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How to overcome Customer Experience paralysis

10th October 2018

Kevin Hearn

Director of Strategy

Customer eXperience (CX) – Overcoming CX paralysis

The key challenge facing financial service organisations over the next two years is improving their Customer Experience (CX), according to 41% of respondents in our State of Play survey.

But it appears they’re not sure how to tackle this challenge. Research by Gartner indicates that “CX leaders are often paralysed by the perceived vastness of CX projects – not knowing where to start, how to prioritise and how to optimise over time”.

This is reflected in the paralysis we uncovered in the qualitative interviews we held with FS decision makers. They described a disconnect between what they had in mind, and what actually happened in practice.

“We have looked at this a number of times and not come to any conclusions. It’s very difficult to have one system to fit everything. Ideally, we want to be customer centric in our strategies, but what we end up doing in reality tends to be more product based. We would like to make our decisions based more on a customer level, and have a global platform. But that is extremely difficult.”

In our experience, the difficulty facing FS organisations is not merely identifying the CX challenges – whether they are connected to the pressure to provide customers with personalised experiences, overcoming organisational silos or dealing with legacy systems.

It’s knowing where to start and overcoming the paralysis. 


To help FS brands tackle the thorny issue of CX, we conducted primary proprietary research from both the perspectives of consumers and decision makers at FS brands. We explored the challenges, issues and expectations around CX and looked at how this translates into communication requirements.

What does CX mean for your organisation?

It’s always best to start with a clear definition. Avoid falling into the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ trap with CX. Some marketers can be guilty of using convoluted descriptions around journeys and touchpoints –yet this only adds to the noise around CX without providing clarity.

In our experience, there can be agreement on the importance of CX, but actually defining what this tangibly means for an organisation can prove problematic.

Avoid falling into the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ trap with CX.

Perceptions of CX priorities differ across financial institutions:

  • Banking– entire customer journey mapping from acquisition, application, on-boarding and on-going management. Priorities often centre on new workflow enablement. For example: the transition from branch interaction to online/mobile banking or digital signatures.
  • Investment – creating personalised and tailored communications while shifting to automated back office systems. For example: DocuSign and intelligent OCR.
  • Insurance – the development of call-centre platforms and increased automation to reduce manual processes.

At its core, CX is about enabling personalised and streamlined experiences that cater to customers’ preferred channels of interacting with a brand. If we had to put our money on it, the Editions Financial definition of CX would be as follows:

“Customer Experience is a combination of processes, technologies and services that create efficient, personalised experiences across the entire customer journey. The ideal journey covers all touchpoints, and lets the customer interact with a brand the way they want, where they want.”

Now that we know what CX entails, let’s look at how important it is for both customers and brands. 

The consumer perspective – implicit expectations

At the moment, banking satisfaction levels among consumers are relatively high and expectations of personalised experiences are modest.

  • 72% of banking customers are quite or very satisfied with their main banking provider.
  • Only 1% switch current accounts each year.

These insights reflect the frequently quoted statistic that on average, we stay with our bank longer – 17 years – than we stay married – 11 years.

But while churn may be low, inertia shouldn’t be mistaken for brand engagement, warmth or the sense of a connected customer journey.

When we explored consumer engagement with financial service communications, we found that:

  • 28% of consumers either don’t read anything at all or are unlikely to engage with any transactional comms from their bank.
  • Only 10% currently believe the comms they receive feel personalised to them.
  • 97% don’t feel that their bank makes the best use of the data it has on them, by anticipating their needs and offering them timely and relevant products and services.

Yet personalisation is becoming the norm in other sectors. And once a big financial player makes inroads into CX, this will set them apart and force others to catch up.

The brand perspective – legacy issues

Our State of Play survey revealed that the key challenges for FS brands around CX centre on technology:

  • 54% Data management issues.
  • 50% The cost of implementing new technology.
  • 43% Dealing with legacy technology.
  • 41% Inefficient internal business processes.

The largest banking and insurance firms have to make substantial CX investments that enable integration with their legacy systems – and the problems are significant. They slow the pace of change. They prevent adoption of game-changing service or technology. They cannot cope with the volume of data management and information flow that CX needs in order to function efficiently.

Typically, a bank will use multiple marketing and transactional channels. Not only are products and services managed across different teams, sometimes even the channels themselves are owned by different teams. Add to this an extensive roster of external agencies and you end up with plenty of complexity and misalignment, wasted time and added costs.

If financial service brands don’t deliver engaging and appropriate messages aligned to a consistent and coherent brand narrative across the right channels, customers are likely to become confused and, ultimately, tune out.

Start small and build momentum

So where to begin? Our advice would be to start small and use agile teams to tackle individual CX pain points, rather than trying to solve the whole journey at once. By understanding consumer expectations, we can ensure that we tackle challenges that matter and set the right priorities.

We suggest doing some primary research with your core target personas or segments to see the brand experience through their eyes. Don’t feel you have to cover every element of the customer journey with every segment. Pick your key target audience and focus on what’s causing them friction.

Use illustrators to draw the customer journey to give yourself tangible visual outputs that engage internal stakeholders.

This insight will provide the spark you need to build customer journey roadmaps that show how customers interact with the brand. These journey maps can act as a springboard to inform service and product design, marketing strategies, brand positioning and the creation of content.

Now, let’s put that theory into practice.

The 10-step CX strategy tool kit

  1. Define what CX means for you– Agree on a common definition and language around CX.  Determine what’s in and out of scope when it comes to CX and avoid the trap of falling into the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ syndrome.
  2. Review the competitor landscape– Explore what your direct competition, new entrants and FinTechs, are doing around CX. If they are improving their customer journey, is there a danger of your organisation being left behind?
  3. Conduct some primary research with your core persona– Talk to your customers and understand the CX journey through their eyes. We recommend using creative and innovative insight techniques, such as:
    1. Ethnography – Go in-home with consumers or in-office with businesses to obtain richer insights into their actual behaviour.
    2. Consumer Connections – Organise sessions where stakeholder clients have the opportunity to meet and interact directly with customers.
    3. Behavioural economic workshops – Gather for brainstorming sessions to identify the main changes to behaviour required – then design ‘nudge’ strategies for how communication can overcome these barriers. You know the old saying: “Meeting customers in person and hearing their stories is far more valuable than 1,000 PowerPoint slides!”
  4. Identify your key ‘pain points’ – Not all CX issues are ‘pain points’ for consumers. Determine which ones you should tackle first from a consumer perspective and look at how difficult – and costly – these will be for you to address. With some luck, you can spot some ‘quick wins’ on significant consumer issues that are relatively easy to address internally. For example, switching to self-serving online rather than waiting on the phone.
  5. Create visualised customer-journey maps– Use the insight and pain points to plot the customer journey through the marketing funnel across different channels. It’s a good idea to make this process as engaging as possible. Use sketchers or illustrators to draw the journey so you have tangible visual outputs, rather than hypothetical scenarios.’
  6. Assemble agile teams– If you are tackling CX change internally, it would be folly to try to do this around BAU (business as usual). If you are outsourcing some or all of this responsibility, our research indicates a strong preference among FS brands for suppliers who are highly agile and specialised.
  7. Audit your brand narrative – Review your communications within the different elements of the customer journey. Ask yourself some tough questions. Can consistency, cohesion and engagement be improved?
  8. Explore technology work-arounds– In the unlikely event of a complete technology overhaul, the key to implementing incremental change may be the development of portals and apps that can improve the customer journey and bolt onto legacy IT systems. These solutions should be considered rather than allowing legacy systems to be the fundamental blocker to CX change.
  9. Create a CX content proposition – Combine the learnings from your insights, competitor analysis and brand narrative auditing to identify the most appropriate way to communicate with customers about CX. It’s then a case of translating your overarching brand values into a ‘content first’ campaign proposition.
  10. Create and distribute compelling content– Focus on media-rich assets that engage customers across digital, social and mobile. There are a wide range of formats including editorial, video, infographics, motion graphics, podcasts, webinars and events. It is critical to pick the right one to convey your message. Use a mix of channels for greater engagement. Ensure your distribution is targeted across the most appropriate digital and social channels – for example .com, social, native, Ecomm andmedia partnerships.


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About the author

Kevin Hearn

Director of Strategy

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