Don’t Just Transact With Customers, Advise Them

The traditional approach to banking is transactional. Customers need to make a deposit or move money, so they interact with their bank to get the job done. Once the transaction is complete, the relationship stalls until the next time customers need help.

But in today’s connected world—buoyed by the growth of fintech startups—customers are looking for brands to be strategic advisors. It’s more about building a lasting relationship and providing continual value than checking off a transactional box. And although this trend is evident in the world of finance, the principle applies to every industry.

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Christian Mitchell, EVP and Chief Customer Officer at Northwestern Mutual, says one way his company advises customers is through financial planning. With this new approach, employees work on the customers’ terms to understand their hopes, dreams, and fears. After building a relationship, advisors create a plan they can work with the customer to achieve. Mitchell says that when done well, financial planning creates an affinity to the brand and provides a platform for ongoing engagement.

That initial strategic partnership is strengthened through digital tools that keep customers involved in the entire process. Northwestern Mutual built its financial planning software to put all the relevant information in one place for employees and build a robust client-facing platform. Instead of guessing the status of their money, customers can easily track their accounts and progress to their financial goals through an app. The simple yet robust tool ensures that financial planning becomes an ongoing activity instead of a one-time event.

Establishing a strong relationship as an advisor requires getting to know customers as individuals. Mitchell says it’s not just about a customer’s accounts and assets but their preferences, hopes, and dreams. That information fuels a data-driven approach and builds strong personal relationships.

Mitchell says customer experience goes beyond just being the sum of a customer’s interactions with a brand to making the customers better off financially. It’s not just about focusing on what customers need now but what will benefit their lives in the long run. And that requires moving past purely transactional relationships to being strategic advisors.


Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist and the bestselling author of The Customer of the FutureFor regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here

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