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Published: 10 july 2020 10:38

Berta Čaikauskaitė. Sensitivity and a human touch remain essential when the finance sector communicates

Berta Čaikauskaitė
Partnerio nuotr. / Berta Čaikauskaitė

The finance sector has faced a variety of challenges in the last few years and it looks like current and future customers will not allow for any relaxing going forward. We, the consumers, demand that increasingly more options be made available to us. We are looking for solutions which are highly personalised from channels we select ourselves and, of course, at the best price.

Nevertheless, despite the development of various innovative solutions, a human touch remains important when it comes to our financial service providers. Yes, gadgets are important, but we would like to talk with a “live” person who can evaluate our personal needs. Trust and reliability are always number one when aiming to manage the financial service orchestra and to satisfy the customer.

Know your customer – a challenge or an opportunity?

The international business consultancy Accenture periodically performs large scale financial service supplier client research and presents a detailed report which not only describes future trends, but also draws a portrait of contemporary consumers. It is remarkable when evaluating research performed for the 2017 report, three categories of consumer were highlighted, while two years later – this has increased to four.

The first report describes the “wanderers” – those open to suppliers of non-traditional financial service suppliers, who hope that banks will further integrate available information into their lives and will thus offer the most effective solutions. Another category is the “hunters” who want the best services for the lowest price. They are a little less open to innovation, but are inclined to try them out and, in particular, to continue to value human contact. Finally, there are the “quality seekers” who are most focused on reliability, the possibility of consulting a “live” person and on the long term reputation of their financial partner.

In the 2019 results, new categories emerge. For example, “wanderer-pioneers” – young, technologically savvy and inquisitive financial service users, typically males aged 18 to 34. Usually, they are interested in channel and product integration, innovation and ethical behaviour. Another group is the “pragmatics.” They do not belong to any particular age or gender group, instead being most concerned with the result rather than the channels used to achieve it. Pragmatics continue to be happy to visit a bank branch and a weighty 95% of them are inclined to discuss their most important finance-related decisions with their banker. Newly highlighted in the results were the “sceptics.” These are usually individuals who are discontent and rarely trusting, but loyal to their financial service provider. However, they are not inclined to make use of innovative solutions, instead preferring to call a contact centre or personal banker and to look for information online. As they prefer direct contact, they are typically among those who lodge complaints. Finally, there are the “conservative consumers” or “traditionalists.” These are clients of older age, lesser income, more sceptical of innovation and favourable toward there being a human element.

What is interesting is that the majority of this group believes that personnel working in financial institutions are increasingly unable to communicate politely and professionally. So here is a challenge and opportunity for you HR leaders – teach those of different generations to communicate.

The synergy of dialogue and feedback is a required attribute of communication

It seems that we, consumers, are separated by increasingly many variables. On the other hand, I am fascinated by the study results which do not change from year to year, and where it can be seen that regardless of age or gender, we still trust the recommendations of other people the most. This is proven by the fashionable influencers, mommy forums, construction groups and, I have no doubt, the experiences of each of us.

It is natural that different brands look to concentrate more on different categories of consumers and identify with them. Nevertheless, with regard to the financial sector, it is worth discovering several denominators and aspects of communication, which would match consumer needs even as their life stages and financial conditions change.

Firstly, let us consider whether we invest enough in the education and emotional intelligence of client managers, personal bankers, contact centres and other staff that have contact with customers. What do you think, does “going the extra mile” mean more to an employee who understands why they are doing so than to one doing it just because the extra step was entered into the “corporate standards?” What would a client tell their colleague over a cup of coffee about such human service?

Secondly, do you involve communications staff when creating a business development strategy? Research shows that teams formed of individuals with different educational levels, experiences, ages and genders succeed in creating superior innovative and sustainable solutions. It will definitely be easier to sell the end product if, in the initial plans, the thoughts and proposals of communications consultants are already in the initial plans.

Finally, are you developing solutions that allow you to provide and receive feedback? It does not matter if we are talking about a mature and respectful face-to-face contact with a long-standing client or a savings recommendation pop-up in a mobile app. Every customer wants to feel like they are cared for and also that they have the opportunity to talk face-to-face and receive personal attention.

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