DURBAN - Great customer experience is probably the biggest differentiator in an increasingly crowded South African financial services market.

Quinton Pienaar, leader: customer engagement & salesforce, PwC South Africa, said it has become critical for financial service institutions to design personalised experiences that enable customers to run their lives in an efficient and seamless manner.

“We anticipate that, as technology advances further and financial services markets become more competitive, customers will expect their financial institutions to offer them constant personalised engagement that educates them on product use and risk mitigation.”

Pienaar said globally, financial services organisations were introducing customer-centric programmes.

“By investing in strong platforms, educating personnel and aligning to customer experience objectives, financial services organisations can refocus time and effort to grow the business, while building capabilities to improve customer value,” he said.

He said with Africa retail-banking penetration at 38% of GDP, which was half of the global average, it was ideal for industry players to keep reinventing themselves. “Customer-centricity is no longer just a buzz word.

"Financial services organisations are looking at technology, better use of data across the organisation, as well as partnerships with fintech companies to create ecosystems that maximise the customer experience.”

Pienaar said fintech companies that used a customer-centric approach were perceived to pose a substantial threat to banks, especially as they brought more innovative, efficient and cost-effective solutions.

“This is an industry expected to have a $3bn market value by 2020,” he said.

“Consumers want an almost invisible banking service that reduces effort and has well thought through interactions that aim to build trust, simplify banking and create deep connections between the bank and its customers.

“Get the customer experience right, and the rewards will be abundant -loyal customers, reduced costs, satisfied employees and higher revenues,” said Pienaar.

THE MERCURY