Are You Afraid of Your Customer? Facing Fears in the Financial Services Sector
October 24, 2022 | Finance
by ExperiencePoint


TODAY’S FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY is changing. Artificial Intelligence owns tasks that used to be the purview of analysts. FinTechs are challenging traditional models of investing. Add cryptocurrency and blockchain to the mix and it’s no surprise that traditional financial institutions are facing challenges on multiple fronts. The pressure to innovate, and keep up with the agile competition, is everywhere.

Human-centered banking has emerged as a key way to navigate these changes and safeguard customer interests. With so much new technology, companies need to remember that, on the other side of every transaction, there’s a real person with specific wants. Since design thinking begins and ends with prioritizing the customer, it’s an ideal method for keeping financial products and services anchored to people’s real needs.

At ExperiencePoint, we’ve seen lots of enthusiasm for design thinking from our clients in the financial services sector. But we’ve seen something else, too: apprehension. When it comes down to the actual tools and techniques of customer-centricity, such as interacting with a customer to explore their true needs, our clients in finance sometimes get a little spooked. 

For many organizations, fear becomes a major barrier to participation in the new market. When resources are burned up managing nerves and trepidations, there’s less investment in innovation. But when that fear is replaced with confidence, these organizations can make generative investments into how they participate in the industry.


Why Does the Customer Spark Fear?

In an era of emails and texts that effectively write themselves, we might all be out of shape in the art of conversation. In the highly regulated financial world of numbers, systems and rules, a direct chat with a customer can seem like an especially intimidating activity. 

We’ve compiled the key reasons a customer interaction may provoke anxiety. We’ve also suggested how this anxiety can be reframed as an opportunity for new behavior.

The desire to protect relationships


The financial services sector can be a territorial place, where a “my client” mentality reigns supreme. If you’re in charge of an account, you may actively limit who can connect with your client for fear someone might interfere with the relationship. Conversely, if you’re working on solving a complex business problem, you may hesitate to contact a customer who doesn’t strictly “belong” to you. You may worry that the colleague, or the client, will see reaching out as intrusive, or that you’ll be monopolizing the limited time the client has for your company.

The opportunity: It’s natural to feel protective of an important relationship. But a truly customer-centric company develops systems that allow all employees access to customers, without compromising the trust of the established relationship. Direct customer contact delivers more genuine feedback than traditional ways of eliciting customer responses, such as Net Promoter Scores (NPS).

The concern of slowing down


People often think that experience and expertise are all they need to solve complex problems. This assumption is often coupled with an eagerness to start work on that solution without delay. Dealing with the customer can slow momentum. Worse, it can sabotage the whole project if the customer’s feedback undermines assumptions that have already been made.

The opportunity: You have to go slow to go fast. Talking to a customer may take time, but it may also present you with insights and ideas that you hadn’t previously imagined. Similarly, taking the time to test these ideas on real users may decrease speed to market, but it will increase speed to value, which ultimately matters more.

A sense of stranger danger


Customers can be different from you in every way—age, gender, ethnicity, profession. It can be daunting to speak with someone with whom you have little in common, especially when you’re relying on them for important information related to your success at work.

The opportunity: If you push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and listen to what the customer says, you may find yourself with an understanding of user needs that you never anticipated, and with information that can set you up for invaluable insights.

It’s natural to fear what you’re unfamiliar with. But facing those fears and getting to know your customer, and their unique needs, is well worth any initial trepidation. A customer-centric business is critical to staying relevant in the new financial industry. 


Interested in learning more about customer-centric behavior? Read our free ebook
5 Ways to Become Customer Obsessed.

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