Many financial services executives buy into the concept of customer obsession, but too few take actions that build a customer-obsessed culture. That is the top-level finding from our just-published The State Of Customer Obsession In Financial Services, 2022 research report.

Forrester’s Customer Obsession Assessment places firms in one of five levels: customer-naïve, customer-aware, customer-engaged, customer-committed, and customer-obsessed (see image below). Unfortunately, just 4% of the financial services executives we surveyed lead companies that qualify as customer obsessed. A majority (51%) of financial services execs work at customer-engaged firms, the middle tier in our maturity assessment.

This mediocrity should worry financial services executives and their teams. Traditional financial services firms should be focused on improving their customer obsession before they fall woefully behind fintechs and other competitors that are aiming for their customers. Why? Because customer-obsessed companies report 2.5 times higher revenue growth and 2.2 times better customer retention and employee engagement than non-customer-obsessed firms.

Financial services companies at every level of customer obsession can learn from proven strategies to create a customer-obsessed culture.

Regardless of your firm’s customer obsession maturity level, there are steps all firms can take become more customer obsessed:

  • Commit to design thinking. At USAA, research and design are not siloed. “Makers” (USAA’s word for designers) conduct research collaboratively with “research Sherpas,” who help makers navigate generative and participatory research. Keeping designers highly involved in the research process ensures that they are fully immersed in the nuances of the problems they seek to solve.
  • Embrace a “fast is better than perfect” mindset. Many of the executives we surveyed indicated that they were more focused on perfection than speed. Firms can always improve imperfect ideas in future iterations. But firms that fail to act fast will fall behind the competition. In order to ensure that its initiatives are flexible and dynamic, Macquarie Bank’s digital team only plans for three months out. If a project does end up failing, executives can rest easy knowing that they’ve sunk only three months of resources — rather than years of resources — into experimentation.
  • Stretch, but don’t tear, the fabric of your brand. Customer-obsessed companies so deftly balance their brand promise with their expression of customer obsession that they can extend outside of their core products or services to drive growth. In financial services, the challenge is often to strengthen or reinvent a mature, long-established brand. For example, Aon’s retirement and investment arm in Australia took a collaborative approach that involved marketing, creative, customer experience (CX), digital, and product teams with shared purpose and language — plus a willingness to ruthlessly prioritize initiatives.

If you are a Forrester client, we encourage you to read the full The State Of Customer Obsession In Financial Services, 2022 report and learn how firms of all maturity levels should approach their customer obsession strategy.

Firms Fall Into One Of Five Levels Of Maturity

This table shows characteristic behavior for firms at all levels of customer obsessed culture. For each level, we recommend a strategy moving forward

[This post was coauthored by Aaron Suiter.]