Designing an Integrated TCE (Total Customer Experience) Model for Financial Services


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Is your company delivering an integrated total customer experience across multiple touch-points and channels? Most companies aren’t. They are using conventional approaches that drive departmental or functional silos in delivering inconsistent and disintegrated experiences; demand more and more resources in order to stay in line with competition; and deviate away from achieving designated business targets.

How do companies deliver a consistent and integrated total customer experience, which aligns with corporate objectives, and with the best use of limited resource? One new and unconventional way is to start designing a TCE (total customer experience) model by mapping touch-points and associated channels across entire customer lifecycle, assessing the current effectiveness of touch-points’ experience, and optimizing resources allocation among touch-points and channels by target objectives.

In this article, I am going to demonstrate the beauties of designing, assessing, and optimizing a TCE model, with the data and insights generated from the Global Credit Card Customer Experience Research* co-organized by CustomerThink and Global CEM.

Common Challenges of Financial Service Providers

Financial Services is one of the most up-surging markets in the world. The business return could be huge and so is the risk. We don’t need to experience the financial tsunami to understand that. Despite of the crisis, the industry itself has a lot of challenges to overcome. If you were one of the industry players, you will see a rapid erosion of your core business, caused by increasing complexity of financial structures and systems, homogeneousness of products and services, internet frauds, security threats, and the gradual loss of confidence and trust towards the companies and the customers.

Notwithstanding all these macro issues, financial service providers have to manage day-to-day business headaches as well. Though the problems of each player could be different, they may still face common pains as below.

Financial service providers are trying very hard to up-sell or cross-sell related products or services to their customers, to maximize their value and profitability brought to the company throughout the whole customer lifecycle. Nevertheless, the effect is in doubt and they don’t have a clear picture on how it impacts the overall customer experience.

Financial service providers may have invested a lot to improve service level and to catch up industry benchmark, but customers still complain. Although their satisfaction scores are fine, they don’t know how they justify their investment on service as they don’t know how it can be related to increasing sales or brand loyalty.

Customers certainly remember their names but they are neither in favor of them nor going to kick them out tomorrow. Their brands are just indifferent to any others in the market. Whenever the customers come across an attractive alternative, they may just leave them, i.e. their brands are at Risk.

Financial service providers are adding more and more product and service offerings to their customers; and they are experiencing and perceiving them through new and emerging touch-points and channels, especially in those new social media. Managing such a dynamic and complex mix of channels is a nightmare. It creates Inconsistent Customer Experience across Channels.

Limitations of Conventional CRM/CEM Approaches

Without an integrated approach, you are always working independently as departmental or functional silos and delivering inconsistent experiences. Without a quantifiable approach, you are not able to measure, and thus can hardly manage or improve the effectiveness of the customer experience. Without a pragmatic approach, you may build an extremely detailed customer experience process model, good-looking on surface, but taking you nowhere in execution.

How do you manage these challenges? You need the following: a management system that provides you quantifiable metrics to measure results; a scientific approach that clearly explains the relationship between satisfaction, buying behavior and referrals or word-of-mouth; sound and solid management principles to correlate customer experience and your brand strategy; and a systematic framework and methodology to design and monitor effective customer experience delivery across multiple channels and touch-points throughout the entire customer lifecycle. In short, you need to manage using a TCE (total customer experience) approach.

DESIGN a Quantifiable Total Customer Experience Model

Figure 1 shows a simplified version of the total customer experience model for a credit card issuing-bank. Credit card customers experience their entire lifecycle with financial services provider by interacting across numerous touch-points (denote T1 to T39) at different stages (i.e. Image, Application, Card Usage, Promotions, Gift Redemption, Repayment, and Service). The respective touch-point experiences are delivered not by single entity, but by various channels (denoted by C1 to C27), under various functions or departments (F2F, Call, Mobile, Online, DM, Partners, Media and Others, etc.)

There is no single department or function that can claim total ownership of the entire customer experience. With a TCE (total customer experience) model, companies are able to visualize how to deliver and manage an integrated and consistent experience for customers across the matrix of multiple touch-points and channels.

Customers experience you and your brand as a whole, not by different departments or functions.

Figure 1: A Simplified Version of the Total Customer Experience Process Model of a Credit Card Issuing-bank

ASSESS the Importance Levels of Touch-Points and Channels

The importance levels of each touch-point / channel in driving customer retention and customer referrals are identified. The orange stars denote the touch-points that are important to retention and referrals, the blue dots are important to retention only, the green dots are important to referrals only, while the grey dots are unimportant to both retention and referrals.

Not all customers are created equal. Treating all your customers equally implies that you are not optimizing the resources you allocate among customers. Similarly, not all touch-points and channels are equally important. Some are more important in driving satisfaction, some are important in reflecting brand differentiation, some are important in driving customer retention or referrals. Some may not be important at all. As shown in Figure 1, the importance of each touch-point/channel will guide financial service providers to allocate resources differently, and effectively, in optimizing customer satisfaction, brand differentiation, and loyalty.

Not all touch-points / channels are equally important, so allocate resources differently.

OPTIMIZE Total Customer Experience by Target Objectives

Different companies have different strategies and priorities, even in a highly competitive and “me-too” industry like Financial Services. It is not a wise move to copy your competitors, even if they are considered “best practice” in your industry with similar corporate objectives – their target touch-points may be different from yours.

For example, amongst the total customer experience delivered by Website (C11) of the Online channel, the touch-points T3,T5 and T39 (denoted by grey dots), are unimportant to retention and referrals; the touch-point experience T2, T23, T33 and T35 (denoted by orange stars) delivered by e-Banking are important to retention and referrals. Only by focusing them, can a creidt card issuing-bank manage and optimize the total customer experience by target objectives, in this case, driving retention and referrals.

Financial service providers have been talking a lot about delivering a consistent and branded experience to their target customers, at multiple touch-points and channels, across the entire customer lifecycle. But until they can manage the Total Customer Experience (TCE) with an integrated and quantifiable mechanism, delivering a consistent and branded experience will be lip service rather than real action.

*The Global Credit Card Customer Experience Research was co-organized by CustomerThink and Global CEM. The survey began on May 6, 2009 and ended on July 29, 2009. A total of 2,080 valid responses from 29 countries were collected. The guiding principles and the tools for design, execution and analysis of this research are based on the U.S. patent-pending Branded Customer Experience Management Method invented by Global CEM. In this article, we select China Merchants Bank as an example of a credit card issuing-bank.


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