How to rebuild trust with customers in the financial sector

It’s probably fair to say that customer trust in the financial sector is at an all-time low.

Mis-selling of financial products and banks over-reaching themselves with risky lending, all in the name of personal and corporate profit, have rocked customers’ faith that financial institutions have their best interests at heart.

And to make things worse, the regulatory bodies that oversee the financial sector have introduced compliance measures that have caused lenders to become ever more invasive and intrusive in their scrutiny of customers’ finances. This puts pressure on the delicate psychological contract that exists between banks and customers, with customers getting an even rougher deal, for reasons perceived to be a result of banks’ earlier transgressions.

So how can the financial sector build trust with customers? Well, we are starting to see some financial service organisations shift their focus more towards the customer’s interests and this is to be welcomed, but only if it’s an indication of a genuine concern for customer service, rather than simply paying lip service. The trouble is that for many in this sector, the customer hasn’t been their focus in the past…making money has. So how do organisations in the sector achieve the cultural shift that customers want and expect?

Encouraging the right behaviour in employees and leaders is a start . Ensuring that integrity, conscientiousness, and customer focus are reinforced through training, performance management systems, selection and promotion. So if an employee embodies the right behaviours, they are more likely to be rewarded and promoted through the organisation.

Building a culture and organisational systems where customer service has a chance to flourish is one part of the story. The other crucial aspect is to find, reward and promote those employees who have natural inclination and energy for serving customers. In short, find the people who eat, sleep and breathe customer service and learn from them.

In our experience, there is a big difference between recruiting and training employees who can ‘tick the boxes’ when it comes to delivering good customer service, and those who have it flowing through their veins. The latter group are likely to gain great pleasure from talking to customers, finding out their needs, suggesting improvements to the customer experience, building systems for customers, and so on.

So if the financial sector is serious about rebuilding trust with customers, they will need to rewire their people management processes and strategic focus to place the customer at the centre of their activities. They will need to measure their progress, report on it, reinforce it and continuously improve it. And this starts by identifying people who have a natural inclination towards serving customers and nurturing these strengths from day 1 in the organisation.

Paul Brewerton, Joint Managing Director, Strengths Partnership