In a previous article, The Boston Consulting Group argued that, for retail banks, a focus on customer-centricity—defined as a way of operating “based on trust and fairness that uses knowledge of customers to meet their needs and achieve sustainable, valuable, long-term relationships”—is becoming an increasingly important differentiator in the marketplace. The same holds, we believe, for financial services companies broadly. Tomorrow’s winning players, we expect, will be the sector’s most customer-centric companies. They will have developed a truly deep understanding of their customers and will be able to satisfy their wants and needs in a manner that meets, if not exceeds, expectations in all critical areas, including product selection and availability, interaction experience, service quality, channel accessibility, and communications.
Rapidly evolving digital capabilities—particularly mobile, social-media, big-data, and cloud technologies—offer financial services companies entirely new opportunities for understanding, serving, and engaging customers. These capabilities will be powerful allies in the pursuit of greater customer-centricity. Many companies recognize this but—given the range of possibilities and the speed with which the technology is advancing—are uncertain about how to proceed. Yet time to think things through fully and at an unhurried pace is a luxury that many businesses might not have. Customers’ expectations regarding what is possible in today’s digital landscape continue to rise—as does the ease with which a customer can identify a competitor that outdelivers and move his or her business.
Whether by carrot, stick, or a combination of the two, then, most financial-services companies will be propelled further into the digital space as they strive for greater customer-centricity. Our advice: be bold and proactive—even if it means making mistakes. For those that move quickly, there is high potential for sizable early-mover advantages. Indeed, a handful of companies are already pushing the envelope aggressively on this front and reaping rewards.