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EQ vs IQ: ING’s Commercial CMO on the rise of empathy in banking

financial customer journey financial customer journey
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ING Group


Customers are demanding more from their banks than ever, with the result that empathy is just as valuable as analytics today. Marleen Crooijmans charts the rise of EQ over IQ.

As Global Marketing Head of Wholesale Banking for ING, Marleen Crooijmans is charged with delivering the Dutch financial services’ global strategy update.

The focus of this evolution centers on a concept not unknown to the banking sector and wider business industry: customer experience.

“The customer journey is a central pillar for every organization, both inside and outside the financial services context, but as our ‘Think Forward’ CEO strategy outlines, ING is embedding customer experience into everything we do.”

ING employs over 52,000 members of staff, and offers retail and wholesale banking services in over 40 countries.

Its services and products are distributed across three main economies: the Benelux countries – Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg – where ING is a market leader; challenger markets in France, Germany and Italy; and growth markets, typically areas around Eastern Europe, where ING hopes to increase its market share.

Its CEO ‘Think Forward’ text states that “by offering good growth opportunities within expanding economies to business clients, whilst investing in digital leadership models and prioritizing innovation,” the company hopes to expand and deepen its reach in Europe.

Crooijmans’ task is to utilize a differentiated financial customer journey strategy to connect with a continent still recovering from financial instability.

“Post-economic crisis, customers have become much more agile and demanding about what they want from their bank, and banks have had to adapt.

“That adaptation represents our ongoing journey with our customers. Ongoing because their demands will always grow and evolve – our promise should be to match that, to help them grow and be successful.”

Crooijmans, therefore, believes that the role of the bank now need to be questioned.

In her eyes, documenting a relationship with a customer is less important than creating a partnership with one, which would make it easier for ING to help each client manage their own personal development goals.

“We need to start allowing for more autonomy because that’s the direction consumers are heading towards: people want to be able to have fast, efficient and effective services, to minimize time spent on the same tasks, like online banking.”

ING’s corporate segment though needs a more human-led approach, Crooijmans continues.

If the trend of an individual customer is to want less interaction with staff, and more digital services, B2B clients on the other hand are starting to ask for more personalized responses to their financial needs.

Crooijmans labels these “hard and soft strategies”, respectively, and specifies what needs to happen next in order to satisfy her range of consumers.

“Balancing [hard and soft] strategies is the key to perfecting the financial customer journey, but there should be a debate within the digital discussion about the level of human interaction required.

“The needs of the customer need to be mapped, and if those needs mean more employees, they’ll need training – it’s becoming very clear that the role of the employee now has a role to play in the financial customer journey.”

Advocacy is an important tool for ING, she continues, and enjoying a strong relationship with staff can help to promote customer-centricity throughout an organization.

Just as many consumers now ask for less human contact time from their banks, situations may still arise when a member of staff is the most appropriate solution, because of the basic level of empathy and understanding that can be delivered over an algorithmic response, or in-app FAQ.

The hiring process within banks are changing as a result of this shift.

“Analytical people are good to employ, of course, but the industry is now recognizing the importance of EQ [emotional intelligence] over IQ…the trend for emotion within the workplace is a direct result of customer-centric attitudes within businesses.”

Those same employees are also demanding more opportunities for personal growth at work, sometimes over job security or pay rises.

It will be small changes like this that will grow into necessary adaptations for companies, says Crooijmans, and will set apart the companies that aim to stand by its customers.

ING’s ‘Think Forward’ strategy cannot predict individual trends within the future of financial customer journey design, but its Global Head of Wholesale Banking is confident that the company is aware of “the main touch-points that most affect the customer” – be it digital banking or role of the employee – and is addressing them with an appropriate, customer-centric, attitude.