There’s been a certain sense of déjà vu creeping into many of the financial services conference sessions and boardroom conversations I’ve been participating in over recent years. It surrounds this consistent theme of ‘owning the customer experience’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for focusing on customer-centred over product-centred design. But all too often organisations are coming at it with the wrong aspiration and the wrong approach. Let’s start with the aspiration. No matter how good your company’s offerings are, you will not own the customer experience. Only one player can ever truly own the customer experience. The customer. You may be able to capture their attention, or even develop brand loyalty for a certain time. But it isn’t overly complex for others to develop strategies to distract that focus of attention. How does this happen? Let’s have a look at some of the errors that companies often make in their approach by taking customers for granted and what can be done to avoid it. You can be disconnected from your customers The consequence: A loss of customers or share of wallet that in hindsight might have been foreseen. Just as the declaration of the latest fintech trend’s impact and success is often called a little too early, incumbent responses are often left too late. This is particularly so given the delivery lifecycle for taking new capabilities into market. When neo-banks started announcing their frictionless, digital-only solutions, bets were spread on the likely scale of their impact. Now Revolut (UK; 1.5m customers), Fidor (Germany; 310k customers), and Monzo (UK; 500k customers) are gaining market share and revenue. It will be interesting to watch the response to local neo-bank players like Xinja. When Tyro launched in Australia, incumbents’ market share didn’t crumble overnight. However Tyro’s integrated small business, payments and banking solutions are resonating with an increasing share of the market. When Scott Pape talked up Hostplus in his best seller, The Barefoot Investor, there wasn’t an overnight flood of fund outflows, but they do become more apparent with each release of statistics. None of these phenomena triggered an overnight shift in the market, nor were they based on ground-breaking technological advances. However in each case, incumbents have reflected on their surprise and sense of urgency in how to respond. The defence mechanism: Defend against ‘sudden’ shifts with a structured approach to sensing market trends across geographies and industries, then deciding which trends to incorporate into strategic planning and innovation activities. You can frustrate your customers The cause: Failing to fulfil the promise of personalised experiences. For example, sending endless streams of expensive, never-to-opened letters or inbox clogging emails. With every unopened letter or email, a little piece of your customer’s affinity with your brand dies. Rather than sending vaguely tailored mass news, it’s worth the additional effort to tailor personalised interactions from the data you have available. Use every little insight to develop their sense of brand affinity and loyalty. These small details really matter. While it is possible to spend copious amounts on rewards programs, the impact of these one-off sugar hits of value quickly wear off and quickly become expected entitlements. This is the principle of hedonic adaptation. Research by Mochon, Norton and Ariely has shown how repeated experiences, however small, have a longer lasting impact on our perceptions and behaviours than one-off events, no matter how large. For example, while I have become accustomed to room upgrades at hotels, it is the Park Hyatt that earns my loyalty. Not from upgrades, but from the little things they do. Their staff are encouraged and empowered to regularly create personal moments of delight based on what they know about me like a small birthday cupcake in the week of my birthday. Move from frustration to delight: Rather than frustrate customers with generic interactions or failed promises, devise a customer experience strategy that employs available data to empower your service team to deliver personalised moments of delight. You can confuse your customers The cause: Customers receive inconsistent information or an inconsistent experience of your brand across channels. Your customers will connect with you over multiple channels, at different times of day. Whether this interaction is with a chatbot, call centre or customer service officer, the interaction will contribute to the customers’ perception of your corporate tone — whether you plan for this or not. There are few things more confusing for customer than receiving inconsistent information from the same service provider. Yet a customer seeking to understand their mortgage serviceability or wealth portfolio projections may at different times interact with an online calculator, broker or advisor and contact centre operator in relation to the same set of issues. Across these interactions they often hear different disclaimers, before being asked questions that have already been answered about data the institution should already have. Then they receive a different answers with little explanation as to the driver of the deltas. A significant trend in customer experience is improving how interactions pass between channels. A customer should be able to start a conversation with a chatbot, be passed to a human advisor with full context being carried, and return to the digital channel to complete the interaction should they choose. Your move: Ensure your customer relationship and channel management strategies enable fluent service experiences across channels. Aspiring to better experiences While you may never own the customer experience, you can aspire to deliver experiences that exceed your customers’ expectations. You can use the data you have to drive truly personalised interactions. You can integrate the customer experience across channel strategies. You can make choices about how best to focus your available resources and continue to raise the bar on the experiences they receive.