Beyond Personalization: Three Reasons to Focus on Customer Journeys

Though personalization remains a critical piece of the customer experience puzzle, banks and credit unions can gain a bigger competitive advantage by creating customer journeys that are more unified (less siloed) and more intelligent, powered by data.

Improving customer experience has become the priority of priorities for the banking industry. There’s good reasons for that. Established players face more competition than ever, especially from fintech startups with lower overhead and scalable platforms and a laser focus on CX. Consumers have responded with sharply increased expectations across all channels.

To compete successfully in this environment, banks and credit unions need to have an adaptive, agile relationship with consumers. For many, however, there is a ways to go to reach that goal. Almost four out of five consumers (79%) still regard their relationship with financial institutions as “purely transactional,” according to Accenture. Changing this requires shifting the mindset at every level to go beyond “more personalized service.” What is needed instead is an end-to-end journey, using customer profiles to create a more dynamic experience.

This is not an easy transformation. But there are three compelling reasons for moving forward with it, beyond simply staying relevant:

  • To avoid leaving money on the table.
  • To close the customer satisfaction gap.
  • To make use of the data you already have.

1. Avoid Leaving Money on the Table

As traditional financial institutions strive to attract new customers (especially younger demographics) with emerging technology, a trending topic in the marketing suite has been “increased personalization.” The reasoning is sound. BCG estimates “for every $100 billion in assets that a bank has, it can achieve as much as $300 million in revenue growth by personalizing its customer interactions.” In addition, EY reports that 40% of customers say they would be more likely to stay with their financial services provider if it offered more personalized service.

But what if profits from personalization are only a part of what’s possible by taking a more comprehensive approach? More than opportunistically targeting offers and upsells, personalization can become a means to a more rewarding end: growing the relationship. The true promise of customer enablement in retail banking is “being able to go beyond next-best offers and targeted marketing and create more customized, relevant end-to-end experiences for customers,” BCG maintains.

If you were asked by a high-end client to review their account during an in-person meeting, you would of course inquire about their goals for the meeting, research as much performance and historical data as you could in advance, listen carefully to understand their concerns and perspective and then follow-up with intelligent, detailed messaging to help keep the client firmly in your portfolio.

“Few things overcome inertia and the perceived cost of switching banks like not feeling heard.”
— René Dufrene, AT&T Business

But how can you do that for all of your customers? It’s good PR to say that you treat every customer like a VIP, but you can’t. It doesn’t scale. Customer journey orchestration does, however. This approach, aided by software, allows a bank or credit union to analyze and manage every touchpoint a consumer has with an institution. For example, personalized touches can be automated and strategically integrated to empower the customer. People are fine knowing that they’re not your biggest account as long as they can still feel that they matter and are heard. Few things overcome inertia and the perceived cost of switching banks like not feeling heard.

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2. Close the Customer Satisfaction Gap

Journey mapping and orchestration (a.k.a. relationship building) is a core strategy that hinges almost entirely on the execution. To illustrate: On a first date, if all you do is talk about yourself, there won’t likely be a second one, no matter how often you might correctly reference your date’s name. In the same way, irrelevant text messages and interactions that don’t start with listening won’t lead to the growth of a financial relationship, no matter how good you are at juggling details or feeding data into a marketing automation platform.

“Relying on silos to break themselves down after quarterly pep talks doesn’t often yield the same result as organizational accountability.”

Ever wonder why an institution’s Net Promoter Scores (NPS) can be low, despite high ratings for individual touchpoints? The reason is that touchpoint messaging strategies tend to be siloed, providing leaders with metrics of self-perpetuating success. Without accountability to a larger view, they remain compartmentalized, detached from critical measures of long-term growth or decline. Standalone social and live chat functions, for example, may not feed information seamlessly into customer records.

User interaction data gleaned from multiple channels is necessary to more intelligently empower customers. Banks and credit unions may also use an ad-hoc mix of on-site and cloud implementations that meets current business needs but leaves the company unable to quickly adapt or grow — far less agile than a flexible, integrated strategy, that can adapt to changing market conditions.

To compete effectively, financial institutions must have the perspective of customer communication being a connected journey more than a series of individual touchpoints.

In addition, there should be a customer experience champion at a high level to help increase overall satisfaction scores. Relying on silos to break themselves down after quarterly pep talks doesn’t often yield the same result as organizational accountability.

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3. Make Use of the Data You Already Have

Many financial institutions collect enormous amounts of data but haven’t yet figured out how to connect what they collect. Harvesting this data is a considerable opportunity for competitive advantage. You likely have a myriad of insights about your own customers (the most valuable kind) already swimming in your data lake. This data can unlock underutilized value propositions, differentiators, and marketing opportunities tied to customer life events.

Contact center interactions, for instance, can become a data goldmine. But to maximize their value to the institution, the contact center must be dynamic and connected to key systems across the enterprise, and the data generated must be put to use. “All the call technology platforms generate hundreds of data points per call,” points out Merkle’s Nimish Doshi. “This data can be grouped, sorted, filtered, and manipulated for analysis to reveal value.”

This is value that can perpetuate a virtuous cycle of improving the customer experience and cutting the time-to-resolution for common issues, with every customer touchpoint sending data to a single integrated system. When a customer contacts the bank or credit union, the employee (or bot) handling that query should have all the information needed to pick up exactly where the last interaction left off. This should be true, no matter which device or channel the customer uses.

Artificial intelligence is playing an increasing role in enabling this, with 63% of businesses saying they will consider AI in the near term to reduce costs, according to BCG. With a unified back-end across departments, banking executives can gain the additional intelligence and margin they need to identify new opportunities and act on them.

There is increasing industry acknowledgment that “share of wallet” indeed flows from “share of heart.” If consumers expect something to work a certain way, it should. There’s a win-win to relationship building that provides common-sense outcomes to customers. Anything else erodes trust. This is a key differentiator for traditional financial institutions.

Jane Fraser, President of Citigroup and CEO of Global Consumer Banking, elaborated on this during a panel discussion at the 2020 Davos gathering: “You have to capture not just the wallet, but you have to capture the heart and mind of the customer. That’s the strongest defense against the huge platform player — making sure you’re relevant to your customer at all times. Otherwise you will become a utility.”

Beyond personalization, end-to-end customer journey orchestration is a better way to add utility instead of becoming one.

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