image by Phuong Tran, taken from freeimages.com

image by Phuong Tran, taken from freeimages.com

Customer needs with financial services may not have changed over the past decades — people still want to keep their money save, transact with others, get extra fund to support their lives, or get more return for their capital. However, with the growth of technology adoption by customers in different parts of their lives, customer expectation has shifted. What used to be new, is now expected. Customers are now more pampered than ever. They want to get their jobs done better, easier, and faster. They want convenience. And this has many implications to the way companies should deliver products and services.

This article covers my observations on the trends in financial services, particularly in Indonesia.

1. Everything on phone

When I was young, seeing my mom going to the bank a couple of times a week to handle her business transactions was something normal. Now, many would perceive going to the bank as a hassle; it takes time away from doing things that matter more. With exposures of solutions from social media to ecommerce where almost everything can be done online through mobile phone, customers expect financial services to work the same way too — available 24/7, real time.

Being able to transfer and make payments through mobile app? This is not something to be proud of. This is hygiene. Being able to open a new account digitally? This was used to be a wow factor two years back when Jenius was introduced in Indonesia, but now this is somewhat expected. Not only for account opening, customers now question: Why can’t I apply for credit card through my mobile banking app? Why can’t I go to the car dealer, take a photo of the car I want, get a car loan approved, and drive the car in the same hour? Why can’t I make quick investment as I review my accounts on my mobile app?

2. Agents as extensions

In Indonesia, where the gap in technology adoption is still quite big, there are a significant population who are not ready to fully adopt the digital solutions due to various issues (trust, low education, not owning smartphones, and because their ecosystem still relies heavily on cash). But they also have problems with going to the bank (due to travel cost, time, and feeling ashamed). To close this gap, many banks have invested on agents, who live nearby and whom customers can relate to, in order to provide financial services. Not only banks, e-commerce and fintech have started making investments on these agents to reach customers at the bottom of the pyramid, bridging the online to offline experiences.

3. Shifting role of branch

When customers are doing their everyday financial transactions through mobile phones and agents, would branches become irrelevant? Noticing many retailers are closing down as sales drop (because customers are shopping online?), similar thing will happen with bank branches soon. However, although customers can now simply order food through an app, they still go out to eat at nice restaurants for the atmosphere and the experiences. Drawing from this analogy, bank branches role will shift from handling mundane transactions to providing more high touch services such as education, personalized advisory and business connections.

4. Personalized experience

My mom used to go to the same tailor, despite being quite far from our home. She said, because the tailor knew her and her measurement very well, and whatever she made fits her perfectly.

When an organization gets bigger, customers often miss this personalized experience. They are treated as just data points, another customer driving the company closer to the revenue target. After providing all their personal details related to savings product, they need to provide the same information over and over again when dealing with credit card or loan. It is as if they are dealing with completely different institutions.

Yet, their experiences from other solutions seem so seamless. Facebook knows who they are and give them content that they like. Online shops understand their shopping habits and offer them relevant items they may need. Such personalized service is now expected. Not only being able to see and manage all accounts in one place; when an institution has all customer’s financial data, can’t it advice them what’s best based on their past behavior and spending habit?

If this is still a long shot, start with linking all related customer data under one ID, so that they don’t need to provide information repeatedly. When customers said they are not interested in a specific product offering, flag that in the system and don’t nag them by offering the same product over and over again. Avoid using pre-assigned username or forcing them to use convoluted passwords that are just impossible to remember. Some institutions have taken steps towards this through adopting more personalized solution through $cashtag, biometric authentication, such as finger ID or face ID. But the road to trully provide personalized experience through digital is still a long way to go.

5. Digitalization in the back end

As what customers experience is the front facing interaction, companies put in much emphasis on this. However, many often do not realize that to support the front facing experience, a lot of things need to change in the back end, from the business process, the technological support system, as well as potentially transforming the legal process.

Companies must equally invest in transforming the backbone and digitizing the business process that enable the front facing experience to happen. For instance, to allow full account opening or lending application via mobile app, a bank must find solutions to do KYC (Know Your Customer) and signatures digitally without the need to physically meet the person.

6. Experiences build trust, not age or size

Big brands who have been around for more than a decade have built their reputation and trust through time. But this does not stop the new comers to join the party. New institutions and fintech startups are popping up, trying to solve problems not yet addressed by bigger companies. Smaller, younger institutions such as local banks (like BPD and BPR) are catching up, and they are catching up fast. These younger players are hungry to have a share of the pie. And as they are smaller, they have more flexibility to change, and to make changes faster.

As customers are more open to try new things (especially when the cost of trying is low), they may be open to experience different solutions offered by these newcomers in the market. Experiences when trying and using the product build up customers trust towards the brand. Those who can win the customers heart will have bigger chance to succeed, despite of being old or new in the market.

7. Wholesale to follow retail

Learning from personal banking experience, customers now have higher expectations over business banking. When they can make transactions during anytime of the day with their personal accounts, why do they have to rush to meet the cut-off time to make transactions for their business? Why is there such thing as cut-off time when in digital world everything should be available 24/7? Why can’t business banking be as simple as personal banking? This area seemed to still be underlooked. It is a complex area to tackle, but the market is big. Customers are hungry for new solutions that can make their business lives simpler.

8. Integrated into life

Companies can no longer just sell their financial products in the face of the customers, but to support customers in their life journeys. From customers point of view, when they are looking for mortgage, their end goal is not to get the mortgage but to own a house. When they are looking for a business loan, their end goal is to be successful in their business. How can financial institutions support customers on this journey towards our goals and stay relevant, instead of just purely selling products? Some institutions start to expand their horizons to cover extended solutions to help customers with their end goals, with hope that when they need financial services, the brand becomes top in mind.

End note

The bottomline, we should acknowledge that

  • Customer needs change slowly,
  • but technology moves fast,
  • thus shifting customer behavior and expectations

How can your organizations stay relevant?