With the success of companies like Amazon, consumers are savvier, better informed, and more hands-on than ever when it comes to engaging with businesses.

Despite this, financial institutions and card issuers haven’t yet taken the bold step en masse to rethink service. In an ecosystem where customers control perception, traditional ads and campaigns have less sway than before.

Ultimately, what matters for us is helping internal and external clients fix issues — in other words, the ability to reframe our business model into one that revolves responsively around the customer.

IMAGE: Bloomberg News

Financial institutions and card issuers that don't have their fingers on the pulse of customer wants and needs risk losing traction and profitability in a modern world where artificial intelligence is becoming standard operating procedure. For example, USAA now has an Alexa app to engage consumers by using natural language.

This understanding leads us to the central question: What exactly do customers want?

According to a CGI report, the answers aren’t particularly shocking or even complicated. Users expect to be rewarded for their loyalty, given convenient access to their information, looked at as individuals instead of a faceless account numbers, and given personalized insights. In an age when apps are plentiful, corporate entities can respond in real time to social queries, and big data offers innovative possibilities across all industries.

Trust doesn’t come overnight but from consistent experiences that build a strong foundation. And that foundation starts with employees, especially those working directly with clients. When we are empowered to help clients resolve issues and invest in them, we shift customer perception.

Once these customers are pulled into our sphere of influence, it’s up to us to appreciate them, not simply move on. Many institutions make the mistake of ignoring existing clients in favor of user acquisition. This error isn’t just fiscally costly — it takes more money to get a new client than to keep and cross-sell or upsell a current one — but it reduces customer happiness.

Customers hold the key to insights; the more companies tap into their ideas, the less they’ll be disrupted by more agile financial institutions. Ironically, most card issuers and banks possess a wealth of data but aren’t leveraging deep learning methodologies to dive deeper into the customer experience. If they start to amalgamate the bevy of customer thoughts and actions available, that will help them become proactive.

Similarly, financial institutions can entice clients to become brand advocates by delivering beyond expectations and taking responsibility when things go awry. News travels fast on the web, and doing the right thing has a powerful impact on customers. Customers who feel treated like respected friends or family members are more likely to bolster their preferred banks and drive profitability.

Certainly, these transitions are challenging in a culture laden with legacy systems. But rather than hide behind corporate messages or product collateral, we need to open the door.

Sona Jepsen

Sona Jepsen

Sona Jepsen is global head of sales enablement at Fidelity National Information Services.