The Four Pillars of Distinctive Customer Journeys

New research reveals that focus, simplicity, “digital first,” and perceptions matter most.  

In recent years, customer experience (CX) has emerged as a major differentiator for large companies, including financial-services providers. In a McKinsey survey of senior executives, 90 percent of respondents confirmed that CX is one of the CEO’s top three priorities.  

It’s a priority because the stakes are so high. For financial institutions, for example, rising customer expectations are pressing organizations to come up with more functional improvements even as alternatives to traditional financial services are emerging. In this dynamic environment, financial institutions face a stiff challenge to differentiate their offerings while reducing cost and complexity for customers—and to do it at a profit.  

Overcoming these challenges is critical not just to meet rising customer expectations and to compete with new digital attackers but also to generate significant business impact. Our research indicates that for every 10-percentage-point uptick in customer satisfaction, a company can increase revenues 2 percent to 3 percent.  

At a time when the customer-satisfaction scores of top-quartile institutions can exceed those of bottom-quartile players by as much as 30 to 40 percentage points, the financial payoff from best-in-class CX can be significant indeed. These gains come from a variety of sources, including additional product purchases generated by cross-selling and upselling, such as when a borrower increases the value of a loan.  

To understand what constitutes distinctive CX in financial services, we performed benchmarking research on five key customer journeys—the series of interactions a customer has with a brand to complete a task—in banking and insurance. The survey findings in this article relate specifically to retail customer onboarding but apply generally to the other journeys we studied.  

Reaching the top quartile of CX performers is no easy task. Cost, design, and value are emerging as key differentiators for customers, yet companies often lack guiding principles to shape those efforts. By analyzing and ranking correlations between customer satisfaction and operational factors (such as the reasons a customer chooses one company over others, cycle times, features offered, and the use of digital channels) in our survey, four pillars of great customer-experience performance stood out:  

1. Focus on the few factors that move the needle for customers

We asked customers to assess different characteristics of the end-to-end experience, including the first interaction with the institution, the ease of identifying the right products, and the knowledge and professionalism of staff. We found that only a small number of characteristics (typically three to five out of 15) had a material impact and accounted for the bulk of overall satisfaction (Exhibit 1).  

For example, when analyzing the characteristics of the customer onboarding journey, we found that transparency of price and fees, ease of communication with the bank, and the ability to track the status of the onboarding process accounted for 42 percent of overall satisfaction.

The next three highest-ranking characteristics—assessment of broader customer needs; products and services received immediately after account opening, such as debit cards and mobile and online banking access; and ease of identifying the needed product—account for an additional 34 percent.

Conversely, characteristics such as the courtesy of staff, the timeliness of callbacks, and the clarity of documentation had limited impact on satisfaction. This finding strongly suggests that banks should concentrate mainly on those things that make the most difference to customer satisfaction.  

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