What defines global customer success?
Payments are changing rapidly, and the industry is struggling to keep pace. Many banks and other card issuers — including the service providers they rely on — lack the agility to stay competitive and quickly deliver the new products, features, and payments experiences today’s customers want.
Consumers have different expectations about their payments experience than just a few years ago. Financial institutions (FIs) are focusing their efforts on pleasing their customers and differentiating their brand in an increasingly competitive market. In the recent Bank Innovation Readiness Index survey, 50% of banks surveyed said that changing consumer behavior is the primary motivator for payments innovation.
This is not just a technology problem, nor is technology the only solution. For vendors that see themselves as partners of the financial institutions (FIs) they serve, the role of the Customer Success organization is more important than ever in enabling transformation in their customers’ payments business.
What differentiates a relationship in this business is helping your customer stay top of wallet in everything they do. Consumers today have a lot of options. If a cardholder has a bad experience — plastic, mobile, web, service, or support — they will leave. A seamless experience is important. Our clients want satisfied and loyal customers who have access to the most robust technology and tools, and service and support.
Our FI customers demand a seamless experience, too. That raises the bar for Customer Success teams spanning tech support, relationship mangers, and customer service personnel. They need to work together to understand individual program needs and map out the right solution that’s put together strategically with all the right products and services in their arsenal.
If an FI perceives a vendor that provides a key technology like core payments processing infrastructure as a commodity, then they are on thin ice. Vendors today have to work hard to move up the value chain to earn their place as a strategic partner, indispensable to the bank or issuer for growth and brand differentiation.
It Starts with Agile Technology
For FI solution providers, customer success starts with a modern, flexible technology that gives your customer the ability to keep pace with market changes. In payments, the foundation is a single, global platform that integrates processing across credit, prepaid, and debit programs with support for new technologies like digital wallets, mobile, and even watches. This Agile Processing platform reduces the learning curve for clients and simplifies scaling programs, even across geographies, which is something FIs are looking for today. In fact, 70 percent of FIs with a flexible IT infrastructure in the Bank Innovation Readiness Index said that their recent innovations were extremely successful—more than twice the average.
Strategic, Consultative Approach to Customer Success
Offering an exceptional technology doesn’t guarantee customer success. Making sure the customer achieves and maintains top of wallet status with your technology solution defines the mission of the Customer Success organization. That means every person on your Customer Success team should feel that they are an extension of the customer’s team, and that when they grow, you grow.
The first step in becoming a strategic partner is understanding the customer’s business and identifying what constitutes success for them and their programs. The client account manager needs to meet regularly with the customer to thoroughly understand their needs and challenges, how they will be measured on success, and the challenges they face. Working closely with technical experts and support managers, the team needs to understand the customer’s underlying IT infrastructure, their existing programs, and key players in their organization.
Investing time at the beginning of the relationship to understand scope and design a solution and the processes that support it is foundational to program success. Being consultative means pushing back when you need to. There have been times we’ve had to advise fintech customers anxious to get a payments program into market that though our technology enables agility, cutting corners to drive a swifter time line doesn’t constitute a strategy. Time spent up front is regained in spades on the back end. It is okay to not always say yes — even if some customers aren’t used to it.
Optimize Your Team Structure
Customer Success organizations need to be structured to create effective teamwork and problem solving. At i2c, we have a team-based approach to service delivery, where a customer has a dedicated team of cross-functional experts familiar with their business goals and solution. The account manager quarterbacks the business relationship, and is always paired with technology subject matter experts fully conversant with the technology. This structure makes it possible for the account manager to effectively advocate for the customer, making sure business, technical and operational issues are understood and resolved.
An important best practice is to make sure relationship managers are not overburdened with too many customer accounts. They and other key team members must have the bandwidth to understand their customers’ business and the details of the program that support it. It goes without saying that consistent, clear, and regular communications — both internally and with the customers — and documented processes supporting them are vital. All of this doesn’t happen naturally, especially if the team is too busy.
Leverage Your Expertise to Boost Customer Profitability
Customer Success teams’ deep industry expertise and experience working closely with a range of FIs put them in a unique position to add value to client relationships. Vendors that can leverage this knowledge and apply best practices on behalf of their customers have a distinct advantage.
Operations and Customer Service teams are your eyes and ears on the ground. They are close to your customers, and importantly, your customer’s customers. They can identify problems and surface areas that can lead to better solutions for the FI customer as well as the vendor. For instance, service teams can funnel direct feedback from cardholders about the effectiveness of digital coupons in a loyalty campaign, a new feature, or a process that isn’t working well. This gives FI clients valuable information about new products to enhance cardholder engagement and better processes to eliminate waste and reduce customer friction.
For example, we were working with a community bank that prides itself on high-touch, in-person service. The bank wanted to quickly launch a new payments product targeted for Millennials. We examined their portfolio and recommended changes to the offering based on our expertise and knowledge about what appeals to that demographic: push notifications and self-service features accessible via mobile, web, and IVR. This lengthened the implementation timeline, but in the end, the bank’s customers responded enthusiastically to a product that synced with how they wanted to manage their spending. Top-line revenue improved, and the self-service functionality had a positive impact on the bank’s bottom line.
In payments, making the customer’s program top of wallet is the highest priority. That’s no small task given the dizzying pace of change in the market. Combining modern, flexible systems and payments technology with a Customer Success organization with a top-notch consultative approach is the recipe for success.
By Peg Johnson, EVP, Global Client Success at i2c Inc
About the author: Peg Johnson leads the global operations of i2c’s client services and customer success organizations. Peg has over 20 years of experience running global service delivery teams in the payments industry, working with the largest credit, debit, and prepaid issuers in the world. Before joining i2c, Peg was senior vice president of business operations for First Data Corporation, where she led client services for the company’s Financial Services Business organization, managing 400 employees responsible for the strategic interface between the company’s executive, legal, and product teams and its clients.
Peg Johnson’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org