Over the past ten years, the number of investment advisers has shrunk by nearly a third. And yet good investment advice is worth more today than ever before!
This may also be due to the fact that customer expectations are becoming increasingly amorphous. They’re more and more difficult to predict, and they’re evolving across industries – every time customers experience a new service, use a new product, or feel pressured by some new social trend (an increasingly influential factor). Something customers didn’t know about yesterday is what they’ll want today – by tomorrow, they’ll expect it. And if that expectation isn’t met, they’ll choose another provider. Thus dealing with customer expectations has become the key factor in achieving success. That’s not just true of cars, furniture, smartphones or travel. It is also – in fact, especially – true of banking products.
Banks or financial services providers that genuinely wish to put customers at the heart of what they do must first teach their staff to recognise, understand and respond to the various factors that influence constantly changing customer expectations.
This is all about the ability to recognise early indicators in, for example, interactions with customers, social situations, technological innovations affecting products or services, and possibly even markets outside the bank’s own areas of activity. Travel habits, for instance, are changing: whereas transatlantic flights have already almost returned to pre-Covid levels, domestic flights have declined in favour of travel by train. Sustainability is changing consumer behaviour – and it’s also cheaper. The desire for healthier nutrition is also having an impact, with meat consumption falling sharply.
Changes that threaten a company’s business often come from outside – from other providers who suddenly become competitors, or from new market players. As a result, customers are increasingly willing to change from one provider to another. So it is vital to recognise and respond to customers’ primary – emotional – expectations. And sustainability issues in particular are becoming an intrinsic part of these expectations (or perhaps: expectant assumptions), especially in the premium segment.
In this sense, all banks, financial services providers and companies should be giving top priority to credibility and a holistic approach – because the margin between authenticity and greenwashing is narrow. And because ecological value is more and more clearly associated with economic value, many companies now regard sustainability targets as drivers of growth and development.
To satisfy these and other customer expectations, employees must be highly sensitive to change, possess a high degree of empathy, be swift to respond – and able and willing to adapt. Many companies and banks have already made the necessary attitudinal adjustments.
At the same time, customers don’t want some kind of off-the-shelf standard applied to the products they prefer; wherever possible, they want something tailored to their needs, embodying the highest possible level of personalisation. Not unlike a modern car transformed by optional modifications into a customised one-off that reflects the owner’s ideas and preferences in a uniquely individual way.
But this can only be done if financial advisers take plenty of time to give their customers not just the vague feeling that they are being cared for, but a full and genuinely caring experience.
Customers have many different ways of finding the products they want. The range of offerings is varied enough to be overwhelming. While this represents a risk for investment advisers – it’s also a major opportunity. If customers can be guided safely through the jungle of products and services on offer, they’ll be satisfied and come back for more. This applies to any and every product and service. Only those who give total priority to their customers’ needs will generate added value for both their customers and themselves – and only an approach like this will justify the price of the service. In short, it’s becoming very clear that ultimately, only those who care will win.