Trust is important for any brand, but it is the lifeblood of the financial services industry. Indeed consumer trust is arguably the greatest competitive advantage any bank or credit union possesses. As a result, financial institutions must prioritize building brand equity by providing an impeccable customer experience, which is — first and foremost — predicated on data security.
That’s where marketing communications comes into play. Marketing can play a significant role in helping financial institutions build trust — that essential bedrock of brand equity. But a simple email sent with the wrong personalization or at the inappropriate time can have serious negative consequences, and possibly escalate to the point where consumer pull the dreaded “switching trigger”.
For instance, how do you think Jaime feels when her bank sends her something addressed to “Frank”? Or when they send her a home loan promotion with a better rate than the one she just got… from her bank? Do you think she feels confident in her banking provider’s ability to understand her financial situation — her needs? Not likely. In fact, she might wonder whether or not her institution is keeping her information private. Are they sending her information to Frank, and vice versa? Such missteps undermine the very foundation of trust and fiduciary confidence that every financial relationship is predicated upon.
Here are three strategies to help banks and credit unions create a seamless, personalized experience from the first interaction someone has with the institution to the latest email in their inbox, and make sure than marketing isn’t killing your institution’s brand equity.
1. Connect the Dots Between Customer Touchpoints
We’ve all experienced this… We make a transaction with a company, then receive an email that makes it appear as if that transaction never took place. Maybe a customer receives an email reminding them a bill is due that they have already paid. Now the customer has to log into their account to verify that bill was actually paid. Disconnects like this are not only inconvenient for consumers, but they also plant the seeds of doubt in a customer’s mind. Can an organization really be trusted with one’s finances if it can’t connect the basic dots?
Email is likely the most frequent form of communication someone has with their bank or credit union, so email communications must demonstrate the institution’s grasp on current events — that it has the most up-to-date, accurate information and understands its context.
Financial institutions that want to avoid communication mishaps — and the associated blows to their brand — need to shift away from data silos and move to a centralized database that provides every department with a real-time global view of all touchpoints, including branches, phone, online and mobile interactions. The speed at which business transactions take place means that financial institutions can no longer afford to store data in disparate, disconnected data silos. Accurate, up-to-date communication requires real-time access to your entire data set.
2. Protect Customer Data
In the global environment, data sovereignty laws are emerging to regulate how organizations may transfer personal data outside of a country or region. Countries increasingly seek to protect the personally identifiable information of their citizens by asserting jurisdictional control over this information, as exemplified by the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield completed in July 2016.
More recently, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is new legislation enacted by the European Parliament to give European Union residents more control over their personal data, and even U.S. companies with any EU citizens on their email list — which is includes just about all of them — must be ready to comply when GDPR goes into effect in May. GDPR legislation may also have a ripple effect in the United States Congress. Already, U.S. regulation aimed at increasing customer data protection, such as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Safeguards Rule has made customer data security a bigger priority.
While the financial services industry has long been adept at protecting customer data, data security has become more complicated and challenging in recent years with the increased reliance on software as a service (SaaS) marketing tools that require customer data to be uploaded and stored in the cloud. Marketers are often concerned about the security of sending data to a marketing vendor and exposing it to the Internet. In fact, a recent survey by PwC US, reports that the assessment of security protocols and standards of third-party vendors is the top cyber security concern for financial institutions.
While SaaS marketing platforms can be just as secure (or at-risk) as on-premises systems when it comes to storing customer data, one thing to keep in mind is that storing data in the cloud means copying your data and sending it to a third-party provider via the Internet. While SaaS providers take precautions to keep data safe, having a third party store information about your customers increases the exposure of data. Tighter cybersecurity for financial institutions means forgoing data replication and syncing in the cloud in favor of storing sensitive customer data in house behind your company’s firewall, while using the cloud only to handle non-data sensitive, resource-heavy tasks, such as message rendering and delivery.
3. Personalize and Contextualize
Few things in life are as personal as money, yet personalization has been a significant challenge for financial services marketers. Approximately 79% of consumers see their banking relationship as merely transactional, according to research from Accenture.
Segmenting customers based on specific sets of attributes, such as past purchase history, browsing history, or general demographic data is no longer considered “personalized content.” That’s just basic targeting. Marketers also need to access non-marketing data, such as inventory levels that update in real time, geo-location data, shipment tracking data, payment history, customer satisfaction survey results, etc.
In fact, the future of real-time email marketing depends upon the accessibility of your entire data set, not just customer data. As consumers come to expect more timely and relevant content, marketers will have to become more adept at unifying departments and coordinating activities in a cohesive, calculated manner.
Each email your customers receive, when well done and personalized, is like making a deposit in the “Account of Trust.” Avoiding a few potential email pitfalls, and investing in a few key email and data security strategies, goes a long way in building and restoring trust.
Chris Brown is the Vice President of Account Management at MessageGears, an email marketing technology provider that allows major global brands to deliver individualized experiences to their customers at scale in real-time. Chris has helped enterprise brands grow their marketing programs with consumer insight in today’s “always-on” world.