Customer loyalty, satisfaction, and spend — these are three of the critical factors that contribute to the health and longevity of a brand. Chasing those outcomes, organisations often spend millions on ground-breaking tech experiences, price-cutting deals, and glossy brand campaigns. But our research shows there’s one thing that could tip the scales, and it’s what very few businesses — particularly in financial services — are doing: getting the basics of customer experience right.

When it comes to customers of financial organisations, all the showy innovations and television commercials will do nothing if you’re not meeting customer service expectations:

  • Do what you promised, quickly
  • Make it easy to complete simple transactions
  • Take charge of solving difficulties on behalf of customers promptly and efficiently
  • Make online banking experiences easy and with limited red tape
  • Be transparent about application outcomes, decisions, fees, and timelines
  • Make customers feel valued, regardless of the enquiry.

The financial industry is lagging behind

That all might seem like common sense, and we have the data to back it up, too.

This is what we discovered in 2021. Datacom undertook a large-scale research programme to understand customer experience in the financial services industry, amongst others. We analysed over 1,500 interactions across the different channels offered by Australian banks and providers. We then validated the findings by observing customers navigating the available channels.

Using the analysis, alongside unsolicited feedback from customers on social media channels, customer interviews, and product review sites, it became immediately clear where financial services organisations could be better at meeting customer expectations. Where organisations weren’t getting the basics right we could see customers getting frustrated even before they contacted them.

This is because they assume the experience will be disappointingly complex and long-winded. And their assumptions aren’t misguided.

At the time of our study, across all 16 organisations, we saw long wait times to access banking specialists — the average wait time was 18.5 minutes, although it ranged from nine minutes to 27 minutes.

What impression is your customer experience making?

The realities of the experience are only half the equation — it’s the impression they make that actually matters.

For example, when a customer has a longer wait time to access a banking officer than it takes for the enquiry to be handled, it makes them feel like just someone in a queue. It undermines the feeling of being valued and can make the process seem longer. This was the experience provided through the Big 4 and Tier 2 banks. While they are resolving issues faster than the Tier 1 banks, this doesn’t necessarily translate to a more positive impression.

We observed that wait times are shorter and handle times are longer in Tier 1 banks which left the impression of a more personalised and tailored service.

Similarly, what may seem like a way to improve customer experience by capturing call types through interactive voice response (IVR) appears to work against the experience. It adds frustrating levels of complexity and steps to what should have been a very simple interaction.

After all that complexity and waiting, a fair proportion of enquiries weren’t resolved — the Big 4 resolved 79 per cent of enquiries, while Tier 1 and Tier 2 institutions averaged low 70s. While the industry will tell us that's within standard, that’s 30 per cent of customers who haven’t had their issues solved.

What customers want: speed, ease, and to feel valued

Overall, our sample gave the financial service industry customer satisfaction a disappointing, but unsurprising, 3.01 out of five. Long wait times, transactional interactions, overcomplicated processes, and underwhelming resolution rates all combine to work against customer expectations of speed, ease, and feeling valued. Small changes in the way enquiries are handled could net huge changes in customer satisfaction, and give you a much-needed edge in the market.

By shifting the focus to the metrics that customers hold organisations accountable to — with changes to process and call handling — organisations in the financial services industry can differentiate themselves from competitors.

Chloe has been part of the professional services team within Datacom since 2012, with prior experience in financial services. She has over 10 years' experience in contact centres across frontline leadership and support services roles in government, financial services, and insurance.

Related industries
Financial services
Related solutions
Customer experience