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COVID-19 has had a significant impact on almost every industry, and financial services was no exception. Dramatic shifts in consumer spending and banking habits led financial leaders to adjust their customer experience (CX) strategies to better accommodate their customers’ needs. By leveraging digital solutions and other innovative ideas, including debt relief and cash rebate programs, many financial services organizations positioned themselves not only to endure the events of 2020 but also to push forward into new CX initiatives in 2021 and beyond.

In January of 2021, we sought to understand how CX strategies have shifted and to understand the future of CX in financial services. We surveyed leaders across banking, capital markets, and insurance organizations, and the results were illuminating: Customer Experience Trends in Financial Services: A Research Study.

Digitization

Unsurprisingly, our study revealed that there was a strong trend transitioning in-person activity to digital activity, also known as digitization. Most of the respondents, 73 percent, said that at least 50 percent of their customers’ financial activities switched from in-person to digital services. Financial services firms had to adapt quickly to new challenges, such as recognizing customers when they put down one device and picked up another. Digitization is no longer solely about providing self-service offerings; it’s about providing deeply personalized and differentiated customer experiences across channels. This trend reflects a desire to leverage customer data more effectively in the branch as well as avoid friction when customers switch between channels.

Personalization

Respondents in the study believe that personalization is the key to the future of CX. One marketing executive for an enterprise capital markets firm stated, “tailoring and personalizing services for customers is something that will redefine CX in the financial services industry.” What’s more, our respondents are backing this trend with their budgets. Of those who said their budget will increase, the number one initiative they’re investing in over the next 12 months is leveraging data for real-time personalization. Examples include personalized offers and communications. One respondent said, “The level of personalization will define how much a brand cares about their customers.”

Artificial intelligence (AI)

We asked respondents to share the digital technologies they used during COVID-19 and which of those they plan to continue using. AI-powered predictive analytics surfaced as a topic to explore. 51 percent said they used this technology and plan to continue using it, while 28 percent said they didn’t use it, but they have plans to use it going forward. Investing in AI will allow financial services organizations to drive personalization at scale. Additionally, AI can allow firms to uncover new insights, such as predicting customer needs and understanding customer intent. Learn more about utilizing AI in a responsible, sustainable way by reading our blog, 4 Principles of Responsible AI in Financial Services.

Self-service

Of the executives surveyed, 45 percent believe their customer experience across channels is very consistent. However, one service capability continues to commonly pose a challenge. While there are many obstacles when it comes to creating a seamless customer experience, the number one challenge our respondents face is providing enough self-service options for customers.

The vision for the future of customer experience in the financial services industry is the speed of service. And when organizations have mastered service speed across all channels, differentiation will come from the accuracy of said service.

Next steps

If you’re interested in learning more about the study and its results, download the full report. To continue your digital transformation journey: