From the city-sized meteorite that struck the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico to the worldwide pandemic sweeping Earth’s surface 66 million years later, sometimes a random act of nature can alter the course of history — and your business.

Perhaps a little excessive, but you only have to look at the way the current COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way customers interact with brands to see how customer service teams have had to very quickly evolve to meet changing demands.

At a time when businesses and customers are both nervous about safety, security, and the future, online customer experiences and brand reputation has never mattered more. It’s not excessive to say that we’re right in the middle of something big.

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on customer experience (CX) in the Financial Services and Insurance (FSI) industry and what factors, if any, are holding businesses back from adapting and evolving? Here’s what we discovered when we surveyed 100 IT and Marketing Directors, VPs, CMOs, and CIOs in the North American FSI.

Service without a smile

Customers have insisted on interacting with brands where, when, and how they like for a while now. With remote and mobile working becoming the norm, this demand has suddenly become even greater.

Our survey of 100 FSI IT and Marketing Directors, VPs, CMOs, and CIOs shows a radical shift towards customer self-reliance — with 78% of organizations reporting a higher uptick in self-service interactions and/or mobile usage in recent months.

This figure becomes even more interesting when we put it alongside the meager 16% rise in customer service calls — during the pandemic. At a time when customers are already being forced into interacting very differently, that’s a huge indicator that self-service works.

Looking forward, we don’t expect this trend to be reversed now that customers are used to using self-service tools. We’re only going to see ever-more sophisticated omnichannel self-service portals and chat tools. If you want to stay competitive, this is one of the investments you need to make.

Getting personal with AI

The survey also shows a gap between the rising knowledge that artificial intelligence (AI) is going to play a key role in digital transformation in the near future and the ability to leverage it any time soon.

Despite AI being a formalized discussion point for 92% of our surveyed organizations, any real advantages of using AI are being missed because of siloed working. In fact, only one-third of organizations have taken their commitment to AI further by creating a company-wide policy, and 58% are simply discussing AI in small groups or single departments.

More worryingly, the full potential of AI in digital transformation is not being realized because organizations are missing out on the power it provides in delivering the highly personalized experiences that set brands apart. Our survey results show that while 38% of organizations are excited about identifying customer trends and large data sets, only 33% are excited about improving or scaling personalization.

That’s a missed opportunity, if ever we saw one.

If content is king, centralize it

The third main finding centers around content — more specifically, content management and content marketing. It seems that despite the availability of content marketing and management tools, many organizations — a giant 79% — are struggling to achieve business agility.

A small proportion (21%) of organizations are researching new Content Marketing Platforms (CMP), but that leaves a huge chunk that are still not recognizing the benefits of a centralized CMP or content management tools, which are crucial to an optimized personalization strategy.

Almost half the organizations said their Content Management Systems (CMS) are siloed by respective departments — again, demonstrating that failing to work collaboratively is proving a barrier to progress.

  

 

Businesses are dealing with a lot right now. On the IT side, you're being asked to support a remote workforce and all the challenges that it presents. Within marketing, you’ve got to create more and more personalized content and deliver it to an increasing number of mobile devices and digital touchpoints.

But the time to act is now.

Three steps to improving success in 2021

A difficult year does not have to end badly if lessons are learned. Taking what we already know and what the survey suggests is happening, let’s focus on three jumping-off points for FSI organizations in 2021.

  1. Businesses should be wholeheartedly embracing self-service in order to push forward the consolidation of websites and emerging technologies. This will create efficiencies and more effective end-to-end customer experiences.
  2. Organizations should also explore the full potential of AI to identify visitor trends, create customer segments, and modify page elements to deliver on the promise of personalization at scale.
  3. Departments and teams — not just Marketing and IT but also sales, data analysts, CRM, web development, and e-commerce — must work collaboratively to manage their end-to-end content lifecycle to gain a competitive edge.

Hopefully, by taking these three important steps, the FSI industry will emerge streamlined and more successful.

For more insights and examples of forward-thinking CX and digital experience teams that are ahead of the game, access our infographic: AI and digital transformation: How has COVID affected your customer experience?

Take note: Want to learn more about our expertise in the FSI sector and how we help enterprises stay ahead of the rapidly changing world? We invite you to visit our FinServ hub page and reach out to us with any questions. We’re here to help!

Visit the hub →

Jacqueline Baxter is a Senior Digital Strategist at Sitecore. She believes in building collaborative relationships and leveraging technology to positively transform people and businesses. As a Sitecore Strategy MVP, she has presented at Sitecore events world-wide, and she is a fan of social engagement and employee advocacy driven by high-quality, relevant content. Connect with her on LinkedIn or on Twitter.