Unloved, undifferentiated & intrusive-is that a Bank?

Unloved, undifferentiated, and incapable of innovation — that’s what today’s  digitally savvy users, primarily including high-school students, entry-level  workers, and thirty-something professionals, believe about the banking industry says a recent survey of Millenials.

But often a bank’s marketing only reinforces this image. Pushing hundreds of irrelevant communications to customers despite having data about them frustrates customers.

And now consumers are begining to have choices.Nonbank solutions for financial services are not just imminent — they’re already here. Today’s digitally savvy retail banking customers are rapidly turning to Geezeo, Personal Capital, LearnVest, and others for personal financial management solutions. And they’re looking forward to other technology giants entering the market such as PayPal, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Most of these new entrants are far more marketing savvy & have disrupted other industries by bringing the customer into the boardroom.

And yet, Banks often think of Customer centricity as a “fluffy” topic. Most bankers are hard wired left brain types & the retail banking business is such that customers are often prisoners & cannot leave very easily. According to Capgemini’s 2014 World Retail Banking Report (WRBR), less than 40% of customers globally reported positive customer experiences with their financial institution.

And yet there are contradictions: banks are probably amongst the few businesses that have an “extreme level of data” about customers. Banks know when you move your house, when you get that bonus & they even know when you are eating out at a restaurant or travelling internationally for the first time. Banking also was amongst the early adopters of analytics & so has the institutional capacity to understand customers better. And Banks have invested in huge amount of technology that can enable customer centricity. And yet Technology is transforming the way digitally savvy customers think about and manage their finances. And this is where banks may not be moving fast enough.

Banking tops the list of industries at risk of disintermediation by digitally savvy customers including millennials. And banks seem secure in the belief that this business is very hard to dislodge & too regulated to disrupt. Key findings from the Millennial Disruption Index (MDI), a three-year study of industry disruption at the hands of teens to thirty somethings (Millennials) found that 71% of Millenials would welcome a new bank from Amazon, Google, Square, Apple or Paypal.

I had written about the unbundling of banks earlier.

digital banks

In India, there seems to be a mad race by private sector banks to show Digital superiority. A lot of Apps are being launched. But at its core, the issue of being Customer centric still eludes many banks. Banks need to be committed to having an innate knowledge of their customer and using that knowledge for the customer’s benefit. Today most analytics teams in banks spend most of their effort in doing analytics that will benefit the bank: reduce risk, increase cross sell & reduce cost.

Chris Skinner, Chairman of the Financial Services Club and author of the book, Digital Bank, said, “A digital bank is a bank built with a vision to reach out to customers through digital augmentation. It is built specifically to offer the customer the service of their choice through the access of their choice.”

And yet banks do an extraordinary amount of push based marketing-pushing messages to customers which may not be relevant through emails, sms & calls. Banks set up campaign management teams that mine data & use marketing technology to automate campaigns for customers. But sometimes we need to be cautious about technology & automation. Our campaigns are not customer centric; they intrude & do not provide relevant information. In such a case, automating & increasing the volume of this campaign is pointless. You are only automating a more intrusive form of marketing, that doesnt work.

Often there is this belief that complex analytics is required to become more Customer centric by providing appropriate offers.But you don’t need too much fancy analytics to become more customer centric. There is so much data that exists with a bank that you can create hundreds of examples of campaigns that connect to customers.

I saw this wonderful example from Jim Bruene at Finovate:

“Card reissues after a data breach, or lost/stolen situation, are annoying for cardholders. But it’s even worse for the issuer who has to pay for a new card, hound the customer to activate it, handle customer service calls, and then risk losing recurring revenues from now-broken automated pre-authorized charges.

So kudos to Capital One for taking an important step in solving this problem.

Earlier this week I received a new card and number from Capital One, presumably because my card had been involved in a breach. I am not aware of any unauthorized attempts to use it.

In a followup email this morning, the giant issuer reminded me to activate the new card. That’s a fairly typical technique these days. But the help didn’t end there. The bank provided a list of likely merchants where I may need to update card info to avoid the charge being denied (see screenshot below)”.

http://bit.ly/1eOZroI

Simple communication like this can diffrentiate a bank & make it more relevant to consumers.

Here is what I believe banks need to think about:

  1. Treat customer communication with the same intensity that FMCG companies treat their advertising.
  2. Look at their data to “help customers”. Banks have rich information & everyone should be thinking about simple ways to connect with customers. Most times banks engage with customers only to cross or upsell. Bankers may want to think of a paradigm where sales begins to happen because you connect with customers at relevant moments with personalised communication like the example above.
  3. Set up a Customer Intelligence unit-use them to derive insight “about customers for customers”.
  4. Use that insight to create engagement programs with customers which help them lead their daily life.
  5. Cross sell will happen as an outcome.
  6. We believe that Marketing will move towards relevancy:
    • “Marketing that is done so well that it feels like a service”
    • “Marketing as a relationship”
  7. At Cequity we call this philosophy-“To service is to Sell”.