The changing relationship between customers and brands has been accelerated by today’s environment. Delivering personalized, customer-focused experiences is no longer just key to long-term brand success, but vital for survival.

Olaf Tennhardt, a principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, and the Hux by Deloitte Digital’s Financial Services Lead, sat down with us to share his take on how banks and insurance companies can elevate human connections to evolve with changing customer needs and stay ahead of the curve, one touchpoint at a time.

What are the top two challenges currently facing the Financial Services industry involving customer experience?

Well, first, customers want more highly personalized experiences that cater to their needs, wants, and expectations—whether we’re in a healthy economy or facing a pandemic like COVID-19. Many Financial Services companies, both banks and insurance companies alike, have a lot of customer data but are struggling to tap into the insights it can offer to deliver meaningful experiences. Why? Many of their existing systems were not designed to work together—but now they need to, and it’s forcing many companies to completely rebuild to gain value from their data and a more integrated view of the customer to create meaningful experiences.

Second, it’s important to break down the organizational boundaries around communication. If the CIO and the CMO aren’t on the same page to leverage mutual goals, how can they improve their company’s customer experience?

You mentioned the need for CIOs and CMOs to transform how they work together. Why is that important?

Because leadership must create new ways to work and collaborate to establish a centralized customer experience operating model. A more integrated analytics environment that includes all sources of customer data will allow them to utilize their investment in customer-facing systems—this truth can, in fact, be said for any industry. Establishing a solid data foundation will enable actionable insights that lead to the delivery of more customized experiences that revolve around the customer journey.

So, what are the most effective practices to put in place?

Start by harmonizing your customer data, deploying decisioning engines based on customer use-cases, and delivering seamlessly through all customer touchpoints. Data should be a core competency maintained and secured within company policies. For example, a cloud-based customer data platform helps you learn about customer preferences to inform a thoughtful and valuable engagement strategy. Combining internal and external data can also help reduce inefficiencies, allowing marketers to make more relevant interactions, and provide a deeper understanding of what drives customers’ online behavior.

AI and machine learning should be used to analyze your data and find key insights that help you to help determine the best method and time to engage with customers to optimize specific outcomes. AI helps curate the right experience for each targeted customer segment across the lifecycle of their journey.

You can own your customer experience delivery by developing an ecosystem that connects processes and technologies across customer channels. This creates more memorable and relevant experiences, boosts real-time decisioning, and helps with gathering customer data for future iterations. If you can achieve this, it can lead to increased sales and brand loyalty through new and existing customers—a better overall value for your customer and business alike.

It’s also important to note that a use-case driven approach is recommended. Instead of boiling the ocean at first, discover the highest priority use-cases and build around those.

Now that we know data, decisioning, and delivery are crucial to the customer experience, how do we build trust?

There are several ways to build trust, but transparency and consent are the top two that come to mind. For example, consumers have become increasingly frustrated with how their data is being used to target and retarget them throughout their buying journey. This has resulted in a higher use of ad-blockers, and is pushing browser developers to phase out the use of third-party cookies and encourage more consent management.

A major shift like the end of third-party cookies can threaten many online revenue models and engagement strategies. But it also creates a unique opportunity for companies to focus relentlessly on customer first party data and put systems in place, like customer data platforms, that will help companies deepen their relationships with customers.

How can all of these factors elevate a company’s customer experience vision?

By aligning leadership around a single customer experience vision and how data and technology can enable it, a company is in a much better place to function with purpose and deliver more human experiences. It’s also important to recognize that agility will be needed to make adjustments on the fly. Company goals, customer expectations, and the environment we live in are constantly changing—organizations will need to create experiences that suit current needs.

What are some key questions to consider as these changes are being implemented?

How does your organization gather, store, and collect data? What are you using to analyze data and gather insights from it? How do you currently deliver the customer experience and how can it be enhanced from getting a better understanding of the customer from their data? Lastly, in what ways can your operational model better support the consumer experience?

Learning the answers to these questions as an organization will help you turn insights into actionable steps, and help you lend your energy and resources to creating a more fully connected human experience.