Be honest, when it comes to thinking about businesses that put customers first, banks don’t come top of mind. Yes, we occasionally come across a cheerful teller at our local branch, but in general we view banks as places that store our money and let us withdraw cash before going to a street food market.
Things have changed dramatically in the past few years. Challenger banks like Monzo and N24, fintech start-ups, and spin-offs from established players are shaking up the market and delivering services that put customers first. It sounds ironic, but new technologies have actually made it easier to deliver personalised experiences that serve the needs of real people.
Take Switzerland’s Raiffeisen, which is drawing on its customer data to deliver a more tailored web experience and target people with the services they need, in the right place and at the right time. This shift in tactic has led to a 300% boost in conversions, quite the change for a company founded in 1899.
The important takeaway from all this is that marketers in the financial sector are ready to do things differently. If they want to compete with challenges who, as Barclays CDO Craig Corte points out, aren’t even banks in some cases, they need to move away from the approach that led them to this difficult position in the first place.
Our own research reveals financial marketers are focused on four areas for improvement:
Focus 1: Banking on better customer experiences
To make an impact with customers, you need to give them an experience to remember. It doesn’t have to be a big-bang moment – we are talking about financial services after all – but even an ultra-smooth and convenient experience will go a long way in delighting customers and keeping them loyal. That’s why more than 35% of financial marketers are exploring ways to simplify their service, and on making it more fun and more valuable.
For example, Barclays has set itself the goal of becoming the best digital bank in South Africa by 2020. The organisation has reshaped its entire digital experiences, adapting its mobile app, owned channels, and website to the habits of its digital customers.
Focus 2: Making digital content work harder
Great content is the secret to building a fan-base, especially on digital channels. Content is your brand’s voice and a window into its personality. From email and social promotion to web copy and display ads, digital advertising and communications need to grab people’s attention and inspire them to act.
Customers use a range of touchpoints and channels today, and financial organizations risk missing opportunities to engage them if their content strategy doesn’t cover all of these. That’s why organizations like Loyalis have digitised their online journey across platforms.
Focus 3: Get value from customer data, and sprinkle on AI
There’s a direct relationship between customer data and customer experiences. Better data means better experiences. But this only holds true if brands can draw on their data to truly understand their audience. Nearly 40% of financial institutions admit they have room to improve and have made it a priority to modernise their approach to targeting and personalisation this year.
This also helps inform a brand’s content strategy. It takes a great deal of time and brainpower to create amazing content, but unless it’s going to the right people at the right time most of this investment is wasted. Companies like BNP Paribas Wealth Management use customer analytics to understand which of their digital channels are most successful, which allows them to share thousands of pieces of content in a more targeted way across each of these.
The next phase in customer understanding is to apply Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI). At the volume and scale that financial services companies collect and analyse data, AI algorithms are the only way to crunch this information quickly, extract relevant insights, and turn these into rapid action. That’s why more than 60% of financial services institutions are already using AI, or plan to do so in the next 12 months.
Focus 4: Investing in the right technology and skills
There’s no way around this point. It might be tempting to simply invest in an advanced analytics system and AI with the hopes that this will shake up your entire customer experience. But change starts at a more fundamental level. Legacy systems and data siloes are still holding financial organisations back from working in a unified way.
The gap between top performers and the rest is widening, and unsurprisingly the former are three times more likely to have invested in an integrated technology system. With data and ideas flowing more freely between your teams, the customer experience you deliver is more considered and consistent.
Companies also need to broaden the skillset of their marketing teams, bringing in the technology and data expertise required to work in a more customer-centric way. It’s one thing to speed up a few processes, but there is much more value in using your understanding of customers to deliver experiences that make a real impact.
The financial services sector is clearly committed to change, moving from an inside-out approach to customer services to one that draws on what customers actually want and need. A bank may never earn the same type of “love” from customers as their favourite clothing brand or hotel chain, but it can establish itself as a business that puts people first. And in a world where so many organisations still struggle in this regard, this is the ultimate differentiator.