sales and communication channel. AI can not only support a smarter and more personalised service but can also help companies predict future customer demands based on past behaviours. In the Shopify example, let’s say 50 different vendors on their platform complained about the same issue. If the contact centre platform could proactively share that information with Stripe in real-time, the customer experience team could proactively devise a solution to quickly address the issue.
It’s been hard for traditional financial services institutions to match the level of personalisation offered by industry challengers in recent years. Customers who have a long-standing relationship with an institution might expect that institution to understand their circumstances and proactively anticipate their needs.
The reality, as we all know, is very different – especially as more high street branches close their doors. And even those who take a digital approach are sometimes unaware that valuable customer data is siloed and difficult to act on, leading to a fragmented CX.
A cloud-based contact centre, with AI capabilities, is one of the most effective ways to gain a 360-degree customer view and deliver consistency across all channels. It can become the engine room of corporate operations, bringing together data from multiple sources, including historic interactions and transactions; demographics and preferences; marketing data, and much more. This can be achieved by connecting different platforms and applications together via APIs, including those that address customer insights and payments, to your contact centre – which then empowers employees with all the information and insights they need in one place to deliver the best customer experience.
Taking a helpful-first approach
Rather than feeling like their financial service institution is trying to sell them something, every interaction could be a helpful one that improves customers’ financial wellbeing and enriches their experiences. This level of service is key to building customer loyalty, and is a real differentiator in the digital age. Moving forward, trends that the pandemic has reinforced – major shifts in payments behaviour; declining cash usage; migration from in-store to digital commerce; and adoption of instant payments – are expected to continue. With these trends, come new business opportunities in financial services.
It is therefore important for financial services institutions to prepare for this future, and consider what innovations they want to embrace. Choosing the right technology partner – one that can help accelerate time to value and is committed to continuous innovation – is fundamental.