Creating personal digital customer experiences in financial services

Customers in the financial services industry (FS) want you to take them on a journey, through the sales funnel and beyond. But how do you navigate through fierce competition, a lack of customer loyalty and superhuman requirements to content management?

Unfortunately, FS businesses are hardly travel agencies. Failure to build meaningful relationships and create compelling customer journeys will push your customers into the arms of third parties.

Why building personal digital customer experiences is hard

Remember the old days, when intermediaries knew their clients personally? People felt seen and understood. For instance, they trusted their insurance agent to offer advice based on their personal situation, leaving them properly insured, the right risks covered. Intermediaries in general achieved this feat by investing in personal relationships with their clients.

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People still crave these personal experiences and turn to the party who best understands their needs. Unfortunately, these tend not to be FS businesses, a fact sadly evidenced by the high churn rates seen at banks that offer mortgages. These banks might have tried hard to start a dialogue. But failure to understand their customer’s current situation let to a random choice of topics, inevitably pushing them away, instead of drawing them closer.

In our example, banks were unaware their customers were in the process of buying a house. So, instead of taking them on a journey towards a mortgage, they started arbitrary discussions about irrelevant topics. The customers, unimpressed, turned to the party that did offer relevant advice – in many cases the good old intermediary.

Why is it so difficult to create personal digital customer experiences in financial services businesses?

Due to regulatory changes, these intermediaries now charge a lot for the advice they used to offer for free. Ironically, these extra costs do not deter clients: the need for personal, trusted advice prevails.

It is a clear illustration of the importance of personal and relevant communication, which forms the key to stopping customer churn and the ensuing decline in profits. Why, then, is it so difficult to create personal digital customer experiences in financial services businesses?

Lack of loyalty

First of all, more so than in other industries, customers show little loyalty towards financial service providers. After all, they are not purchasing a mortgage, they are moving to a new home. They are not buying an insurance, they are looking for peace of mind. Settling these matters is a necessity, but not a fun part of the process.

Competition is fierce

Secondly, as stated above, customers expect nothing short of perfect relevance. If a message is not relevant, it is deemed noise and will be discarded. Bluntly put, if you don’t deliver, fintechs and new economy giants will move in and scoop away your clients, as competition is relentless.

Personal digital customer experiences - Era of relevance - by Accenture

Engaging one client takes a whole team

To top that off, analyst firm Gartner predicts that, by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationships with the enterprise without interacting with a human. This means that they want to conduct business from behind a computer screen, while simultaneously expecting a personal level of communication.  

Online, customers leave an interesting trail of personal data.

Mind you, this is perfectly doable. Online, customers leave an interesting trail of personal data. Technology enables you to figure out their online whereabouts, but also their expectations and intentions. Using data from various touchpoints and sources, you will be able to offer relevant, personal content, building online relationships before your clients can turn to an intermediary. However, this requires cross-team collaboration, working collectively to create uniform experiences and consistent communication. Siloes will need to be broken down and marketers, scrum masters, CRM experts, legal specialists, compliance officers, and call center agents need to take their customers on a journey along multiple touchpoints, offering not just relevant content, but messages that are optimized for all possible screens.

In short, engaging one client takes a whole team. And engaging more clients requires content management on a non-human scale.

How to become a travel agency for your customer's journey

To transition into travel, or rather customer journey agencies, we have identified four ways to achieve personal digital banking experiences that engage all your customers.

Start with data-driven insights

It all starts with your clients’ current journeys. Which touchpoints do they use? Where do they drop out? How do they experience your brand? Technology will help you to run a diagnostic on your current customers’ journeys, focusing on touchpoints as well as a logical progression of messages. Based on these insights, it will be a lot easier to obtain the budget necessary to embark on an ongoing cycle of testing, measuring and optimizing. Incidentally, these insights will also allow you to guide clients from more costly channels, such as call centers and local offices, to more cost-efficient digital channels, creating additional cost reductions.

It all starts with your clients' current journeys. Which touchpoints do they use? How do they experience your brand?

Add a digital experience platform

Once you have established the customer journey, it is time to focus on the management of the so-called ‘content velocity’: an AI-based platform will support the optimization of content presentation and content production. For instance, it will cleverly re-use existing messages of all sorts. Machine learning enables the selection and editing of images, videos, or texts, depending on where your customers are in their journeys and how they interact with your brand. Furthermore, content selection will be based on your clients’ specific characteristics, such as age, region, local weather patterns and many other variables. The platform can also use user generated content or public databases such as Adobe Stock in order to add content not readily available otherwise.

Ultimately, a digital customer experience platform will give you endless data-driven recommendations, saving time and money while improving the quality of your clients’ banking experience in ways that can no longer be achieved manually.

Deploy tooling to improve cooperation and coordination across teams

Tooling will also improve the way your staff works together. From our experience, cross-team collaboration is crucial when you aim to build digital customer experiences that are both personal and relevant. Common goals, challenges and databases will create a single source of truth from which they will all work to achieve the overarching goal. This approach will propel your business forward.

On a very practical level, the platform enables smooth and flawless cooperation, for instance issuing a warning when multiple teams are trying to target the same client segment at the same time. Features like these further expand and support customer centricity.

Apply a modern-day, people-oriented leadership style

Finally, in order to build personal digital customer experiences, management will need be highly people-oriented. If your managers still apply the old-fashioned ‘command-and-control’ leadership style, don’t go through the trouble of making customer-centric investments, as staff will be too afraid to work on the creation of relevant customer journeys.

Management will need to be highly people-oriented to build personal digital customer experiences.

To illustrate the above, we refer to the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Superstar DJ’s program. Much like music DJs, RBS ‘put an emphasis on constant reinvention and testing new content’, thus encouraging a test-and-learn culture through which Digital Journey Superstars were forged. The program brought about an impressing shift in mindset, as 80 percent of executives logged into the Adobe Target Platform to initiate a live test. They experienced first-hand what it was like to experiment, optimize, fail, try again and bask in the success of the digital platform, thus creating a strong connection with the team members usually behind the wheels. The result of this program was increased satisfaction among both customers and staff. 

The GDPR dilemma

Are there no pitfalls in creating personal, relevant digital experiences for financial services businesses? Well, there might be one. The financial services industry has always been highly regulated and the introduction of GDPR has only added to the need for compliance.

When running a marketing campaign, communication will follow various channels using a wealth of customer data. It is hard to comply with GDPR requirements when all that data is stored in-house. It is even harder to comply while maintaining it outside of proprietary infrastructures. As SaaS products are cheaper and reap the rewards of ongoing innovation, these systems are often preferred, in spite of the privacy issues they present. Handling these issues requires a data mindset, as well as knowledge on how to collect data across channels without breaching GDPR guidelines.

Adobe and Accenture can assist you with both. Joining forces, we can help you optimize customer journeys, implement tooling, train staff and develop the necessary procedures and policies that will allow you to prepare for the future of personal communication in the financial services industry.

Personal digital customer experiences - Clients at the heart - by Accenture

Embark on a customer-centric journey of your own 

As we have seen, the way to your clients’ hearts is though compelling customer journeys: rich, vibrant and personal adventures through a forest of marketing touchpoints that engage potential clients with relevant digital banking experiences. In order to get there, you need to embark on a journey of your own, gaining data insights, changing mindsets and introducing new tooling. All with a simple, yet extremely important goal in mind: to realize a truly customer-centric destination. We encourage you to jump aboard, because this ship is ready to sail!?

This article has been produced in close collaboration with Mark Verver, New Business Sales Adobe CXM at Adobe.

Author: Mehmet Olmez