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Research requires formal scientific activities, such as surveys and tracking customer activity in the aggregate. But, listening to customers is perhaps the most important. It used to be that large financial institutions tended to regard customer service as an inconvenience. Dealing with customers was considered to have a poor cost/benefit ratio. Not anymore; not if financial institutions want to remain profitable in the future. The digital age is the age of communication and that means that businesses must listen to their customers if they wish to survive. They must listen and understand. And, more than ever, financial consumers want to be rewarded for their patronage.
The digital revolution has enabled customers to not only have easier access to their funds, but to also have easier access to information as well. This gives banks the opportunity to provide discounts and other incentives based on consumer spending patterns. The massive increase in information exchange gives financial institutions the opportunity to recognise customers as individuals and treat them accordingly. This is a considerable improvement over the old corporate mindset of treating customers as statistics.
However, there is a new business term on the horizon and it carries the disturbing name "convergent disruption." This is a new sort of competition. While the banking industry has had its ups and downs, it has always competed with other banks and, to a lesser extent, credit unions and loan companies. The digital age has brought a new era of competition from numerous unconventional directions ranging from PayPal to Bitcoin.
This means that conventional financial institutions must become more flexible and willing to offer unconventional services. At the moment, most of these new services have to do with processing and presenting information in near real time. However, there will be many more new services in the future, as the Internet is changing the very nature of money.
In the future, banks can offer other services such as partnering with key retailers to provide new conveniences for customers. This means that the consumer is never alone. There is always someone to assist with things such as pre-sale advice on big ticket items, along with customer support post-purchase and discounts and cross selling during the purchase process. All these different ways of interaction allow for new profit vectors for financial institutions that will no longer have to rely solely on traditional sources, such as loans.
The future is bright, as the digital age will redefine what banking and finance are all about. And it all starts with understanding the customer and his or her needs
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