Turning Transactions to Trust in Financial Services: Q&A with Dan Brousseau

A lender helps a couple sign financial paperwork

Dan Brousseau, Solutions Principal at Medallia, shares his views on the state of customer experience in financial services and what it takes to reach and sustain CX industry leadership.

Launch a customer experience program in financial services, and you’ll quickly discover just how critical trust is within the industry. Customers deposit, pay, invest, and borrow under the assumption that their money is safe and that their financial provider is looking out for their best interests. But what occurs before, during, and after a transaction matters just as much as the transfers facilitating them. It’s why customer experience in financial services needs to encompass the entirety of the customer journey at every touchpoint.

Having spent over 30 years helping top brands around the world with customer experience, Dan Brousseau now serves as the lead Solutions Principal for the financial services industry at Medallia. Brousseau is an expert who’s completed the trifecta in CX — having worked in consulting and research, as a CX leader in banking, executing strategy, and now with the leading experience management solutions provider.

With Medallia, he guides clients on how to improve customer experience in banking, wealth management, insurance, and beyond.

In this interview, Brousseau explains why customer experience in financial services is essential for building consumer trust and loyalty, the top challenges facing brands in the industry, what CX leaders are doing to set themselves apart, and insights on the future.

Why is customer experience management essential for building trust and loyalty in financial services?

It’s critical to build trust and confidence through the experiences customers receive from their financial provider— without that, financial institutions lose customers and won’t be recommended. Trust and confidence builds when customers know their financial needs will be taken care of and when the financial institution demonstrates that it’s looking out for their best interests.

For table stakes, customers have high expectations for ease effectiveness and positive service aspects of experiences they receive every day from their financial providers. Customers expect them to deliver the same quality experience as they receive from other brands — be it Amazon, REI, Ritz-Carlton, or their favorite salon. When there’s friction or issues in journeys and interactions, it chips away at trust and confidence, and that’s when customers open up to competitors.

Experience management is foundational to understanding customers and improving customer journeys, which is essential to building trusted and lasting relationships. It’s also critical from an employee perspective — great CX comes from employees, from management to the front lines — who are enabled, empowered, and inspired to bring great experiences to customers. But it doesn’t evolve and scale by itself.

Organizations need to focus on experience, and have the people, tools, and technology, along with the processes, strategies, and leadership support, in place to deliver great experiences at scale, while continually improving and innovating customer and employee experiences.

What are the biggest financial services customer experience challenges right now?

The pandemic really accelerated the shift to digital for financial services consumers, driving their desire to engage with brands using digital channels. Initially, many banks and financial institutions were caught flat-footed. Most are in a much better place now, and digital has become the primary channel through which most customers want to engage with brands, at least for most of their basic interactions. At the same time, customers still want to get advice, talk to people, and have that human experience.

So it’s up to organizations to figure out how to deliver these journeys and experiences over a mix of both digital and human channels — there’s a need to both digitize the human experience and humanize the digital experience. That involves bringing together once siloed channels — digital, phone, branch, private bankers, and email with agile teams whose job it is to create and deliver the brand’s seamless, cross-channel experience.

The other big challenge is keeping pace with competition. Few industries have seen the kind of competitive disruption that has shaken up the financial services sector. Thousands of startups have come to market within the last five years. They’re identifying financial services customer experience friction points or unmet needs, and innovating products, offerings, and services to create new and better experiences.  Add to that the mega tech players — Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook — have entered financial services, re-thinking customer experiences and financial offerings, and are saying, “Oh, we can do a much better job at this.” 

Needless to say, traditional financial institutions are under enormous pressure to transform their digital capabilities, to innovate faster, and to be more nimble and much more customer-centric.

What are financial services customer experience leaders doing to get — and stay — ahead?

When we look at the data, financial services brands with a consistently superior customer experience outperform laggards on financial metrics like revenue, customer retention, and profits. Customer service leaders tend to have a few things in common: a CEO who is vocal about the importance of customer experience to the firm’s success; a CX leader who has significant institutional power and is investing more than average in customer experience data insights, innovation and delivery capabilities in terms of people and technology; and a well-established customer-focused, if not obsessed, org culture.

Financial services brands also need to prioritize employee experience by empowering and inspiring workers to do right by customers. We still tend to see a fair amount of separation between customer experience strategies and the employee experience needed to support them within financial services organizations, but that’s changing. Some brands are bringing the two together, looking at how customer experience friction and pain is driven by employee experience challenges, and how improving employee experience can have a big effect on customer experience.

What’s the future of the financial services customer experience?

The challenge most brands need to fully embrace is enabling individuality at scale — making experiences more personalized, relevant, and memorable — and therefore more valuable and differentiated. The more we know about individual customers and how they behave, the more we can tailor their experiences using tools like experience analytics, journey orchestration, and real-time interaction management. It’s about shifting toward truly 1:1 experiences rather than force-fitting customers into prescribed journeys that aren’t as relevant, useful, or easy as they should be. We’ll get to a place in the not-too-distant future where firms will instantly apply individualized data insights to design and offer ‘made for you’ financial services products and experiences on the spot.

But we’re at a time of major change, and with that comes uncertainty across the industry. Newer offerings like open banking, open payments, banking as a service, decentralized finance, and crypto are changing the nature of financial services as we’ve traditionally known them.

I look forward to a world where customers have more control over their finances, greater financial literacy and wellness, and greater trust and confidence in what brands they choose to do business with. Customers are in charge — more in charge than they’ve ever been before, and this trajectory I believe will continue from what we saw pre-pandemic.

Whatever shifts take place in the industry over the coming years will undoubtedly bring more choice for customers and more competition for larger financial institutions. But on the flip side, it’ll also create more opportunities overall for innovative and progressive players in financial services.

While I can’t predict the future, I will say that if you keep your customers at the center of your business, you will likely still be around in 10 years to talk about all the changes that we will witness over that next decade.

Interested in discovering all the differences between CX leaders and laggards? Download our report, Uncovering the Secrets Behind a Successful Customer Experience Program.