The answer to this question is, of course, simple – it’s the job of a leader to ensure they and their team consider the customer at every single opportunity. A good leader should be many things but their ability to inspire and motivate their teams to deliver the best customer outcome, is vital.
But, how does this work in practice and in growing businesses like BGL for example, which has experienced rapid growth in the past 10 years? How can a leader drive a customer-centric culture for a workforce that might sit across multiple sites, possibly in different countries, as well as working at varying roles and levels?
A key foundation for us has been to develop a set of principles, alongside our existing business values, which give colleagues a basis on which to constructively challenge.
This approach empowers our teams, helping to unite the entire business against a common purpose – doing the right thing for our customers. BGL’s Customer Principles, born out of our strong values, are a simple tool for colleagues to use within their roles, helping to ensure consistently good outcomes.
The Customer Principles consist of four questions:
- Would our customers understand the reason for the approach?
- Would you be happy if a friend or family were to experience this?
- Would you champion the approach externally?
- Does it align to our values?
While these questions are evident every day within our customer-facing teams, they are also regularly debated across all areas of the organisation, from product development and pricing, right through to our technology, compliance and finance teams.
There are, of course, times when conversations will naturally be more commercially-focused but the principles give colleagues a tool to be able to confidently ensure that decisions are being made with the customer in mind.
A study by analysts Frost & Sullivan found that by the end of 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as a key brand differentiator, so while sometimes making a decision that is in the best interests of a customer might not make immediate commercial sense, long-term, it could be crucial to a business’s success.
For example, recently we found ourselves having to make decisions very quickly due to the continually evolving nature of the coronavirus pandemic and the relevance of certain products. Our Customer Principles steered these decisions and while they may have felt rapid, making them against the framework of our principles and values ensured we were doing it with the customer in mind.
At comparethemarket.com, one of the many decisions we had to make during this time involved working with our partners to pause the selling of travel insurance during the travel bans, before switching this journey back on when the Government’s advice changed. This had a significant commercial impact, however, it was vital to us that any product we sold during this time would ultimately offer value, as well as meeting our customers’ needs. We couldn’t demonstrate this with any confidence so the decision was an easy one – pause sales until we were.
While a set of common principles provide a good framework, there are also several broader considerations that I believe help to maintain and drive a customer-focused culture:
1. Don’t limit your customer aspirations to your market: Archaic and vast legacy systems, coupled with highly complex value chains, often make it challenging to implement change quickly within financial services.
While the market has tried to create a buzz around Insurtech and there’s a growing influx of digital start-up’s, a good leader should remain close to growing consumer trends and expectations outside of their direct markets, not simply looking to peers to benchmark, but those where customer-led propositions are at the forefront of why consumers love and are attracted to brands.
The Amazons and Apples of this world are constantly referred to around Board tables as global market leaders we’d all love to replicate the success of, but why are they successful? They constantly strive to solve customer problems, making customers lives easier, or making services offered through tech, ones customers can’t live without.
A leader should drive change in pursuit of outstanding customer experiences, being mindful of the limitations of their own industry and technical capabilities but looking for ways to overcome and move the business forward to drive exceptional customer experience.
2. Lead through insight: Many believe that the financial services sector is lucky to have access to a whole host of data sources on which to make informed decisions, whereas others may take a slightly less optimistic view that we now face an overwhelming level of data with no insight, making it far more challenging to extract value.
However, the secret to good leadership is to understand the relevancy and pertinent insights available and make decisions based on this intelligence. Where are customers dropping out of processes and why? What can you do to improve their experience? What are customers saying about you good, bad or indifferent? How can you ensure they talk about your service positively and consistently?
A customer-centric leadership style should be very much data driven. To do this effectively, it’s important to instill the right forums for debate, to ensure customer insight is heard, utilised and acted upon to drive change that will be truly valued by customers.
3. A regulatory tick in the box will never be enough: In the financial services industry, looking after customers is a stringent regulatory requirement. There is a growing emphasis for businesses to demonstrate we truly understand our end-to-end value chains and a fundamental need for us to consider the impacts of these relationships on our customers.
Letting the regulator worry about Solvency II requirements, whilst you’re writing insurance as a broker with a business who may not be around to service customers mid-term, could ultimately land you, your customers and brand with huge detriment.
Developing journeys that conform to the latest regulatory requirements but without consideration to customers, is a mistake and so frequent and robust user experience testing is vital in the digital world we are all transacting in.
As an aggregator, working with partners in a vast number of sectors and exposing customers to their services, whilst simply signing contracts obligating them to report service levels and meet regulatory expectations is not enough.
Businesses need to ensure – through every lens – that they are not only meeting regulator requirements but more importantly, recognising their customers are a key stakeholder, if not the most important one, to satisfy.
A business’s role is not only to ensure we are providing a great price, but outstanding service throughout value chains and ultimately working with partners who are financially robust enough to provide customers with long-term sustainable propositions.
We may all be customers with well ingrained memories of both good, bad and ugly experiences with financial service providers, but in businesses with P&L targets to hit, it can be easy to compromise great customer outcomes for bottom line profit.
Implementing robust processes, authentic customer-led discussions and constantly challenging the status quo, will support movement to a much more customer-centric culture.
This in turn will help create teams that thrive in delivering great customer outcomes and will see businesses continue to deliver the best possible products and services, not only now, but long into the future.
You can read more from our 2020 Customer Report here.