Our Profitable Customer Growth in Financial Services podcast series explores the role of innovation and the disruptive technologies that will enable firms to transform and optimise their businesses for growth.

In our fourth and final podcast in the series, Rowena Maxwell—Accenture Managing Director, Financial Services Customer Insight & Growth—was joined by journalist Lindley Gooden and Warren Buckley—Global Head of Channel Optimisation and Contact Centres, HSBC—to discuss how financial services companies can boost engagement and revenues by meeting customers’ individual channel needs and preferences. During this lively debate, the participants expanded on the insights from the three previous episodes—including how financial services firms can serve “a million markets of one”, how insurers can achieve hyper-relevance through personalisation and value-added services, and capturing new revenue streams in the data-driven economy.


When it comes to meeting the needs of financial services customers, it’s clear that traditional one-size-fits-all approaches have now run out of road. Why? Because every customer is different: some prefer to conduct all their banking digitally, while some want to bank in physical branches only, and others want to be able to do both. When it comes to insurance, most customers now use online aggregators and comparison sites, but phone sales and intermediaries play a role for many. It follows that—if they’re to meet the needs of every kind of customer—today’s financial services providers have to roll out their services on multiple platforms and channels. But doing this can get complicated—fast.

So, how can financial services organisations best manage channel complexity end-to-end? And which of the growing range of channels offer the most compelling and differentiated ways to engage customers? These are questions that firms need to answer. Optimising the use of channels—and being able to integrate new channels without friction front-end to back-end—are now key to delivering excellent customer service. What’s more, as companies strive to overcome these challenges, they must constantly look in their crystal ball to spot any new channels emerging on the horizon and work how to build in enough flexibility to capitalise on them.

The right time, speed and place

Host Lindley Gooden got the debate on channels started by asking what excellent customer service actually looks like. HSBC’s Warren Buckley had no doubt: “For me, it starts with time. You have got to be available at the right time and the right speed to resolve things, in the right place, and that has got to be the customer’s choice. And you have got to meet the need that is behind the question. Yes, it’s fundamentally about looking at what the customers want. It’s not even about the transaction any more.”

If firms succeed in achieving this, then they’re well-placed to provide a service that’s personalised to the individual—something that’s increasingly important. Recent Accenture research – the 2019 Financial Services Consumer Study – has found that the number one reason why millennials leave their current financial services provider is that they weren’t offered a personalised service. Four years ago, the number one reason was that the provider had done something to upset them. Accenture’s Rowena Maxwell concluded: “So expectations of customers really are evolving, and they’re expecting providers to be a little bit more relevant to them as opposed to just getting the hygiene right.”

From transactions to interaction

From there the debate ranged widely across personalisation of experiences and channels—with recurrent themes including the critical importance of understanding what the customer needs and developing the ability to continue the conversation about that need via the customer’s ‘channel of choice’ at any particular time and place. “The fundamental thing is to move away from thinking of it just like a transaction or even a set of transactions,” said Warren. “It’s an end-to-end interaction with customers. And the reality when we’re talking about financial services and money, is that customers know what they want to achieve, but not necessarily how to get there. And therefore, financial services companies have a responsibility to meet that need.”

Key to doing this—while also providing a customer positive experience—is seamless integration across channels. So, what barriers do companies face in trying to achieve this? According to our speakers, the overarching challenge is getting and sharing the right data. And overcoming this challenge involves addressing three hurdles: first, the legacy technology stack; second, organisational silos; and third, avoiding the temptation to over-reach while missing the basics.

Management teams are the glue

A vital enabler in tackling all these barriers is firms’ people and management teams. “I think there is an opportunity within our businesses based on something that has been within our businesses for a long time,” explained Warren. “It’s the power of your workforce management team. It’s quite an old-fashioned term. It exists in all of our businesses in good contact centre environments…What we are rapidly finding is we can use this as the glue across all of these new channels, as long as we respect it.”

Warren added a fascinating point about friction in the customer experience—which he said can be useful in getting to learn more about what customers need. For example, rather than having contact centre agents tell customers that they need to ask a series of questions because of regulatory requirements, agents can explain that it’s about serving them better. “If I start by saying there is a set of questions I just need to run through, what we just want to do is make sure I understand your need and I am protecting your data and your money, it suddenly feels completely different,” he said. “And that is where I think that we just have to be sensitive. One feels like friction, the other feels like care.”

Getting that human touch

So, finally, how can firms bring the human touch to all channels? On this question, Warren and Rowena agreed that the answer comes down to getting the people piece right—supported by the right technology, with the two working hand-in-hand so each augments the other. “Alongside investing in all of this technology and ways of working and customer journeys for the customer, we have to invest just as much in our people,” explained Warren. “Because the role of our frontline people is changing hugely. You know, problem solving, high levels of empathy and maturity in the way that they deal with customers—we have to invest just as much in that.”

Closing on that key thought, we hope you’ve enjoyed our four-part series of podcasts on profitable customer growth—and that you’ve gleaned some useful insights that you can start applying today in your own business. Listen to the other episode in this series here.

If you’d like a deeper discussion on the topics raised in any of the episodes, or any other issues that are front-of-mind for you at the moment, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, at peter.kirk@accenture.com.

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