Author: Randolph McFarlane
Today’s customer is undoubtedly king. Businesses are responding with non-stop rhetoric about customer-centricity. But is this really anything more than empty words? How can banks ensure they really are focusing their innovations on their customers’ needs?
Customer centric. Customer experience. Customer focused. Nearly every company in every sector is talking the talk about delivering what today’s customers want: convenience, simplicity, transparency, reliability and more. But those destined to be tomorrow’s winners are those that are also able to walk the walk.
With yesterday’s systems and processes not always designed to put the customer first, how do banks ensure their innovations really do help the customer?Banks need to ensure their innovations really do help the customer Click To Tweet
Empathy is key
Start by putting yourself in their shoes. Join them on their journey. Feel their frustrations. Understand their pains.
Once you have real empathy, you can then begin to explore what your customers need to make life better. What are they really looking for – not so much from a technical perspective, but in terms of their experience?
The only way you can really do that is to involve your customers early in your innovation processes. Talk to them and hear what they have to say. Really listen to them. After all, your future success depends on it.
Focus on focus groups
Focus groups are a great tool for helping you to do that. They are a place where you can really get to know your customers and experience what it’s like to be on the outside –rather than simply look outside at how your customers are behaving from the inside of your own four walls.
Hold several focus group sessions and involve a cross section of your customer base. This will allow you to look into different specific use cases. After all, different customer groups have different pains and different needs.
Focus the discussion on the emotional rather than the technical side of things and you will give some real insight into what they are really experiencing. You can then explore some potential solutions and whether they would really assist in a specific scenario.
The solution may not necessarily be a technical one. Sometimes it’s the human touch that is key. It’s important to bear that in mind when you’re discussing possibilities.
Delivering an optimal solution
The next step is to be able to deliver what it is the customer needs. For this, everyone involved in delivering new innovations needs to really understand what is wanted.
Focus groups deliver the best final outcomes when a cross section of your organisation is involved. After all, there’s no point giving your development team or technology partners second-hand insight from the mouths of your research team.
Invite them along. Let them meet and engage with your customers. Give them an opportunity to ask the customers the questions they need answered and the opportunity to hear directly what the customers have to say.
Develop pilot solutions and test them within the focus group to get early feedback. Any unexpected niggles that may hinder the experience of the end user can be identified and ironed out before the solution goes live.
Be more Fintech
The biggest barrier to this more open type of innovation is often the organisation itself and its culture.
Fintech seem to have customer-centric innovation all worked out. But for traditional banks, their sheer size and the traditional siloes that exist often inhibit customer-centric innovation. They need to become more agile, to be more open to considering unusual solutions and to work as one unit to make customer-centric innovation happen.
Fears about sharing ideas also need to be addressed since they can inhibit the transparency that is also key to making innovation happen. After all, an unwillingness to be open is a barrier to developing a mutual understanding and can mean people are less engaged.
Customer-centric innovation can work and I have seen it work in traditional banks. One approach I have seen is for a large bank to create small start-ups within its own organisation.
My final piece of advice: don’t innovate for innovation’s sake. Innovations only really add value if they address a real need. There’s no point in wasting time and effort coming up with digital banking solutions to problems that don’t exist.
Are you engaging your customers early enough in your innovation processes?