Customer Experience and Transformation in Financial Services – Part 2

By Stuart Macgregor, CEO, Real IRM and The Open Group South Africa

This is Part 2 of a two part series.  Part 1 can be found here.

The financial services industry is undergoing massive change. For financial services companies to achieve transformation and digitisation, addressing the architectural foundations is the starting point.

Chapter 4 – Customer Engagement Model (Part 2)

So, this is not simply about technological advancement. The harsh reality is that financial companies have fallen out of touch with customer needs. These disruptors have arrived to serve an unmet need.

In the era of the modern-day customer, more demanding and empowered than that of decades ago, should banks still be rolling out vanilla services like cheque accounts, credit cards, and rewards programmes?

Should banks still be classifying customers into vast segments based primarily on monthly income? Should they still be quantifying affordability and risk in the same way? Should they still seek to derive their non-interest income from monthly fees and transaction fees?

The entrance of new disruptors proves that most of these practices, embedded into the anatomy of a bank, often prevent the bank from meeting the modern customers’ expectations.

For another perspective on the needs and expectations of digital customers, we can look at The Open Group ‘ROADS principles’. These can be summarised as follows:

  • Real Time: The customer can commence or progress a journey at any time, with responses and updates tailored in real-time to meet the customer’s evolving needs.
  • On Demand:The service provider has the flexibility to adapt and adjust the services delivered to the customer on demand.
  • All-Online: The customer is able to accomplish all activities and transactions associated with the journey online. An offline channel need only be used if absolutely required to handle a physical product or service.
  • Do-It-Yourself: The customer is provided with the capability, and has the choice, to complete the activities and transactions associated with the journey alone. Interaction with a service provider representative is not required.
  • Social: The journey is tightly integrated with digital social media, so at any stage of the journey the customer is able to access social media for advice, recommendations and feedback.

Financial companies’ general inability to respond  to these demands can often be linked back to fundamental architectures and tools.

These are the outdated architectures that are unable to conduct impact assessments, not able to fully leverage resources and technical capabilities, and not able to find meaning in the masses of customer data and documentation stored inside their four walls.

We can define this as the concept of Big Data: teasing out the learnings from the masses of structured and unstructured customer data streamed from various sources and systems – with the goal of creating customer-specific engagement tactics.

Chapter 5 – Customer Engagement Model (Part 3)

To survive the onslaught from advancing attackers to the financial services industry, we advocate ‘outside-in thinking’ – working backwards from the customer frontline (designing the experiences that customers will love) – and then plotting the internal processes that support the customer experience vision.

This systems-thinking approach uncovers the optimal roles and relationships within the organisation, the metrics on which to evaluate success, and maps the reinforcing loops that will accelerate change and enhance value delivery. Keeping EA at the centre of the reengineering process ensures a sharp focus on the information that’s required to make these new processes successful.

Organisations can now understand where underlying data is housed, how it can be best integrated between systems and across functions, and how information should be delivered to  those team members that are tasked with supporting customers. This is brought to bear in business capability maps, causal loop diagrams, process models, value-chain diagramming, and the like.

The leading financial services firms of tomorrow will use these these insights, to invest in architectures and systems that creates superior customer experiences. Ultimately, this is the only approach that can help financial companies stay relevant in the face of new and disruptive threats.

It goes without saying that customer experience is felt at the various digital and traditional touchpoints with which customers engage. But ‘touchpoints’ in the truest sense of the word incorporate any engagement that the consumer has with the financial services brand, products, services, or staff.

A number of models seek to define these customer touchpoints. The Open Group’s Customer Experience Reference Model, for example, notes that any organisation needs to look beyond itself, and take a wider view of the broader ecosystem when understanding the customer journey.

To measure progress, the Customer Experience Reference Model suggests defining a set of key performance indicators. Depending on the organisation and its strategy, these could take a multitude of forms – including Net Promoter Scores, click-through rates, churn rates, average revenue per customer, cart abandonment rates, valency indexes, conversion rates, and much more.

Scenario: customer journey in the Insurance sector

Insurance policies traditionally involve reams of paper, reliance on customers to enter information accurately, and high back-office administration costs. They are typically updated on an annual basis, and do not reflect an accurate assessment of risk.

As a result of the inefficiencies in the system, insurance tends to be a very expensive item in household budgets.

But in the next few years, insurers will start consolidating feeds from connected devices within cars, geolocation data from smartphones, smart keys, as well as wearables (like smartwatches) and even ‘digestibles’.

Known in technology circles as the Internet of Things, this example shows how an insurer can far more accurately assess and mitigate risk – by tracking everything from driving behaviour, to cardiovascular activity, smoking habits, or whether or not a person has locked their house.

By developing customer insights at this level of detailed granularity, insurers are able to package accurate, personalised insurance premiums (rather than segmenting customers into broad risk groups, as they do today). Of course, customers who want to benefit from preferential, personalised rates, will sacrifice some level of personal privacy.

This leads us to the ethics of tracking intimate customer details for use in designing such personalised and fluid insurance policies – which dynamically adjust based on customer behaviour (for example, a trip overseas to a country with high crime statistics many cause a temporary increase in one’s premium).

Chapter 6 – Development Agenda

When considering the financial services enterprise of the future, it’s not enough to simply aim for excellent customer service. Unless this generates higher levels of profitability, better customer retention or improved customer acquisition, any customer service effort is going to be in vain.

These three questions above – relating to a financial services company’s business goals – should be guiding forces for the architecture team, as they create the optimal design for the future.

In essence, the firm’s architecture needs to enable the flow of information and investment of resources to the markets, segments, demographics and regions that offer the most profitable opportunities at any given time.

As financial companies come under increasing threat from new competitors, narrowing the focus to certain services, or markets, is a way of maintaining profitable leadership positions in certain areas – while exiting over-traded, hyper-competitive or unprofitable markets.

However, this is no longer a static, consistent landscape. To succeed, financial services firms should be “striving for continuous improvement and renewal”, as a recent Backbase/Efma Report describes.

From an EA perspective, this means one’s technology and application architecture must support the rapid and continuous delivery of new services and features to customers.

“The innovation planning cycle is far too slow for today’s high-speed digital banking environment,” notes the report, adding: “Today’s big digital players in other industries test and learn as part of an iterative process. They’re agile and experiment in real-time with their own customer base. The decision-making process is much faster and the rollout is fast … very fast!”

Across the breadth of architecture realms – from business, information, data, applications and technology – one’s EA frameworks should be designed with rapid prototyping and delivery in mind. By doing so, financial companies are able to capture new windows of profitable opportunity, react faster to changing customer demands, and produce new services in a cost-effective manner.

This could come in the form of instant home loan approvals, new services for wearable technology, or a concerted focus on a niche insurance segment. The specific opportunities depend on the company in question and where they are at a given point in time.

In short, having the architecture to unleash digital transformation, opens up new value streams for the bank and increasing satisfaction and loyalty for the customer.

Chapter 7 – Capabilities and Insights

The final McKinsey “timeless tests” looks at how to anchor customer centricity within the organisation, and align governance approaches and staff incentives to fit with the new customer service ethos.

From an Enterprise Architecture perspective, this is reflected in the maturity from ‘EA execution’ to ‘EA leadership’. The concluding article in our series on change management in EA highlights the hallmarks of a mature-state EA practice – the state of EA leadership.

EA helps to create the structures that will thrust customer-centricity to the forefront of all business decision-making. Specifically, it can support the organisation’s customer experience vision in the areas of:

  • Mandate and governance
  • Strategy
  • Performance management
  • Organisational transformation

But the reality is that so few firms ultimately realise the value of EA in their customer experience and digital transformation ambitions. Another of our series – on what catastrophes often cause the EA practice to implode – addresses the common reasons for this.

Because so few organisations fully leverage the power of EA, those financial services firms that do get it right, have a tremendous competitive advantage over their peers – who continue struggle away in disjointed silos, bondaged in unnecessary red tape.

Addressing these final two McKinsey tests requires a relentless focus on customer insights; and then ensuring the voice of the customer be heard when structuring, integrating or re-designing all business processes.

Without EA at the core of these endeavours, the organisation’s leadership cannot take full advantage of these rich sources of insights. More specifically, they wouldn’t have the architectural work products to improve resource allocation, reduce decision-making biases, assess strategic alternatives, manage change and complexity, or chart the innovation journey.

In this way, EA provides deeper insights into the unintended consequences of certain potential decisions – like company restructuring or deciding to enter a new market.

To conclude, the McKinsey tests represent the important questions that financial services organisations need to ask themselves as they seek to put the customer at the heart of their digital transformation initiatives.

And, as we’ve teased out in this series, having the fundamental architecture to support these goals, and prepare for an uncertain and volatile future, is an absolute prerequisite for success.

Stuart MacGregor CEO, Real IRM, South Africa
Stuart MacGregor, CEO, Real IRM, and The Open Group South Africa

Stuart Macgregor is the CEO, Real IRM Solutions and  The Open Group South Africa. Through his personal achievements, he has gained the reputation of an Enterprise Architecture and IT Governance specialist, both in South Africa and internationally.Macgregor participated in the development of the Microsoft Enterprise Computing Roadmap in Seattle. He was then invited by John Zachman to Scottsdale, Arizona to present a paper on using the Zachman framework to implement ERP systems. In addition, Macgregor was selected as a member of both the SAP AG Global Customer Council for Knowledge Management, and of the panel that developed COBIT 3rd Edition Management Guidelines. He has also assisted a global Life Sciences manufacturer to define their IT Governance framework, a major financial institution to define their global, regional and local IT organizational designs and strategy. He was also selected as a core member of the team that developed the South African Breweries (SABMiller) plc global IT strategy.

Stuart, as the lead researcher, assisted the IT Governance Institute map CobiT 4.0 to TOGAF®, an Open Group standard. This mapping document was published by ISACA and The Open Group. He participated in the COBIT 5 development workshop held in London in 2010.