Meet Katya Forbes, the founder and managing director at Syfte. Known as a true thought leader, she describes herself as a digital native, global thinker and designer of a world where people feel good as they go about their business. Katja has a curious mind and passionate commitment to customer experience and designing products and services with the human element in mind. If you’re all about designing products and services that resonate with people so you’re really going to enjoy this episode.
Go back to basics to build trust
Katja wrote an article called “Why going back to basics is the best way to build customer trust” in which she explained that customers don’t trust businesses and brands, so they’re looking for people like them to bond with and buy from. It’s very relevant to the world of financial advice where there is the nasty ongoing bug of people not trusting financial advisors.
The traditional brand elements that agencies dealt with—price, product, placement, and promotion—are not as important to customers anymore. Instead, customers are looking for impression (what does this brand say to me?), interaction (does this brand actually do what it says it will?), responsiveness (does it respond to me and my needs) and resilience (does it actually care about the world we live in and is it going to be a brand that can take us into the future?). Katja suggests that small businesses look at their brand with the different lenses the customers are placing on them.
For a financial advice business, this means asking some different questions, such as ‘How can I give my customer something that gives confidence and comfort in that conversation?’ or ‘What can I do in my communications that demonstrates that I understand that customer’s needs and that I have a deep interest in their wellbeing going forward?’ Placing these different lenses onto how customers are engaging with your brand and responding accordingly can really promote a much more human profile of your business.
Automation, efficiency and the customer experience
Katja has done quite a lot of research in this area of automation and customer experience for the large financial institutions. What the research shows is that customers are happy to look after themselves—and as a by-product provide the business with efficiency—for the right tasks and the right time. If it’s something really simple and transactional, that’s easy for them to do themselves, people are generally very happy to do it. There is usually a benefit of efficiency not just for the business but also for the customer because they gain back the time they’d otherwise have spent waiting in queues or waiting for the teller.
However, when the task is more complex, or when there’s some sort of fear involved, customers do not want to serve themselves. People are very visceral about their money so if there’s any kind of fear of something going wrong or a fear of fraud, for example, they will want the one-to-one human interaction because it provides a sense of reassurance. Katja’s advice to businesses is to put the automation in the transactional places and make it very easy—frictionless even—for the customers to look after themselves. Then, put the human capital in the places where they will really add value and create a great customer experience.
Getting the balance right
Kayja’s research shows that there are times where the reason a customer has chosen to be with a particular organization is the personal interactions that they have with the people there. It’s a very interesting psychological area to explore what people are willing to let machines take over and what people still want a human being to be involved in. Especially with regards to money, people want to feel like their business is in safe hands, and human hands are safe hands.
This is why investing in the human capital is vital, however, it is possible to get a good mix of the human and digital approaches. Relationship managers and financial advisors can guide people through a process that includes the deep, face-to-face conversation and also has digital tools to support the collection of information. For example, this might include an aggregated site where relevant documents are uploaded so people can see everything they’ve shared with the financial advisor. It creates a supported conversation using digital tools, but the emphasis is still on the human element. Katja’s advice is to get ready for the machine-in-hand so we don’t get machine-replaced.
The power of customer conversation
Social media is an incredibly powerful thing that has disrupted the way businesses and brands interact with people. These days, you can actually get a hold of Telstra faster on Twitter than you can on the phone! The reason is that Telstra decided to take their frontline customer service into a public domain because the people who were making complaints were doing it in a public domain. They went to where the conversations were happening, which is what Katja says the successful people are always doing. For example, Phillips wanted to create a social community of clinicians and medical professionals around innovations in health. Rather than creating a platform, they went to where the professionals already were, and nearly 7 years on their LinkedIn group has nearly 150,000 members and is still going strong.
It’s vital to be cognizant of what kind of conversation you’re trying to have and where the best place is to have that kind of conversation. It’s about conversation and customer engagement, and this is possible even in the financial sector with the wonderful world of compliance. A great example of this in the Australian financial sector is Suncorp. They have been hugely successful in re-orienting their operating model so that they had a customer-assessed operating model. As an organization, they pulled themselves apart and put themselves back together in a new way that focuses on customer experience. Suncorp customers are now advocating for the brand as an organization and saying their experience has been a complete 180 turn around. Google ‘Suncorp’s Organisational Restructure’ to find out more.
Suncorp is a great example of a brand in the financial industry that is having conversations with their customers and building stronger relationships with a lot more trust. I hope when you’re having your next quarterly or annual meetings with your team, you can put the lenses on and look at your business in a different way. Individually and collectively, we’d be fools not to make sure that we’re constantly communicating the great work that advisers do so we can overcome those potential trust issues. As Katja says, it’s all about the right approach at the right time, and being in conversation with your customer.