Optimise sales performance management to improve customer experience


By Ben Nottle, Head of CX Industry and Solutions, SAP Asia 

In the financial industries, relationship managers and insurance agents are sometimes the only contact a customer has with your institution. So why aren’t they regarded as a more important part of the customer experience (CX)?

You’ve probably got at least one CX program in your business, or more likely, several of them run by different teams. They will, no doubt, be focused on customer satisfaction, brand perception, sentiment, and engagement. They will provide your business with insights and ideas that a decade ago wouldn’t have been possible. But if your business is like many others in the financial services industry, CX-focused teams would benefit from spending a bit more time with the relationship managers or insurance agents.

This may already happen. But the chances are it doesn’t. A gap has opened up between the experiences a company thinks it’s providing and the experience customers are actually getting when they encounter sales, or any other teams in your financial institution: the experience gap. And it’s creating unhappy customers. Research by Qualtrics, now part of SAP, found 56% of customers who left a bank said it “made no effort to keep them.” With 91% of customers surveyed in SAP’s ‘What’s the Future of Sales?’ report saying they have a “higher expectation of sales than they had two years ago”, it’s clear that sales should not just be about selling. It should be about giving the customer an experience that will make them feel like a customer. Understanding how sales affects CX should be as much a part of your CX strategy as marketing and customer service. 

So, what’s hindering this understanding?

The way financial services businesses treat data is partly responsible, placing value on data that describes what’s going on: the operational data of a business such as profit, win rate, agency attritions and so on, and often keeping this customer data within separate parts of the organisation. But by itself that doesn’t help understand what a customer thinks or wants, their emotions and sentiment, about the end-to-end experience they have with a company and its agents and channel partners. That’s understood with experience data, generated by brand perception and product satisfaction; data that’s often in short supply. Where it does exist, it’s often inaccessible, making it hard to match the impact of the operational data and creating holes in a business’s understanding of its customer experience.

Look at how the insurance industry operates. Most customers deal with agents, not the underwriter, so the underwriter has little direct experience and not much control of the customer experience. Customer feedback, the experience data, ends up with the agents, not the underwriter. And although it’s in the agent’s interests to create happy customers, the high attrition rate of agent/underwriter relationships make it difficult to develop an understanding of how sales performance is shaping the customer experience. The experience gap between the two opens up and the customer falls into it.

That gap needs to be closed in every FSI business. The solution requires listening to what customers want. It requires connecting operational data to experience data to see where the gaps are. It requires breaking down the silos across the organisation to get a complete view of the customer experience. Businesses are often very good at looking from the inside out, dealing with data from their own processes, but less effective when it comes to looking at those processes from the outside in, or the customer’s viewpoint.

Understanding what the customer experiences when they engage with an agent or a relationship manager will help to improve not only that experience, but hopefully the motivation of the agent or relationship manager as well. They should be focused as much on the customer experience as the need to sell. Motivate them to do this by linking remuneration and compensation to KPIs related to the customer experience. Ask customers what they think about their experiences. If a customer complains about an agent’s behaviour, send the agent on a coaching course. If customers aren’t getting the advice they want, do your agents need training to give that advice? Or are your customers not getting to speak to the right agents? And if it looks like an agent was pushing a product too hard, perhaps it’s time to review the way commission is paid for that product. Every time, look at how you can influence behaviour to improve the customer’s experience. But whatever you do, do something. Doing nothing is the slow death of research and data analysis, and a significant factor in the creation of the experience gap.

As FSI businesses, especially priority/ private banking and insurers, become providers of outcomes rather than just lenders or investors, customers will expect better experiences. Relationship manager or insurance agent is the first (and sometimes last) contact a customer has with a brand. It should be seen as integral to the creation of great experiences, and a vital resource in understanding how your customers think and feel.

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