Designing for those left behind

The death of a loved one is the most stressful thing we can experience in our lives – even without the added strain of being an executor and managing his or her financial estate. Fortunately, being an executor is a role we will, hopefully, only carry out once or twice in our lifetime. But it is exactly this lack of familiarity with the process, that means the responsibility lies with financial services organisations to do the right thing by their customers and provide executors with the help and support they need during this period.

In the first part of the series, we discussed how seriously the regulator is taking this responsibility, with The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently fining Santander £32m for failing to effectively process the accounts and investments of their deceased customers.

Here, we look at how using a human-centred design approach to problem solving, focusing on empathetic design, can not only identify potential regulatory hot spots and process gaps, but can also build customer-centricity in the financial services industry – resulting in increased customer loyalty and retention of financial assets.

Why does human-centred design work?

Explaining the value of human-centred design in the context of bereavement is simple. We all know bereavement affects people in different ways and a one-size-fits-all approach in this situation is useless. If you don’t take time to understand why people behave the way they do, and what people are feeling, you will never truly be able to design a service that meet their needs.

In customer experience we often talk about ‘moments that matter’ in a customer’s journey. These are key moments in a journey that have a significant effect on how we both perceive and react to subsequent experiences, for better and for worse. If a person’s needs aren’t met at this critical juncture in their lives, the follow-on impact on customer loyalty and retention is therefore amplified.

How does it impact the bereavement experience?

There is a range of user needs relating to the customer bereavement experience, which vary wildly, depending on the type of executor you are. This ranges from professionals acting as executors (for example solicitors or independent financial advisors) through to the spouse/next of kin. There are two key dimensions affecting user needs:

  • Their emotional state and readiness
  • Their level of expertise and knowledge

For example, think about a solicitor. He or she is emotionally removed from the situation, trained in law, understands the processes of inheritance and probate, and has completed the journey many times before in his or her professional career. This type of customer has vastly different needs from a next of kin who did not even know what the word ‘executor’ meant before the recent death of a loved one.

The impact of these differing needs on the customer experience cannot be overstated and it stretches across all touchpoints the executor has with the organisation, from digital interactions through to verbal and written communications received throughout their journey.

We explained how challenges can be rooted in organisational structure and controls in the first part in this series. Applying a customer-centric approach to discovery enables organisations to overcome these obstacles through:

  • Identification of the organisational challenges that need to be addressed
  • An understanding of how empathy, sound judgement, and flexibility need to be overlaid to ensure a balance between short-term policy and process and long-term customer loyalty

Interestingly, executors may or may not be existing customers of your financial services organisation. He or she may have been a relative of your customer with zero previous interactions with your organisation. Therefore, the experience he or she has during this time may be the sole reference point for current and future customer loyalty, so it is imperative for your brand that it is the highest quality.

How to implement effective change

The changes required to improve an executor’s journey are wide-reaching and impact the wider ecosystem of people, policies, processes, and technology across financial services organisations. In the third and final part of our series we describe how taking an iterative and transparent approach to any remediation and customer experience improvements allows you to make impactful change quickly.

Want to find out more?

Our North Highland team work with clients to help perform bereavement Customer Experience (CX) Discovery Reviews, typically over six to eight weeks. We help deep dive into the bereavement experience, capture customer journeys, identify issues and root causes, and deliver recommendations with an implementation plan. Have you taken steps to understand your regulatory exposure and customer pain points related to the bereavement experience?

If the answer is ‘no’ and you’re interested in finding out more about the risks and opportunities associated with the bereavement experience, contact our Financial Services Customer Experience team.

This blog was co-authored by:

Sarah Foxton

Sarah has over fourteen years of experience guiding Financial Services organisations to improve innovation, efficiency, customer-centricity, and speed-to-market whilst meeting regulatory demands. Named on Innovate Finance’s Top 200 UK Women in FinTech Power List, Sarah has worked across the Financial Services sector within consulting and industry in Insurance & Pensions, Banking, Capital Markets, Wealth & Asset Management, Regulators and FinTech. Sarah’s own specialisms and passions include Customer Experience, Client On-Boarding, organisational agility & agile culture, complex global programme management and enterprise wide Agile transformation and Agile Portfolio Management.

Email Sarah | Connect on LinkedIn | +44 7481 306376

Emily Popham

Emily has over seven years of experience helping clients improve their Customer Experience (CX). Her expertise spans customer strategy, customer insights, and product and service design. She manages dynamic teams combining design thinking with best practices in driving customer-centric change to enable successful delivery of CX solutions. Emily has a background in psychology and is passionate about helping clients build capability, develop their people, and use behavioural science to inform design. She brings cross-industry experience, with a focus on Financial Services and Public Sector clients.

Email Emily | Connect on LinkedIn | +44 7845 036723