Utility or Everyday Bank? New EU Regulations Force Organisations to Choose

The Revised Payment Services Directive and What It Means for Your Customer Experience, Part 2: Utilities and Everyday Banks

Accelerated change has transformed many aspects of the financial industry over the last several years. From mobile wallets like Apple Pay to digital-first banks like Mondo, new competitors have disrupted old paradigms, and forced every bank to place the customer experience front and centre.

In the first blog post of this two-part series, we examined two types of service providers that will find themselves newly empowered by the PSD2 regulations—third-party payment initiation providers (PISPs), who’ll enable customers to make purchases from any bank account using phones and other connected devices; and account data aggregation service providers (ADASPs), who’ll leverage data from multiple bank accounts to provide personalised spending analyses and recommendations to customers.

Now, in this second article, we’re going to explore the implications of PSD2—and the new disruptors it empowers—in terms of your own organisation’s approach to customer service. What does PSD2 really mean for your organisation, from a customer experience perspective, and how can you leverage it to gain a lead on your competition?

It all starts by making a crucial choice about the nature of the service you provide.

The utility approach

If, at the bare minimum, you choose to simply comply with PSD2 and take no other action, then you risk losing both significant volume and quality of customer interactions. This will put you in what has been called the “utility” category: managing the core underlying banking systems and providing access to it to third parties who own the customer experience,

Think of it like the National Grid. They provide the core infrastructure to connect homes and businesses to electricity and gas supplies, but the likes of British Gas and EDF provide the “front-end” customer experience.

Banks that go down this route will no longer serve customers in any traditional sense, just as the National Grid doesn’t really serve customers directly. Instead, these banks will provide the dependable, easily accessible backend infrastructure that customer-facing service providers need to function.

Yet, although some banks may choose to follow this utility route at the expense of their customer-facing functions, they are likely to lose out on market share in the long term.

Everyday engagement

If the utility approach doesn’t sound particularly appealing, a second option is to become more of an everyday bank—a customer-facing service provider that aggregates data from accounts at your bank and others, and offers services that leverage the open APIs to help customers in ways others can’t.

To succeed, these everyday banks will need to realise the power of customer insights by combining their own first-party data with the data made available through the open APIs to differentiate themselves by offering standout digital experiences and services that are highly personalised and tailored to the individual. These customer-centric experiences will need to bring content and data together to delight the customer at every turn by anticipating each customer’s needs. By raising the bar, these everyday banks will gain market share, ensure customer loyalty, and drive growth through new revenue streams.

These changes will impact everyone from retail banks to wealth management firms—anyone who interacts and engages with consumers. For example, if an insurance provider can access a customer’s historical data, then consumers will start to expect highly personalised and unique quotes tailored for them. As the data shared will be ubiquitous, the differentiator will need to be not only the bespoke quote, but also the experience and the way the insurance company engages with them.

The good news is that this isn’t an “either-or” choice. Your organisation can function both as a utility and as a customer-facing everyday bank; and in fact, this is very likely the smartest approach of all. Banks that become solely utilities will gradually vanish into the background, while those that focus on providing products and services that address both financial and nonfinancial needs of the consumer, combined with great experiences, will become an everyday bank central to a customer’s needs.

Most banks are still debating the technical, IT, and security challenges that the PSD2 poses. But if you decide to follow the everyday bank route, it’s time to start focusing on the user experience now, to make sure you’ll be ahead of the curve in becoming a leading everyday bank.

Thanks for joining me on this two-part series on the ways PSD2 is poised to transform the customer experience in banking. If you’re ready to take the next step on your own organisation’s journey toward better customer experiences, we at Adobe are here to help.

NBAD Seamlessly Unites Customer Experiences with Adobe Marketing Cloud

The National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) had ambitions beyond simply building a new website, so it came to Adobe to acquire multi-channel customer support and content personalisation solutions. After implementing Adobe Experience Manager, Adobe Analytics, and Adobe Target in Adobe Marketing Cloud, NBAD got both the customer insight and content publishing capabilities it needs to consistently deliver relevant experiences to customers through any device.

Besides establishing a consistent voice and appearance for its brand across channels, NBAD can now monitor and measure how well its messaging resonates with customers. The integrated Marketing Cloud platform supports touchpoints including web and mobile with modular, personalized content. It also serves as a foundation for expanding digital marketing at NBAD, such as multichannel campaign management and video delivery.

“We believe that Adobe Marketing Cloud has catered not to our current need but to our future need. And that way, the partnership is created because we know that Adobe will stay with us for some time,” said Salah Al Tamimi, Group Head of Marketing & Corporate Communications, NBAD.

You can watch the video here.

A Focus on Building Customer Loyalty in 2017

2016 was a taxing year for many people, and marketers are sure to see some of the negative effects of the year’s challenges as they reach out to consumers throughout 2017. Although the future might look uncertain, CMOs can still be encouraged by the many opportunities for redefining brand purpose and continuing to shape genuine customer experiences in 2017. Several contributors of our exclusive content on CMO.com touched on some of these opportunities and how marketing leaders can make the most of their efforts this year.

Alastair Cole, chief innovation officer at The Engine Group, began the week by discussing several of the challenges marketing leaders will face in 2017, not the least of which is an area where they can generate significant value—the customer experience. Because creating customer experiences is not just about satisfying the demands of customers, but also about boosting a company’s bottom line, CMOs are tasked with discovering where to focus their efforts make the greatest impact. Cole shared five pillars for CMOs to prioritise this year make the most of their efforts.

CMO.com asked senior marketers to identify the trends CMOs should be looking out for in 2017. John Allert, group brand director at McLaren Technology Group, described the turbulence of 2016 as a time when people learned they could no longer trust the people they once blindly looked up to. Marketers, he said, shouldn’t brush this off but watch out for the aftereffects of this realisation in 2017 as customers struggle with brand loyalty more than ever before. Simon Carter, vice-president and head of field marketing for sales, EMEIA at Fujitsu, echoed Allert’s warning of a “potentially bleak future for brands.” Given the outlook, it seems clear that brands will need to focus on customer satisfaction in 2017.

Michelle Mitchell, strategy director at Five by Five, discussed the challenges marketers face with product launches. It can be a stressful experience for many CMOs, given that, on average, 40 percent of all product launches fail. Mitchell shared the results of a Five by Five study that highlighted the significant impact digital and social have had on the marketing landscape. To help brands maximise their launches, Mitchell outlined five key concepts for CMOs to follow.

Andrew Rogerson, founder and MD at Grist, shared some tips on how brands can do content marketing well in the future. According to Rogerson, content marketing often fails when it spends more time promoting the brand than addressing readers’ needs. Rogerson encouraged brands to find the content marketing sweet spot, which means understanding and delivering on what the brand wants and what the client wants. Furthermore, brands need to take the opportunity to work collaboratively with key clients to shape content programmes.

We invite you to engage with our exclusive content on CMO.com and learn from some of the industry’s top marketing leaders. Please let us know what you think.

Lack of Communication Causes Frustration for Auto Buyers

Well, after nine long months, my bundle of joy has finally arrived! No, my wife did not have another child—my car-buying journey is finally over and I’ve gotten my car! Not sure if you can catch my sarcasm here, but needless to say I am less than thrilled about the wait time. However, even being made to wait a standard pregnancy term for my vehicle would be bearable if the OEM and the leasing company would simply communicate more.

During my nine months of waiting I literally had no proactive contact from either the OEM or the leasing office that handled my purchase. Now I’m not talking proactive contact in the form of product recommendations, service offers, or travel incentives, as mentioned in my previous post on leveraging assembly wait time; I’m talking about not receiving basic status updates on vehicle assembly. I was left in the dark wondering where my new baby was, and if it would ever be delivered. It was always on me to contact the leasing agent for updates, and it left me increasingly frustrated as time wore on.

Not having information on the status of one of the largest purchases of a consumer’s life erodes the trust that the consumer developed with the brand during the discovery and purchase phases of the transaction. All the marketing dollars spent to lure and close a customer have now been wasted as they transition from being a full-on advocate for the brand to being skeptical of the brand and its commitment to satisfaction. The customer feels used.

The customer must come first. Even after a purchase is made through a leasing agent, the OEM is still responsible for ensuring that the brand experience is a positive one. This can be accomplished through higher standards of customer communication for leasing agents licensed to sell a specific brand, with in-depth training and guidelines as to how meet those standards.

The OEM also needs to own the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information about the customer to the leasing agents. It needs to enable them with the back-end data and connections to proactively reach out to customers with relevant information and offers. The leasing agents do not have the budgets, technology, or end-to-end online contact with the customer to accurately obtain or analyze their behavior, so this must be provided by the OEM, along with guidance on how to use it successfully.

Finally, the OEM must be willing to reach out to the customer directly, particularly when it comes to delays or other problems with the vehicle purchase. This can go a long way in preserving the customers’ positive experience because they feel valued by the business and the brand.

This. Is. Urgent!!!

Businesses need to act now as people will not wait patiently for months on end with no communication whatsoever on their new purchase. Consumers already expect better interactions, more frequent updates, and more personalised involvement based on brand interactions in other areas of their lives, and they are showing fatigue with the auto-purchase experience.

OEMs need to provide the digital foundation to allow leasing agents to get customer-specific data and communicate it in a timely fashion. This is important to address all of the pain points described in my previous blog, “Customer Experience in the Automotive Industry,” which covers some of the issues captured in the joint study by Deloitte Digital and Adobe.

Brands that adopt new technologies to address these pain points will see huge success in the coming years, whereas those that fail to adapt to the consumer’s preferred business experience will experience a loss in sales, reduction in customer satisfaction, and a decline in brand loyalty. The time to act is now—not in nine months.

How New EU Regulations Will Transform the Customer Experience for Financial Services

The Revised Payment Services Directive and What It Means for Your Customer Experience, Part 1: Two Types of Service Providers

The last few years, the financial services industry has been defined by ever-accelerating change. Changes in customer behaviour and advances in technology, such as mobile wallets, biometric authentication, and Big Data, have transformed the way consumers interact and engage with banks—while disruptive new competitors like Atom Bank and Mondo have challenged traditional players by providing more agile digital-first banking experiences.

Now, a new set of EU regulations is set to disrupt the industry like never before. The revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) mandates that all banks must open up their core banking systems and share certain types of customer data with third parties—including potential competitors.

Frantic discussion has erupted over the IT and technical hurdles involved in these changes, along with PSD2’s implications in terms of security, operating model, and organisational change. These are all of fundamental importance, but at Adobe, we believe there is one more critical hurdle to overcome: these new regulations will force every bank to differentiate through their customer experience, and it will make that experience more important than ever before.

Over the next few months, banks will begin to face customer experience challenges from newly empowered service providers—especially those known as PISPs and ADASPs. To compete and to succeed, they will need to start addressing these customer experience challenges now.

Payment providers

The first type of challenger to emerge in the PSD2 world will be the third-party payment initiation provider (PISP). These companies will empower new payment solutions for customers by linking bank accounts with their own user-friendly technology. They’ll achieve this by accessing each bank’s application programming interface (API)—which will be required to be open access under PSD2—authenticating the user, and enabling that user to make a payment online or from a phone or other connected devices.

This API approach poses a significant and real threat to the revenue driven from card-based transactions, as, in theory, all fees currently received by the issuing and acquiring bank could be supplanted, as could the fees for the processor and card network.

Aggregators and recommendations

The second major challengers to emerge under PSD2 will be account data aggregation service providers (ADASPs). These companies will access data from customers’ bank accounts to provide spending breakdowns, savings recommendations, and other personalised services. And the competition is not necessarily going to be who you think.

It is highly conceivable that Apple will develop a finance framework (similar to its HealthKit framework) that will allow easy and secure data connection and storage through Account Information Services (AIS). This would allow any developer to build highly engaging, professional user interfaces for personal financial applications, whose aggregated data could present customers with one simple view of all their current savings and credit accounts from multiple retail banks. This would therefore bypass the need for customers to access their own banks online and mobile banking tools, reducing the opportunity for them to cross-sell and up-sell other products.

Another service we envisage coming from these ADASPs is recommendations. By being granted access to a customer’s personal transaction data, and developing their own algorithms, these new competitors can recommend better financial services and products. That said, there is nothing stopping you from building great experiences and recommendations for your customers.

These new startups won’t need to create any core banking infrastructure to provide these services. All aggregation service providers will have to do is deliver a great customer experience to customers using their app or website—while gathering their own first-party customer data, which they can then leverage to produce even more revenue streams.

For both types of disruptors—PISPs and ADASPs—customer experience will sit at the core of their mission and functionality. This aligns precisely with the message we emphasise at Adobe: the customer experience must be absolutely central for any financial company that aims to succeed in the coming year.

In the second blog of this series, we’ll explore what PSD2 actually means for your organisation’s customer experience—and we’ll examine one crucial choice you’re going to have to make in order to get ahead of your competition. See you there!

Back to Basics: A Fresh Focus for 2017

It’s a little late in the year for me to wish you a happy new year—I do wish you a Happy Year of the Rooster, though—but as this is my first post of 2017, I wanted to catch up on a couple of things that occurred to me over the Christmas and New Year period.

This is a time for reflection for many of us, and I’ve been resolving to follow more of the ideas laid out by the guys behind the Minimalists blog after receiving one of their books as a present. If you’re not familiar with their writing (and new film), then I highly recommend checking them out here.

The Minimalists blog welcomed the new year with a resolution to get “back to basics” in 2017. And this got me thinking about work (I didn’t switch off completely over the holiday!) because I think it’s time that as marketers, we strip back all the buzzwords and unnecessary technology, and focus on the foundational skills and tools that help us do our jobs well.

This idea got me thinking about our priorities for digital marketing this year, especially in light of a recent survey of nearly 200 digital professionals released by market research firm ClickZ Intelligence. This survey confirms the “back to basics” concept, finding that great customer experiences sit at the centre of digital maturity.

According to the report, 52 percent of organisations now use some form of marketing cloud technology to enhance the customer experiences they deliver. Among those respondents, 82 percent report that marketing cloud technology has had a positive impact on their marketing activities, while no less than 97 percent report that an integrated marketing suite has positively impacted their business performance.

Still, not all organisations agree on which elements of a marketing cloud are most crucial—or on which advantages of these suites are most helpful. A breakdown of these responses reveals that companies rely on marketing cloud tools in a range of ways as diverse as the industries and customers they serve.

Important elements

The majority of ClickZ’s respondents—a full 60 percent—described customer and digital analytics as the “most critical core product” within a cloud-based marketing service. But beyond that, opinions diverge more widely. Many respondents described digital asset management tools as “important” or “nice to have,” but not critical in a cloud service; others cited paid media management and mobile app management as significant, but not crucial.

Given the centrality of digital assets, paid media, and especially mobile apps in just about every company’s customer experience, why would such large percentages of respondents report that these elements aren’t critical in a marketing cloud service? Part of the answer comes from the fact that not all companies are highly focused on these areas—in other words, while every marketing department deals with each of them to some extent, not every company has allocated the budget or staff to require their management on a large scale.

But a more telling set of insights may come from the widely divergent ways in which companies use marketing cloud tools, and the benefits they hope to achieve from them.

Advantages and concerns

While the vast majority of survey respondents agree that marketing cloud technology has had a positive impact on their organisations’ marketing activities, they offer a surprisingly wide range of answers when asked exactly how marketing cloud tools have helped them.

The most commonly cited benefit is reduced complexity—nearly half of respondents agree that a single point of interaction helps them maintain momentum and achieve greater results in return for time spent. At the same time, though, providers of marketing cloud solutions express concern that a one-stop solution can’t provide ideal tools for every industry and task, which is why they continue to work to integrate with digital tools designed around each industry’s unique needs.

Among all these variations in focus, the unifying trend is simplicity. Marketers are tired of overly complex interfaces, unnecessary technologies, and tools whose real impact remains unclear. The ones who’ll succeed in 2017 will be those who strip away every task and tool that doesn’t contribute to a positive customer experience—and stick to the basics of keeping their customers happy.

If you’re wondering about your own organisation’s digital maturity—and about whether you’re heading in the right direction, take a look at Adobe’s Digital Marketing Maturity Assessment. This assessment is an effective way to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, and identify your top focus areas for the coming year.

The 2017 Digital Intelligence Briefing

Our latest Digital Intelligence Briefing is out and promises to bring a broader-based perspective to understanding digital and marketing trends. We saw a record number of respondents this year with over 14,000 people around the world sharing their thoughts and opinions.

The 2016 report, which you can view here, described a year where digital integration appeared to decelerate as companies sought to develop strategies and toolsets to deliver customer experience.

In our new report, we highlight a few shifts indicating that digital transformation is on the move again as companies and agencies make customer experience a top priority again in the coming year.

The Push for Customer Experience Continues

A compelling customer experience and the content to support it continued to be a leading priority as over one-fifth (22%) of client-side respondents ranked optimising the customer experience as the single most exciting opportunity for the year ahead. This category came in ahead of creating compelling content for digital experiences (16%).

The excitement is seen in the list of marketers’ top priorities:

  • Content marketing (29%)
  • Social media engagement (28%)
  • Targeting and personalisation (25%)

While most of the priorities make sense, there are some potential disconnects revealed in the responses. For example, “optimising the customer experience” ranks as the single most exciting opportunity, but data-driven marketing lags behind with only 12 % citing this area as an opportunity. Marketers must have the right data to get great customer experience, and they cannot afford to under-invest in capable data analytics.

Design: The Not-so-secret Strategic Weapon

Marketers consider design as the next level on the path to digital transformation, with 86% of survey

respondents agreeing that design-driven companies outperform other businesses. This design-centric mindset comes as no surprise considering that those surveyed place the highest emphasis on creating customer experiences that are as personalised, relevant, and valuable as possible.

While marketers acknowledge the value of design in their marketing strategies, many report challenges yet to be navigated in this area. 82% believe that creativity is highly valued within their organisations and 77% of them are investing in design to differentiate their brand. However, just over two-fifths (41%) of those surveyed don’t think that they have the processes and collaborative workflows to achieve a design advantage. In fact, 36% of client-side respondents rate having well-designed user journeys that facilitate clear communication and a seamless transaction as difficult to master.

Organisational Structure: The Foundation for Success

Organisational structure and a firm grip on culture, collaboration, skills, data, and technology is also vital to getting customer experience right. Client-side marketers consider improving data analysis capabilities (63%), optimising internal collaboration between creative and marketing teams (53%) and optimising internal workflows (53%) to be ‘very important’ for delivering a great customer experience.

The results indicate that some progress has been made regarding the level of digital integration across an organisation’s marketing activities. A small majority (53%) of organisations have made a great start by optimising collaboration between creative and marketing, but it is only a start. If organisations really want great end-to-end customer experience they will need to break silos across the entire enterprise, not just between two teams.

Marketers have also set their sights on multichannel marketing. Optimising the customer experience across multiple touchpoints will be the single most important opportunity for organisations in 2017, according to 22% over client-side marketers and 18% of agency respondents.

The report highlights some regional differences. Marketers in Asia-Pacific (APAC) are more likely to prioritise mobile app engagement, with 14% citing this area as a top priority compared with 12% of North American respondents and 9% of European respondents. This is not surprising given the prevalence of the mobile internet and the presence of WeChat and other advanced mobile apps in the region. APAC marketers are also more likely to view social media engagement as a top priority (31% vs. 28% of North American respondents and 27% of European respondents).

Looking Ahead to 2020

It appears that 25% of marketers are most excited about engaging audiences through virtual or augmented reality as well as the Internet of Things and connected devices.

Regional comparisons reveal that marketers in Asia-Pacific are slightly more excited about using enhanced payment technologies such as mobile wallets and e-receipts compared with their European and North American counterparts, while European marketers are on the whole more excited about using artificial intelligence/bots to drive campaigns and experiences.

Overall, payment technologies and voice interfaces such as Amazon Echo and Google Home are regarded as less exciting prospects for 2020, with 15% and 6% of marketers indicating their anticipation respectively.

Read the report today  for a more detailed analysis and additional insights.




Opportunities and Insights for CMOs as They Begin 2017

A new year presents many new opportunities. From new relationships to new challenges to new ways of thinking, CMOs must be on top of learning from their own journeys, as well as the journeys of others who have blazed new trails that set them apart from the competition. Several contributors of our exclusive content on CMO.com touched on opportunities and challenges CMOs face and how CMOs can navigate the rapidly changing landscape so they and their colleagues can do a better job and grow together as a team.

CMO.com spoke with Expedia senior marketing director for EMEA, Andrew Cocker, about the collaboration culture built into the way Expedia functions as a business. Cocker shared the surprising revelation that Expedia doesn’t have a digital department. In fact, everyone’s role at Expedia is both digital and analytical in some way. By being tech-minded and having a “test-and-learn” mentality, Expedia is able to “continually refine the travel experience, and make it more efficient.”

Kerry Glazer, CEO of AAR, shared some important insights for CMOs calling for a pitch to either replace an agency or add a new agency. The pitch process can take several months, potentially impacting staff and other agencies a company works with in a variety of negative ways. Glazer shared some tips to avoid some of the fallout that can often occur during the pitch process. Communication is most important before calling for a pitch. Keeping everyone in the loop and on the same page will help ensure that the marketing team continues to work at peak performance during the pitch process.

Glazer shared some additional thoughts in another post about what companies can do to create a more satisfying relationship with a new agency before the pitch process even begins. The key is to be intentional and establish some clear expectations upfront about the kind of behaviour you want to see from the agency and from your own people. Working with a new agency is an opportunity for a new start for many businesses, and a little work ahead of the pitch will help create a more positive working relationship down the line.

Jon Bains, founding partner of What & Why, discussed the challenges of change management. As culture and technology continue to evolve, the business world continues to be all about the changes companies need to make to stay ahead. The challenge for CMOs lies in the staff that is perfectly happy with the way things currently are. They’re coming to work each day and getting paid, and they have no interest in changing. Bains encourages CMOs to look at a change management program as an opportunity to demonstrate a willingness to change and to be open with staff about why it’s important. Staff look to the CMO to be the leader, and taking the lead in being positive and upfront can make all the difference.

Klaus Sommer Paulsen, CEO creative director & founder of AdventureLAB, shared his insightful quick guide to marketing innovation. If you want to be awarded the title of marketing innovator, it’s important to get outside of your current knowledge and learn something new. Paulsen encourages readers to do some research to decide what kind of learning to invest in. He also encourages marketers to take new concepts and deconstruct and reengineer them. Finally, getting outside of yourself means finding the people that challenge your own thinking. You’ll be much more poised to be a marketing innovator if you’re taking opportunities to learn and grow.

We hope you’ll spend some time engaging with these and several of our other CMO.com exclusives. Please let us know what you think.

The Customer Journey, Stage 6: Retention

Welcome to the final instalment of my customer journey series.

By this stage, you and your customers have been down a long road together. You’ve caught the interest of anonymous viewers, attracted them to your website, and engaged them with compelling, personalised content that converts them into customers. Then you’ve onboarded those customers in a seamless way, and communicated consistently with them, in one voice, throughout their lifetime. You’ve also predicted and resolved any conflicts, ensuring they remain happy with the products and services you provide.

The final stage of this journey is retention: all you need the customer to do is stick with you, and not switch to a competitor. Delivering a great experience from the start has helped, but there is still a little more to do. Thus, when their mortgage or insurance policy comes up for renewal, you need to engage with them at the right time and with the right message, to make sure they keep taking that renewal action year after year.

This stage is really an extension—and an integration—of all the activities you’ve been leveraging in each of the previous stages of the journey. Now that you know your customers well, you’re in a strong position to pinpoint where they currently are in their lifecycles, and to bring the right data together to deliver the most relevant renewal message at the opportune moment—perhaps sending them a friendly reminder a month before their policy is up for renewal, reaffirming the value they’ve received from you.


Throughout this entire series, we’ve seen time and again that today’s consumer demand consistent, relevant experiences, and we’ve explored how to deliver compelling experiences throughout the customer journey, by leveraging both insightful data and great content in dynamic, personalised ways, to capture the customer’s interest and draw them in.

A great customer experience boils down to four aspects:

  1. It’s compelling. It captures the customer’s attention with beautiful, dynamic content.
  2. It’s personal. It reflects an understanding of who and where customers are and what they like.
  3. It’s useful. It helps customers get things done faster and easier and makes their lives simple.
  4. It’s everywhere. It’s available wherever customers are, whether they’re working, reading, watching, shopping, socialising, or at the gym.

In short, it all comes down to making content relevant for the consumer, which is why the omnichannel approach is so powerful.

From the consumer perspective, you’ve anticipated and predicted what they want—and you’ve used their data in a respectful way. You’ve spoken to them in one consistent voice. You’ve been consistent in the ways you’ve communicated. You’ve used technology in the correct ways—whether that’s desktop, mobile, email, or any other advertising channel. And finally, you’ve delighted the customer with an experience that’s relevant and useful.

When all these things come together, you’ve delivered not just an ideal customer journey, but a great customer experience. Wherever your customers have been on that journey—from the first stage to the last—you’ve made sure their experience was compelling, personal, and useful. Which means you’ve done all you can to ensure they’ll remain a customer for a long time to come.

In fact, because of all the steps you’ve taken throughout the time you’ve known your customers, you’ve made it much easier to retain them over the long term. Yes, you have to deliver the right message to them at the right time, to make sure they know when to renew their insurance policy or mortgage, but you’re already on the front foot of ensuring they’ll remain a happy customer.

Thanks for joining me on this series on the customer journey!

The Customer Journey, Stage 5: Conflict Resolution

Welcome to this sixth instalment of my series on the customer journey.

As Adobe’s recent Econsultancy survey confirmed, executives in the financial services industry are treating customer experience and individualised data-driven marketing as their top priorities for 2016. Relevant personalised communication is crucial for putting those priorities into action.

The first article of this series addressed the awareness stage of the customer journey, while the second one looked at the acquisition stage. Next we focused on forms processes; and after that, we explored some ways in which upselling and next-best action recommendations during the onboarding process can establish ongoing rapport with customers.

This brings us to the final stage of the customer journey, in which we help onboarded customers to solve problems and resolve frustrations before they lead to bigger trouble. An effective retention strategy demands more than just a helpful attitude—it requires proactive adjustment of your help system, along with predictive analytics to anticipate future issues.

When handled correctly, however, an adaptive help system can actually serve as a tool for strengthening customer relationships. Here’s how it works.

Helpful improvements

You don’t want to wait for the customer to come to you, to say “I have a problem.” By the time a customer reaches out to your support department, they’ve probably already tried to find a solution themselves, failed, and worked up some significant frustration.

Many customers prefer to self-serve, provided the solution is straightforward. Many users expect to be able to solve problems themselves. In fact, they’ll often check Google or YouTube—or a social media page—before they explore your website’s support section.

Those facts point to a telling truth: most customers expect your website’s support system to be frustrating to use, difficult to navigate, and lacking in useful insight. But if you leverage that frustration to proactively build better support, you’ll find that even your troubleshooting pages can become powerful drivers of customer delight.

For example, I recently worked with one telecom client whose customers were expressing quite a bit of frustration with the website’s support system. As we dug into the data, we realised that many of those customers followed the same pattern of actions: first they checked the website, then within half an hour they contacted the call centre. We used analytics to compile a list of the top reasons for those calls, and overlaid internal customer relationship management (CRM) data to see what kinds of devices and accounts those customers had.

The company then set about systematically improving the relevant support pages; soon after, the volume of frustrated calls began to drop. And customer rapport actually improved, as users found it easier to open the most relevant support pages and implement the solutions themselves.

Even so, this is an example of retrospective fixing of a pre-existing problem. A much more effective solution is to anticipate those frustrated calls before they come in, and fix problematic pages in advance.

The only way to do this is to bring out the advanced analytics.

Proactive support

Customers expect banks and insurance companies to anticipate their needs. Using techniques like cluster analysis and anomaly detection, we can identify where potential problems are likely to crop up, based on our previous interactions with frustrated customers.

These types of techniques are often grouped under the heading “predictive analytics.” Used strategically, they can drive forward-looking insight, more intelligent decision making, and significant decreases in calls from frustrated customers.

One of the most powerful predictive analytic techniques is lookalike modelling. You might remember this technique from my article on the awareness phase, where we examined how it can be used to find new customers whose traits look like those of your existing high-value customers. In customer support, lookalike modelling can be highly effective at predicting which customers are likely to experience a particular problem, so you can reach out to them proactively and offer help.

For example, my team recently worked with a media entertainment company that sought to reduce the number of repeat calls to its call centre. By compiled data on the customers who’d contacted the call centre more than three times in the past week, we were able to pinpoint the issues those customers were most likely to be facing.

We then proactively contacted customers in those segments to offer troubleshooting help, or even to fix the issue altogether. Customers really appreciated this outreach—and along the way, the number of repeat calls to the call centre dropped significantly.

With the advances in marketing technology and data processing over the last couple of years, companies can now start to predict issues that customers are likely to experience in the near future and reach out to those customers—or, better yet, simply fix the problem—before users even realize there’s an issue.

Both types of techniques—proactive improvement of the self-serve system and proactive support—can serve as equally effective sources of customer satisfaction. Used together, these techniques will ensure less conflict and speed up resolution on any issues that do occur, driving stronger customer advocacy.

As always, the goal is a smooth customer journey—even after the customer has been onboarded. As long as a journey is consistent and free from issues, even potentially tense interactions turn into opportunities to create delight.

It’s been a long road along this journey from awareness to retention. In the final article of this series, I’ll sum up all the stages we’ve explored along the way, and explain how they all fit together. See you there.