Breaking the Financial Services “Two-Step” Dance through Enhanced Customer Experiences

Feb 19, 2013

Do you ever get the feeling that we live in a world stuck in the two-step – two steps forward and one step back?

Take the economy, for instance. Every few weeks journalists report a mixed bag: First it was announced the US economy surprisingly shrunk one-tenth of a percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. That’s your step backward.

The next day, we were told that consumer spending nudged upward two-tenths of a percent in December 2012. And most recently, economists predicted 150,000 new jobs created per month will lower the unemployed rate to 7.5% by year’s end.

That’s your step forward.

A similar “two-step” dichotomy exists in the financial services industry as it relates to loyalty management and customer service. Earlier this month the Loyalty in Banking and Financial Services conference reminded attendees that more than half of Americans distrust the financial services industry. In fact, banks and financial services ranked as the country’s top two least trusted organizations. Considering how far we’ve come since the Great Recession, I would call that a serious stumbling block.

But here’s the good news: the Tempkin Group, a customer experience and research consulting firm, just created a new honor, The Customer Experience Vendor Excellence award as a complement to its Customer Experience Excellence awards category. And wouldn’t you know, last year’s winners for the older category include Fidelity Investments, a Boston-based financial services firm which boasts $3.4 trillion assets under administration.

Americans might be wary of financial institutions, but that doesn’t mean some aren’t doing things right.

Financial services, like other verticals, are increasingly recognizing that winning back the other 50% of skeptical Americans requires enhanced customer services and genuine loyalty experiences – especially as they relate to social, local and mobile tactics. One great example of this is American Express. Earlier this month the credit card giant announced it will be linking payments to Twitter accounts, or what’s being called the first “pay by tweet” service. American Express customers link their credit cards to their Twitter accounts and pay for items via hashtag without having to leave the site.

Uniting customer-engaging brand marketing with payments into a single experience reduces the chance of lost transactions or what some retailers call “shopping cart abandonment.” That’s where consumers place multiple items in virtual shopping carts (or their equivalents) only to discard those items moments before they’re ready to buy.

Advertisers, meanwhile, are incentivized to join Twitter as potential customers flock to the social media site, which as of September 2012 recorded over half a billion active members and was adding 150,000 per day.

The Twitter-American Express partnership also lends itself to customer reward and loyalty program enhancements. It will be interesting to see if this is the program’s next step. Forget Twitpic, what about “Twitter tender” (you know, “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private”) printed on our money? Such usage could easily be wedded to social experiences, where Twitter members are incentivized to tweet about positive experiences in order to earn rewards from companies joining the American Express campaign.

There’s no doubt the economy will continue to sputter and lurch, but when it comes to the financial services industry, developments like the above – awards recognizing customer experience excellence and innovative monetized credit card and social media partnerships – signal what could be the end of the financial services “two-step.”