Business leaders have been warned that the dust might not settle anytime soon, given the tumultuous and unpredictable nature of events during the past few years, from COVID-19 to business restructurings and onto the rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI).
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Customers are looking to their financial institutions (FSIs) for guidance on navigating the economic environment. So, how will current instabilities and future uncertainties impact customer relationships with financial institutions, such as banks, insurers, and wealth managers?
To answer this question, Salesforce conducted global research focused on FSIs’ customer experience strategies, and their investments in key technologies.
For its Connected Financial Services Report, Salesforce surveyed 6,058 FSI customers worldwide to discover: 1. Why customers switch financial services institution; 2. What customers look for in a great digital experience; and 3. Evolving sentiments on AI, cryptocurrency, and consumer brands entering the financial space. Here are the key findings of the report:
- Customers demand personalized, comprehensive experiences — Customers are looking to their FSIs for support, advice, and guidance during these uncertain economic times. As much as 79% of customers don’t feel their financial service provider helped them fully prepare for economic uncertainty.
- Beyond digital: The importance of human-to-human interactions — The majority of customers prefer non-digital interactions across all three financial sectors. Over half would switch financial service providers if services felt impersonal.
- Trust and data security go hand-in-hand — Increased awareness of personal data security has made trust between providers and customers more crucial than ever. The majority of customers would share data in exchange for better experiences.
- Looking ahead: Future of finance — As non-traditional vendors and products become more common, people are more apt to explore (or even switch to) alternative products and providers. The research shows 61% of customers have either researched or plan to research cryptocurrency.
Customer experience in financial services
Only 16% of customers say current macroeconomic conditions and financial market events have not affected their financial strategy. Customers are feeling less financially secure, with 42% of respondents saying they feel less secure, 30% feeling the same, and only 28% feeling more secure. Customers also lack desired guidance from their financial providers, with 79% of respondents feeling not prepared or somewhat prepared for economic uncertainty. The impact of poor experience? Attrition.
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Customers are switching providers for better experiences. In the past year alone, 25% of customers switched banks, and over a third switched their insurers and wealth managers. Across all three of these financial sectors, the top reason customers give for switching is a desire for a better digital experience. Reasons for switching are digital experiences, customer service, integration with other services, and physical locations.
Customers want more from digital experiences
By a sizable margin, poorly integrated and non-intelligent chatbots are the most commonly reported area of digital friction. Other commonly encountered challenges include difficulty finding information online, inconsistent customer service, and impersonal services that make customers feel as if they’re treated like a number rather than a unique individual.
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The report found 71% of customers want their financial services provider to have a clear digital process for opening an account. The majority of banking customers want to apply for credit and debit cards, and to open accounts online. Similarly, insurance customers said they prefer to buy, renew, and change coverage or file claims digitally. And even wealth management clients say they prefer to access routine investment management services and conduct tax and financial planning mostly or completely digitally.
Personalization is a must-have for most customers
Financial services customers want the companies they do business with to know who they are and what they need. And customer expectations are growing fast: 73% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations — up from 66% in 2020.
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The cost of not providing personalized service is steep, with more than half of customers (53%) saying they would switch providers if services were not personalized. In fact, 62% of customers would switch FSIs if they felt treated like a number, not a person. The report also found that proactive communication is rare with only 42% in banking, 49% for insurance, and 63% for wealth management.
Customers are uncertain about AI and data trust
There is a push-pull between customers’ expectations that FSIs provide proactive, personalized service and their comfort level with some aspects of AI. Forty percent of customers neither agree nor disagree that AI will speed up financial transactions — suggesting uncertainty around what use of the technology might entail. Among customers who do have an opinion, a much larger share are optimistic about AI’s time-saving potential.
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The report found that 23% of customers do not trust AI and 56% are neutral — this deficit in trust can swing in either direction based on how FSIs use and deliver AI-powered services. The report also found that the benefits of AI are unclear, with only 46% of respondents agreeing that AI will speed up financial transactions. Increased awareness of personal data security has made trust between providers and customers more crucial than ever. In fact, 78% of customers say they would switch financial service providers if they felt their data was mishandled.
Data is necessary to help financial services providers personalize experiences, and fortunately, most customers are open to sharing it. More than half (55%) of customers are satisfied with how FSIs use their data to provide relevant services — up from 45% in 2022. Notably, however, customers want a clear and easy-to-understand explanation, and a general sense of control over what data is shared, how FSIs will use it, and who has access to it. The good news is that customers are willing to share data if they get something in return — a better experience.
The report found customers want providers to treat their data with care — and use it to create more fulfilling, personalized, and relevant experiences and offers. More than half of customers would share data in exchange for a better overall experience or savings, such as rate reductions or discounts.
The future of finance
Customers who switched to a non-traditional financial provider say they did so due to ease of use, curiosity, and improved integrations with other services they use.
The report notes that consumer brands such as Apple, Walmart, and Starbucks have expanded their offerings to include financial products, which is shaking up the field with easier setup, better integration across services, and a more intuitive app and website experiences. Curious customers are taking note.
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The future outlook also studied different forms of payment, including cryptocurrencies. Even after the crash in the cryptocurrency market, infamously called “the crypto-winter”, financial services customers are still curious about digital currency, with two-thirds saying they’ve either researched or plan to research it. Only 29% of customers want blockchain digital currency services from their FSIs. The report concluded that 40% of respondents are still uncomfortable with cryptocurrency.
To learn more about the Connected Financial Services Report, you can visit here.