4 tips for delivering on-the-money customer experiences for financial services from BlackRock



January 31, 2023 | 7 min read

Last Updated: Jan 31, 2023

4 tips to deliver on-the-money customer experiences for financial services from BlackRock APG’s Managing Director, Scott Roen

At a time when economic uncertainty is rife, how can FinServ businesses continue to drive growth in 2023? One answer is to meet the growing customer demand for seamless self-service online experiences. How? By investing time and resources into improving and differentiating your digital customer experience (CX).

Earlier this week, Contenstquare’s Product Marketing Leader and FinServ industry expert Gary Lombardo spoke with Scott Roen, Managing Director of investment management company BlackRock’s software division Aladdin Product Group (APG BlackRock), about how to deliver winning customer experience for FinServ.

Gary and Scott chatted openly about the biggest emerging trends and customer experience challenges facing the FinServ industry. Scott also shared how APG Blackrock uses digital experience analytics (DXA) to optimize its digital offerings and unlock new growth opportunities.

As anybody who attended will agree, it was great to hear insights on CX in FinServ from a leader in the industry. For those of you who didn’t catch the webinar, read on for four practical tips for creating a winning FinServ experience in 2023, according to Scott.

But first: let’s talk about trends…

Gary kicked things off with an overview of the myriad trends impacting the FinServ industry today. First (and arguably foremost) on the list: changing consumer behavior.

Post-COVID, there’s been a huge acceleration in the use of digital across all industries— particularly FinServ. Mobile is driving a big chunk of this innovation, despite not yet being the dominant device for FinServ customers. Our 2022 FinServ Digital Experience Benchmark Report revealed that desktop traffic continues to dominate the industry, accounting for 60% of online traffic).

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However, today’s customer is used to intuitive app experiences like Uber, Facebook and Apple, which have become the benchmark for customer experience. And so consumers increasingly expect self-serve options within FinServ, too—without having to call a contact center.

New entrants into the market (such as neo-actors and FinTechs) and new types of payment in cryptocurrency and NFTs are changing the game practically daily. Simultaneously, FinServ brands must reckon with tightening financial regulations and increasing social consciousness necessitating more transparency. And all this is played out against a background of economic unpredictability.

These trends present a rapidly, relentlessly shifting context for both new entrants and traditional players in FinServ. It’s a little wonder that FinServ brands now prioritize digital strategy for long-term success as they seek the agility to respond and adapt quickly. Or that CX in particular is assuming greater importance in FinServ companies’ roadmaps.

As Managing Director of APG BlackRock, Scott Roen leads the development and management of BlackRock’s desktop and mobile experiences. He is, therefore, perfectly placed to share insights into why digital CX has become a top priority for FinServ companies.

4 ways to deliver winning customer experiences for financial services in 2023

1. Build journeys that engage from end-to-end with rich CX data

Like many FinServ companies, BlackRock has switched from the old ‘acquisition and retention’ model of software to a subscription-to-platform model. This switch is advantageous for all sorts of reasons, including more stickiness and recurring revenue, but certainly doesn’t come without challenges.

“We have to keep delivering new value to our clients to make a subscription stick,” says Scott. “But when clients use your product daily, they build a routine—so how do you expose users to new platform developments without disrupting their daily routine?”

To say APG BlackRock delivers its clients considerable additional value through the Aladdin Enterprise platform is an understatement. They’re averaging around 2,000 production releases a month. (Yes, you read that correctly.) But for Scott’s team, it remained an open question as to whether its platform users were noticing and taking advantage of these updates.

“We’ve taken agility to another level, but how do we ensure users adopt these new features without disrupting their overall experience? That’s where Contentsquare helps us out.” –Scott Roen, Managing Director at APG, BlackRock

Using Contentsquare Zone Based Heatmaps, APG BlackRock can see exactly how its users interact with each page, which has led to some eye-popping discoveries.

“We’ve identified our platform’s homepage as a starting point in the journeys of 90% of our clients,” says Scott. “The homepage is therefore the ideal place to lightly introduce new features and enhancements to users and encourage adoption. So we’ve started experimenting with heatmaps to see where it’s best to do this on the homepage.”

When APG BlackRock introduced a new product to their platform’s homepage, they immediately saw 30% of traffic for that product was coming directly via the homepage. So far, so… kinda obvious.

But it was when Scott’s team tweaked the product’s position on the homepage that Contentsquare revealed the extraordinary importance of UX on adoption.

“We moved the product link about 100 pixels over on the front door page, and overnight we saw a 90% drop in traffic! This shows that even small movements can have a dramatic impact. Contentsquare reveals that impact in real-time and helps us understand exactly why it’s happening.” –Scott Roen, Managing Director at APG, BlackRock

Scott now spends a significant portion of his time sharing this sort of adoption-analytics data with APG BlackRock’s engineers and developers, helping to ensure they’re using their time efficiently in developing and refining features that BlackRock’s clients actually use.

2. Get obsessive over customer happiness. Let NPS be your compass (and DXA your GPS)

It goes without saying that understanding how happy your customers are with your CX is intrinsic to understanding how successfully you’re designing and delivering it. But what’s the best way to measure their happiness?

For Scott, one way to measure customer happiness is actively monitoring your Net Promoter Score (NPS).

“I know NPS has its flaws and its critics, but I still think it’s a good measure of overall satisfaction,” says Scott. “It doesn’t answer the ‘why’ but it’s a great starting point. It’s like a compass that gives us the direction of travel, but you also need a GPS to guide you to where you should be going—and that’s where additional data analytics comes in.”

To understand its user satisfaction levels, APG BlackRock complements NPS with click data from Adobe Analytics and digital experience analytics insights from Contentsquare.

“Contentsquare helps us work out the ‘why’. In the past, we used benchmarking studies to discover how clients worked through our experience, but this wasn’t scalable. Contentsquare gives us that scalability.” –Scott Roen, Managing Director at APG, BlackRock

Scott shared an example; BlackRock provides an app that helps portfolio managers manage broad investment funds. APG BlackRock received feedback from users that saving and deleting workspaces within the app was causing headaches—confusing news when click analytics showed them that users were managing to save workspaces.

“We were struggling with the why,” says Scott.

Scott’s team quickly realized that users weren’t receiving a notification confirming that their workspace was saved. Without this feedback loop, they were trying to save in alternative ways, and even closing the app and opening it again to ensure their workspace was saved.

“This was a pretty easy UX fix for us,” says Scott. “But the fact is, we wouldn’t have understood what was going wrong without taking that deeper dive. Now we can do that at scale with Contentsquare.”

3. Build user-centric experiences—and let them guide your product investments

In a highly commodified market like FinServ, your biggest opportunity to differentiate isn’t necessarily your products—it’s your customer experience.

In fact, adopting a customer-centric mindset instead of a product-centric one will lead you to improve your products. By understanding your customers better, you’ll be able to direct your product investment decisions more effectively.

Scott gave us an example where monitoring CX led BlackRock to partner with another company to build a product set on their platform.

It started with a discovery. By analyzing CX on the platform, Scott’s team saw that users were downloading data from within the Aladdin Enterprise platform’s UI and then taking that data elsewhere to perform ad hoc analyses. They were essentially hacking their own data solutions: but why?

“We hypothesized that although clients would naturally prefer to use our pre-built UI to do data work, they also wanted more flexibility within our UI to play with datasets. This insight contributed to us pursuing a partnership with Snowflake to enable BlackRock clients to build datasets within our platform—without needing to download and play elsewhere. This was a huge growth opportunity for us, and one that came from simply monitoring what was going on within the existing customer experience.”

4. Use AI to anticipate and meet customer needs—but don’t bombard them.

FinServ brands are experiencing a growing demand from their customers for highly personalized, self-serve experiences. And BlackRock is no exception.

“We’re currently rethinking our help service,” says Scott. “We analyzed the inquiries coming into our support lines and found that half could be self-service. Moreover, research suggests that our clients want self-service when convenient.”

But Scott’s team didn’t intend to just build another help portal; they wanted to thread help into and throughout their user journeys, so it was there when clients needed it. Of course, there’s a thin line between helping customers navigate your CX and patronizing and irritating them—a danger of which Scott was very aware.

“It’s a tough design challenge because you don’t want to get in users’ way,” he says. “So we needed to identify trigger moments in our user journeys where friction was likely to push clients towards calling. That way, we could begin to offer users help when it’s relevant, and before they’ve even asked for it—but without impacting their customer experience.”

To anticipate users’ needs without spamming them with help, APG BlackRock uses data analysis to identify common friction points in their CX.

For Scott, AI is one of the key trends FinServ brands must watch (and invest in) in 2023—not least for its capacity to optimize CX. And he has a great tip on how to do this without blowing your budget:

“AI is the biggest thing on my mind at the moment, and it’s helping to optimize our CX. But to avoid having to make huge investments in AI, I’ve found it’s best to work with partners who already have AI baked in, such as Contentsquare. If you don’t take advantage of those offerings, then you’re leaving an opportunity on the table.” –Scott Roen, Managing Director at APG, BlackRock

Incidentally, if you’d like some more inspiration to help remove friction from your financial services customer experience, download our latest guide: How to Fix Your Customers’ 5 Biggest Online Banking Frustrations.

And finally, where is BlackRock’s customer experience heading next?

Asked what APG BlackRock’s big focus for CX in 2023 will be, Scott noted the importance of serving BlackRock’s customers across multiple channels and cross-channel integration.

“We must ensure we’re serving users on whatever channel they’re using,” says Scott. “This means integrating different channels and tailoring our CX to specific channels. So we’re not just taking desktop software and porting that to mobile. We’re trying to understand exactly what a portfolio manager needs to get a jump on their day when they grab their smartphone in the morning so that we can give them that on our app.”

Ready to level up your customer experiences for financial services in 2023?
We hope this blog has given you plenty of ideas to enhance your online financial services customer experience and drive growth in 2023.

And remember: Contentsquare can help you get there. Watch our 6-minute Financial Services Product Tour to find out exactly how we can support your FinServ business in 2023 and beyond.