How to Build Customer Loyalty in the Digital Age

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This post was authored by Matthew Draper and originally appeared here on Liferay.com

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The age of digital transformation has helped companies better understand and connect with their target audiences, with everything from dynamic content to page behavior insights helping to create a better picture of how individuals interact with companies. However, it has also greatly affected how loyal customers are to any given company.

Studies show that customers are more likely than ever to jump to competitors when they become dissatisfied with their current services, no matter how long they may have had a relationship with a company. Research from Vision Critical has found that 42 percent of Americans will stop shopping with a brand after only two bad experiences, making consistent high-quality customer experience critical in customer retention. While that lack of loyalty may mean ample opportunities for companies looking to expand their clientele, Harvard Business Review research shows that it costs approximately seven times more to gain a new customer than it does to retain one. As such, cultivating customer loyalty has both reputational and financial benefits.

But the question remains, how does a company improve customer loyalty in an age where loyalty is in short supply?

Encouraging Customer Loyalty Through Good Customer Experience

Changes in modern customer loyalty can be seen as an outcome of digital transformation, with more services than ever made convenient and easily accessible online. However, today’s customer often takes greater advantage of these online opportunities than the companies themselves, leading to today’s drop in customer loyalty. One of the largest factors in constantly shifting customer loyalty in the digital age is customer experience. Studies show that while pricing and quality of products may play a part in why a customer chooses one company over another, customer experience (CX) is the most important aspect in his or her choice.

The term customer experience can be applied to any interaction that a potential client has with your company, but there are several specific areas that can have the largest impact on loyalty. Brands can fight back against the waning tide of customer loyalty and its impact on client retention by improving the following areas of customer experience.

Ease of Access

Existing and potential clients should have the ability to quickly and completely reach your company’s services whenever and wherever they want. Today, customers expect to find and receive the online services they want without complications or delays. Without true brand loyalty, making your services easily accessible can make a major difference during a potential customer’s split-second choice between your company or a competitor.

Pre-existing loyalty may cause an existing client to go to you first, but not being able to quickly find/receive the services they want will easily send them to your competitor. Companies should consider how to implement omnichannel experiences in their services. In doing so, target audiences can smoothly and quickly interact online in both desktop and mobile, as well as in person, for a seamless experience that pushes them consistently and naturally toward closing a sale.

Supply Helpful Customer Service

The field of customer service is one of the most memorable interactions between your business and its customers. Customer service can include free shipping on items, customer loyalty rewards programs, return policies, promotional offers and customer support with issues concerning a product. According to research from Harris Interactive, 62% of U.S. consumers have switched brands in the past year due to a poor customer service experience. Good customer service not only reinforces to clients that your company cares about them, but prevents one of the biggest reasons for customer drop-off.

No matter the industry, customer service plays a crucial role in representing your brand in what are often the most decision-influencing interactions in any customer journey. Successfully demonstrating your dependability during these times can have a major positive effect on customer loyalty.

Distinguishing Your Brand Identity

Customers will tie your brand to the customer experience you provide. Should you offer a great experience, customers will attach positive feelings to your brand, but provide poor experiences and these failings will be tied to the brand instead. As such, it’s crucial that customer experiences align with your company’s larger goals so that good experiences not only gives clients a positive memory, but improve your brand’s standing in the public consciousness. For example, Amazon Dash buttons, which allow customers to reorder a product with the single push of a button, distinctly feature the brand of the company. In doing so, customers tie the brand to the simple, successful and satisfying experience they have had in using the button.

Forrester’s Customer Experience Index has found that a customer’s emotional connection with a brand has some of the strongest influence on loyalty. Cultivating that emotional connection and making it a positive one will yield short- and long-term loyalty in an age that has more competitors than ever before. In a sea of products and services from more brands than ever, having a positive emotional tie will help your brand distinguish itself from the crowd and feel less replaceable to clients.

6 Things We Can Learn About Customer Engagement From Netflix

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Netflix is one of the most successful companies in the world, with over 94,000,000 subscribers. One of the reasons for Netflix’ success is the way they have engaged their customers at a level never-before-seen. The video streaming service has become a cultural touchstone. They have reached these heights because they do an excellent job of focusing on customer engagement. They can do this thanks to a nearly unprecedented amount of data available to analyze regarding their customers viewing habits. The interesting thing about Netflix is that none of their processes are impossible to emulate. If you commit to making customer engagement your highest priority, you can achieve similar results.

In this article, we will examine 6 areas that Netflix excels in and how those areas contribute to effective customer engagement. We will also relate those lessons back to the financial services industry.

1) Use Data To Learn Customer Preferences

Every person in the world has unique interests, wants and needs. Every action an individual takes is purposeful. Netflix clearly believes this and uses data to help inform every decision they make. Their commitment to data is a major contributor to their success. Netflix looks at factors such as:

  • When you pause, rewind, or fast forward
  • What day you watch content (Netflix has found people watch TV shows during the week and movies during the weekend.)
  • The date you watch
  • What time you watch content
  • Where you watch
  • What device you use to watch (Do you like to use your tablet for TV shows? Do people access the Just for Kids feature more on their iPads, etc.?)
  • When you pause and leave content (and if you ever come back)
  • The ratings that are given (~4 million per day)
  • Searches (~3 million per day)

With the data at their disposal, Netflix ensures that it knows as much as it can about their customers’ streaming preferences so they can offer a better service. Netflix has an algorithm that parses this data to recommend content. 70% of content watched on Netflix comes from these suggestions.

Takeaways for Financial Services: As a financial service provider, data can be harder to come by. The sensitivity of the required data means that people might not be willing to provide it for security reasons. This may be due to a lack of trust in the technology that will collect and store the data. It could also be for a number of personal reasons. Whatever data you have available can be used to match the client with content (and other information) that can engage them. You can use data to find your clients’ pain points and provide information that they will find useful and interesting. This has the opportunity to elevate the level of trust your client base has in your knowledge.

2) Communicate and Listen

If you want to use data to inform yourself about what your customers want and need, you should communicate with (and listen to) your customers. People generally know what they want, especially when given a set of options. Netflix has learned this lesson the hard way thanks to a 2011 communications gaffe. The company announced that it would increase prices while no longer supporting mail-order DVD services. They did not explain why the price was increasing and the explanation of splitting the mail-order service from streaming was underwhelming. Customers were outraged. The company suffered by losing hundreds of thousands of subscribers, leading to their stock price plummeting.

They heard the complaints and after seeing what happened, reversed the decision and made it a priority to listen and properly communicate with their customers. Now, every month Netflix announces new titles and original releases as well as other relevant information.

Takeaways for Financial Services: As a financial service provider, it should be even easier to listen and communicate with your customers. Most clients will come visit your practice on a semi-regular basis, giving you the opportunity to have conversations with them. You should use these conversations for communicating relevant information and taking suggestions. It will improve your business if you can provide clients with services they want and need. By providing targeted, relevant content, you can better engage your client base, having them become more active and interested in your services.

3) Give Your Audience What They Want

There is a song, written in 1975 and performed by The O’Jays, called “Give the People What They Want”. That song should be the anthem for all marketers and product development teams. Simply give your customers what they want. Netflix definitely follows this advice. Here is just one (of the many) examples where Netflix “gave the people what they want”.

In 2011, Netflix announced they were splitting their DVD-by-mail service and their streaming service into two separate businesses. This would have resulted in a 60% increase in price if a consumer wanted to keep both services. Splitting their two services lost them 800,000 subscribers over the summer of 2011. Their stock price tanked, and before it was too late, they canceled their plans. They never stopped supporting the DVD-by-mail service. In January 2017, the company announced that 4.1 million people still get DVDs by mail.

At the time, Netflix was set on splitting up the two services but decided against it because their customer base did not like the idea. They have clearly recovered from the fiasco, and this situation can serve as a reminder to any business: listen to your customers.

Takeaways for Financial Services: If your clients are vocal about wanting something, you should listen to them. Clients may really like a certain package of products that, due to lack of interest, you were considering giving up on. You won’t know if you don’t ask. You don’t have to lose 800,000 customers like Netflix did, but be willing to listen to your customers and communicate changes before they are made. Not listening to upset or angry customers will result in you losing clients, with even more becoming disengaged.

4) Test New Ideas

Netflix is constantly A/B testing new features, usually rolling them out to 10,000 customers at a time. They test what features improve engagement and motivate people to watch longer. The features that are popular are then rolled out to the rest of the user base. This was done recently with their new “thumbs up” button replacing a 5-star rating system. Netflix has also significantly tweaked its recommendation algorithm so the company can provide more accurate suggestions.

Another innovation that Netflix has spearheaded through a series of tests, is the streaming functionality of the website. At first, Netflix was built around the mail-order model. As new technologies were tested, they realized how easy it was becoming to stream video, shifting the company towards a streaming service business model. Netflix is constantly testing features and ideas. This idea can apply to all industries.

Takeaways for Financial Services: You can A/B test various marketing functions such as direct mail, email, social media and many other digital marketing functions. Try different copy, different imagery, and different buttons. See what tactics work best for motivating customers to engage with you. You can also test various personalization tactics. What methods work best for personalizing products and services to specific clients? Testing to see what methods, technologies, and communications methods are the most cost effective and easiest to implement while remaining compliant is yet another test you can carry out.

You might not be able to roll out your tests 10,000 people at a time, but any testing that leads to improvement is worth it. After all, any improvement is an improvement. Every little bit counts.

5) Be Available “On Demand”

Netflix is easily accessible 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Whenever somebody wants to watch a movie, or whenever they have some free time, Netflix is there. The constant availability of Netflix is one of the main draws to the service. Can’t sleep, and want to watch old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at 4:45 in the morning? Netflix has you covered. There is a reason that nearly 100 million people worldwide subscribe to Netflix.

Takeaways for Financial Services: Every business should strive to be as available to their customers as Netflix is. Although you likely won’t be available around the clock, your digital properties (website, client portals, etc.) should be high quality and accessible, regardless of where the client is in the world at any given time.

You should also strive to have enough content available to satisfy people’s thirst for knowledge. 67% of the buyer’s journey now takes place digitally. By providing high-quality content, you can educate your buyers, hopefully showing them how to solve their financial challenges. This gives you an opportunity to prove your value to the reader. This will engage their interests and motivate them to do business with you.

6) Personalize

The main factor contributing to the success of Netflix might be the company’s ability to personalize every experience. Netflix has used data to segment its library into 76,897 different genres. These genres are only recommended to people who (based on data) might be interested. A few examples of super-specific genres created by Netflix are:

  • Oscar-winning, visually-striking movies from the 1970s
  • Critically acclaimed animal tales
  • Witty dysfunctional-family TV shows
  • Emotional Fight-the-System Documentaries

Netflix has used data to analyze and categorize more movies and TV shows than any other entity. They know which movies are similar and why, as well as which categories a specific group of people will enjoy.

Takeaways for Financial Services: While your business might not be able to customize your offerings to the extent Netflix has, you should try to offer personalized experiences for your client whenever possible. You should offer products and services that will appeal to your customers’ needs and interests.

How can you find out what content, products, and services will appeal to specific clients? Start gathering data about what your customers want, what their goals are, what life stage are they in and anything else you think will help match clients with a perfect combination of information and guidance.

In the financial service industry, you might need to meet with people in person or email them a (secure) survey due to the sensitivity of the data you need. Use your CMS to see who is visiting your website, what they are looking at, and any information they provide. With this data, you can cater content specifically to the customer.

Help students learn how to save for school, help young adults learn how to save for a home, help prepare older clients for retirement. Ensure that whatever solutions your clients adopt are right for them, meeting their specific wants and needs.  

By providing quality, relevant content you can better engage with your audience. This will allow you to build your relationships with them, which will motivate action.

What Can We Learn From Netflix About Customer Engagement

Netflix offers personalized, engaging experiences to a wide variety of people worldwide. They are constantly working on improving their service by testing everything and making assumptions using a vast amount of data. There is nothing they do that your business cannot do. By using data acquired by listening to customers you can give your audience what they want. Testing new ideas will help you discover what activities generate the best returns. We can all improve our processes by adopting the lessons we learn from Netflix.

Did you learn anything else about customer engagement from Netflix? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ or on LinkedIn here.

Are Banks Failing at Customer Experience?

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Welcome to Part 2 of our two-part series examining customer experience in banking, through graphics from the Financial Brand. In Part 1 of this article, we discussed which channels consumers use to research various financial products (or services) and what banks believe the biggest benefits of personalization are. We also looked at why banks struggle to provide an excellent customer experience and examined the gap that exists between banks (who believe they offer an excellent CX) and their customers (who believe the same). In this article, we will take a look at how banks intend to enhance their service, which channels consumers deem most important and why technology has not been more widely implemented to improve CX.

5. Intentions to Enhance Service

Intent to enhance customer experience

On the graph from our previous article, Customer experience excellence: reality vs. perception, we saw how customers and firms rated their customer experience. Here we get a chance to see what financial service providers plan on doing to improve their CX. At the bottom of the list lies social media. Something that, while useful for communicating broad information, does not make for a better experience in banking. Branch transformation, something that has been a focus for decades, also lies near the bottom of the list. 

Enhancing mobile and online channels is by far the most common answer. This shows that omnichannel is a growing concern for banking providers. The attention to omnichannel is beginning only after FinTech firms have begun to apply pressure to traditional banking sectors.

The other three most common answers go hand-in-hand with providing an omnichannel experience. Staffing and training, leveraging new technology and providing better support are essential to combating FinTech firms. The reason that mobile and digital channels need more development than the traditional in-branch experience may be due to the decades’ banks have spent trying to perfect the in-branch experience. Digital and mobile channels are still relatively new and need to be improved upon, as they are the greatest strength of most FinTech competitors. This graph provides hope that banks are finally moving to the modern era.

6. Ranking Importance of Customer Experience by Channel

Consumers view of the importance of channels for customer experience

This graph examines how important each channels CX is for banking. It is very clear that in-branch experience and web experience are the most important channels to provide an excellent customer experience in. For now, in-branch banking is the most important delivery channel. This could be for a few reasons, one being that many demographics, such as the elderly, are still far more likely to come into a branch than to use any another channel.

Very few people think that phone banking is the most important channel in regards to experience. However, it holds a very strong number of votes for second and third most important channel. This could be because people still want to talk to a real person if they experience issues with the channel of their choice. Regardless of how much progress digital channels have made over the last decade, people still often feel most comfortable solving their problems with a human.

The seemingly least important channels are those that are accessed via a smartphone or tablet. This might be due to low adoption rates but may be due to the fact that smartphones are not people’s only channel for banking. Perhaps most people use smartphones to check their balances or to transfer money to friends. They are not trying to do complex tasks and therefore, are less concerned about a great CX. 

7. Obstacles to Offering a Personalized Customer Experience

Obstacles to offering a personalized customer experience

So, after we examined how banks and customers think of customer experience in finance, let’s examine what obstacles are in place to determine what is delaying FinServ firms from offering a personalized experience.

The main obstacles appear to be budgets that are not large enough to keep up with the ever-changing regulatory requirements and security concerns. This is par for the course with the industry. Often regulations and security concerns are at the front of most companies minds. Budget constraints come with the territory, as handling security issues can be extremely costly.

Other major obstacles include disjointed business processes, providing omnichannel experiences, outdated technology infrastructure and competition from FinTech providers. Many of these obstacles are issues that banks need to handle internally and have not been because of a lack of budget or leadership.

None of these obstacles should scare financial service providers from adopting more personalized CX, yet they do. Financial service firms need to improve, their viability as stand-alone businesses depend on it.

These graphs conveyed a lot of information about customer experience in banking. The first two graphs showed the perceived importance of improving various channels, both for banks and consumers. Banks plan on improving their mobile and online channels with a secondary focus on providing better training to employees. Customers should appreciate those efforts as they believe in-branch and online experiences are the most important channels in banking.

The final graph shows the challenges faced by banks when trying to offer a more personal experience. Banks have a wide variety of challenges to face, from a lack of funding to a complex regulatory landscape. These challenges will need to be successfully maneuvered in order to offer the personalized experience customers expect.

Did you find these graphs informative? How do you think banking will change over the next few years? Is customer experience the most important aspect of banking? What takeaways can other FinServ firms take from these graphs? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ!

The State of Customer Experience in Banking by the Numbers

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Most people use more than one financial institution for their banking needs. It is easy to see the competition from other big banks, but many financial institutions struggle to quantify the threat from FinTech firms. Customer experience (CX) is a key factor in building and maintaining high customer loyalty, but this might be the area in which big banks struggle the most. If a bank provides an excellent experience to its customers, they will be able to maintain customer loyalty and keep money in their banks. So, how can you improve your CX? You’ll have to ask yourself some questions.

What channels do consumers want to use? What do banks think customers want? Why haven’t you provided the experiences that customers want? Is there a gap between the mindset of consumers and the mindset of banks? Today, we will examine these questions, using graphs from one of my favorite publications: The Financial Brand.

The Financial Brand is a digital publication for banks and credit union. The Financial Brand specializes in marketing and strategy. The publication creates many informative graphics about a wide variety of subjects. In this article, we will examine 7 informative graphs about customer experience (CX) in finance. We will take an in-depth at what insights they give us about the state of CX in banking.

1. Consumer Research Channels

Consumer Research Channels customer experience

This graph examines the channels used by consumers for researching and purchasing different financial products. I find it interesting and informative because of the stark differences in research channels, based on which product is being examined.

Websites, email and physical mail are all used disproportionately when searching for credit cards. What do all of these channels have in common? Perhaps the customer wants information without having to interact with an actual person. This could be the case because credit cards are a less-personalized product (compared to something like a mortgage or larger line of credit), meaning standardized rates may be published online.

Another reason that people may use impersonal channels when shopping for credit cards is because people often carry multiple cards. This is in stark contrast to chequing accounts and mortgages, where most people will only need one at a time. Since they are less of a commitment and you may have multiple credit cards, people won’t feel the need to come in-branch to learn about a product.

Mortgages are the one product that will motivate customers to call a bank. Again, it might be due to the fact that people generally only need one. They are more willing to visit a branch or talk to a real person because a mortgage will radically affect their life. A person is more likely to make personal contact with a financial institution when the solution they are looking for will dramatically change their life.

2. Benefits of Personalized Experiences

Benefits of Delivering personalized experience

This graph takes a look at what bank leaders believe the biggest benefits of delivering personalized experiences and content to consumers are. Using customer data to make the right offer at the right time is far and away the most common benefit. The second leading answer, improving cross-channel CX, shows the importance omnichannel experiences. If your cross-channel experience is slow, or subpar in any way, the customer will choose to get their products or services from elsewhere. They may even decide to do business with your competitors.

Many of these answers relate to communicating with customers more effectively. Aside from providing frictionless services at a lower cost and enabling flexible product/service bundling, improving communication is a key concern. Personalization in FinServ and all other industries will allow brands to communicate relevant information to their customers. This is something that every FinServ provider should aim for.

3. Funding Difficulties

Difficulties getting CX funding

This graphic shows the difficulties that FinServ firms face in getting funding for CX initiatives. Only 28% of firms rated the experience as easy or somewhat easy. The other 72% of firms found the experience difficult.

This speaks to the disillusionment of many FinServ leaders about the need to fund customer experience initiatives. As the competition from FinTech firms heats up, challenger banks become more established and traditional competitors begin to invest in technology solutions, CX will become a key differentiator when it comes to retaining your customers.

Would a customer accept a subpar experience on a social networking site? Would somebody use a very frustrating dating app? Why would they accept poor CX from their financial service providers?

4. Customer Experience Excellence: Perception Vs. Reality

CX Excellence: Perception v. Reality

These graphs really jump off the page for a few reasons. They are so telling of the systematic customer experience issues FinServ has. Over half of retail banks and wealth management firms believe that they provide an excellent customer experience. The issue is that their customers don’t agree.

It appears that leaders in financial services may have missed the mark on their customer experience estimates. Perhaps, the research process needs to be slightly tweaked. How can a firm over-estimate how good an experience they provide by 27%? That doesn’t even begin to approach the 41% overestimation by wealth management professionals. The answers by financial service professionals to this question call for financial institutions to take another look at these problems. 

These graphs show that leaders in financial services need to communicate with their customers better. They show that leaders in FinServ need to put more resources towards understanding their customers. Without putting the effort towards understanding your customers, you will be unable to serve them in a way that meets their needs.

This large a gap cannot be logically explained. Talk with your customers, ask them how satisfied they are with the CX you provide, engage with them. Not only will they appreciate it, but you can begin to bridge the CX gap from a realistic starting point.   

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This is the end of part one of our two-part series examining customer experience through graphs by the Financial Brand. Did you find any of these insights surprising? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ. Next, we will be publishing part two, which contains insight into how banks plan on adapting to improve CX.

Being Yourself: Why Brand Personification Increases Customer Engagement

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“Over the last twenty years, with the way technology has gone, there has been a lack of connection between brands and their customers. At the same time, social networks have become ubiquitous in everyday life. These social networks have stepped up, and are now the biggest way in which people stay connected. This means that brands need to find ways to connect with people using technology. That’s where personification comes in, it makes it possible to build that connection between a brand and a customer online.” – Marc Lamoureux

Brand personification is one of the biggest trends in digital marketing today. Seemingly every brand, from StubHub and Disney, to boutique B2B operations have been trying to figure out how they can more effectively personify their brand and engagements. To research the subject, I sat down with Veriday’s CEO, Marc Lamoureux, who has been working with companies who are looking to improve customer engagement using personal and scalable solutions.

When we think of a person, what do we think of? Naturally, we think of demographic descriptors to describe that person. Similarly, just as a person will have certain characteristics that define them, so will a brand.  

Why is this important? Because consumers are more likely to identify and stay loyal with brands that closely resemble themselves in terms of personality. So, how can we build our brand to connect our values and goals with those of our customers while having valuable conversations with them? This is where brand personification comes in.

What is Brand Personification?

Brand personification is a projective technique where people think about brands as if they were people, and describe how they would think and feel. Research suggests that personifying a brand and giving the brand distinct human qualities will help people connect better with the company. Similar to human relationships, this more personal connection can lead to a dialogue, and ultimately the formation of a loyal relationship.

When personifying your brand, you should focus on authenticity, painting an accurate picture of what you and your business represent. If you force characteristics on yourself that simply aren’t present in the organization, people will notice. Instead of forcing those characteristics on yourself, leverage your team to help tell stories that accurately reflect your brand and company culture.

Marketingwise, the goal of brand personification is to better connect your brand with values, goals, and customers. 66% of all customers want human interaction in their experiences.  In retail banking, fully engaged customers bring in 37% more annual revenue. It is clear that engaged customers are better customers, so it’s important to get to know our customers, and engage them in a personal way.

Challenges with Brand Personification

Brand personification has its challenges, especially in highly regulated sectors such as finance. As a dealer-broker or a financial advisor, you need to be aware of compliance rules and regulations, including how your brand and messaging fits in with those rules. For example, under FINRA, you must keep a record of all communications. While it is still possible to personify your brand under FINRA, you must be careful to maintain records of every single communication. Marc added:

“One of the perceived challenges of expanding your marketing programs and personifying your brand, through your people, is that it creates a really expensive burden on compliance reviews. In some sectors the burden is larger than in others. Regulators are asking financial service companies to vet every piece of content that is distributed to the public.”

While there are ways to streamline compliance challenges, it is still an inefficiency that needs to be dealt with at some point if you want to get your brand personification efforts off the ground.

The backlash it can cause is another concern regarding brand personification. In a study by Oregon State University, it was found that brands that have been “humanized” will often be held to higher standards than non-humanized brands. The study found that when something went wrong, humanized brands were seen as doing it on purpose.

These issues and concerns need to be taken into consideration when creating a personification strategy. However, If done carefully and effectively, humanizing your brand will increase customer engagement, loyalty, and retention.

How do Customers Respond?

In general, customers respond positively to brand personification. Human-to-human interaction is well received in a world that has become more and more automated and transactional, with technology solutions replacing human interactions.

Humanized branding allows brands to start a conversation with customers. Instead of strict, on-brand propaganda, starting a conversation can put a brand in a more favorable light. A brand that has engaged in personification has the opportunity to be seen as a friend, or at very least a member of the community, as opposed to being viewed as a faceless monolith. Consumers are naturally attracted to humanized brands that they can connect with. You can attract consumers to your business by having similar personalities, values, characteristics or beliefs to them.

In today’s competitive landscape, this extra opportunity to connect and engage with your customers is needed. Social media means that there is constantly a conversation happening online, and you need to be a part of it. If you aren’t there to tell stories about your brand and culture, to many you won’t exist.

Giving your brand human qualities helps you participate in the online conversation. Find your community, the group of people that you wish to do business with, and take part in their conversations. If your brand becomes a reliable and valuable information source for your community, they will grow to trust you.

Building the trust, nurturing the relationship and becoming part of the community can take some time. It is important to remember that social interactions can drive other behaviours. The work involved with developing authentic relationships with the community will pay off down the road.

What Benefits Does Brand Personification Bring?

Your business can see many tangible benefits by personifying your brand, as long as you do it authentically. Here are some ways in which personification can benefit your brand:

  1. Associates real people with your business.
    • Consumers prefer interactions where a real person is on the other end of the conversation.
  2. Differentiates yourself from the competition.

    • People tend to have positive associations with brands that were consistent with their own identity.
    • Your niche is more likely to do business with you if your brand has similar convictions as them.
  3. Aggregate strengths of real people to your brand.
    • Use the skills and personalities of your team to create a well-rounded brand persona.
    • Your brand can have all the skills and traits of your team.

Personifying Your Brand In Financial Services

In financial services, customers don’t want a 100% transactional relationship. There was a time when everybody knew the names of their bankers at their local bank. Today, this type of relationship with our customers is far less common. As technologies such as ATMs, telephone, online and mobile banking has become ubiquitous, relationships with customers have become less personal, less valuable, and less engaging than they once were. Technology has been putting the industry at risk of becoming too transactional, with a lack of humanization. Due to the sensitive and complex nature of the relationship, customers need to be able to trust their FinServ provider.

The only way to build relationships with customers (and potential customers) is by engaging with them in personal, relevant, and valuable ways. Connect to customers using your people and give your business a personality.

The only major difference in implementing brand personification techniques for financial services is the compliance aspect of it, which can be overcome using specific solutions in the marketplace.

Marc had a great anecdote to summarize brand personification when he said:

“Would you be more likely to engage with Facebook.com (the website) or engage with your friends on Facebook? We view brand personification as invoking the same strategy. A customer is more likely to engage with their friends or real people than a brand that they don’t know.”

The whole idea of personifying (or humanizing) your brand, is to gain that connection that used to be very common in all types of commerce. Back when the social relationship between two parties drove loyalty. Personifying your brand is a strategy for you to be seen as “the friendly neighbourhood RIA” or “the insurance broker down the street”.

What efforts have you gone through to personify your brand? Were those efforts worth it? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ. What topics do you want to learn more about? Let us know and we will take your suggestions into account.

Three Digital Transformation Lessons Financial Services Can Learn From Other Industries

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This post was authored by Christine Reyes and originally appeared here on Liferay.com


It’s no secret that digital transformation is a necessity for long-term, traditional players in business, if they want to stay relevant to consumers. In a recent study of financial service leaders, 49% of respondents stated they were roughly halfway through digital transformation, and an additional 37% were in early stages. The fact that so many leaders are making inroads in digital innovation is a good sign for financial services. It means that they’re paying attention and preparing for any coming disruption.

However, being “roughly halfway” through digital transformation means that FSI still has a long way to go. The numbers around customer experience improvement efforts hint at some of the remaining obstacles in transformation. Of those surveyed, 55% are currently working on coordinating their customer experience across channels, and 36% are gearing up to begin this work.

This means that, except for a few leaders and laggards, financial services are in the middle of redesigning their customer experience or about to start. In order to sustain this great momentum and not get stuck, FSI should look to examples from other industries that are farther along in the transformation process.

Here are three lessons from the retail and food industries to help financial services carry digital innovation into customer experience.

Three Digital Transformation Lessons Financial Services Can Learn From Other Industries

Lesson One: Pay attention to micro-moments

Google has identified different kinds of micro-moments, which it defines as “moments that decisions are made and preferences are shaped.” One fun example of this from the food industry is Taco Bell’s TacoBot. It integrates with Slack so that you can order food through an instant message. Since Slack is primarily used as a work tool, this is an innovative way to capture the moments when hunger is setting in during the work day.

Or take, for example, what Google calls I-want-to-know and I-want-to-go moments. Consumers are searching for information on their mobile phones the moment a question occurs to them, and searches that include “near me” have doubled in the past year. Banks could take advantage of this through mobile apps that use geo-location to let customers know that they are nearby and available to help with any financial questions they have.

Lesson Two: Find technology that makes brick and mortar stand out

With the rapid rise of IoT gadgets and VR technology, retail companies have to be brutal about which digital trends are worth pursuing and which will fade away. The point of coordinating customer experience across digital and physical environments is to “help the physical, brick and mortar, three-dimensional retail environment distinguish itself from an online experience,” according to a recent article on Forbes. Currently, consumers still depend on in-person interactions for many of their finance needs. Financial services companies need to establish processes for evaluating technology that enable them to both boost their digital channels, as well as redesign their physical locations so that all touchpoints are seamless, easy to use and valuable for their customers.

Lesson Three: Culture is hard to change

People don’t like it when things change. In 2011, JCPenney launched a digital initiative that failed spectacularly, leading some to conclude that its digital strategy was flawed. But when you look at the department store today, they’ve implemented many of the digital initiatives that were attempted five years ago. This suggests that the obstacles they faced were about people and culture, not technology or strategy. See this recent interview with Lance Thornswood, the Senior Director of JCPenney’s omnichannel digital platform. He states that, even when initiatives were successful, trying to create a new work culture “pushed people so outside their comfort zones that the natural tendency was to snap back to the old ways.” He goes on to say that seeking consensus within the company leads to risk-aversion and stops innovation in its tracks. Instead, executives should empower their employees to pursue new ideas that they really believe in. This creates a more optimistic culture that doesn’t condition employees to say “no” to risk. Financial service leaders need to be aware of the resistance to change within their own companies and find ways to guide their employees through the transition.

Final Takeaway

There’s one more thing that financial service leaders can take from the final JCPenney example: it’s not too late to change. Even if your company is stalled on digital transformation and customer experience improvement, it might not be too late to recover. It will take time and coordination across your organization, but hopefully these lessons from those who’ve been there will inspire you to keep pressing forward.

FinTech Trends and the Response from Traditional Financial Services: Part 2

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This series takes an in depth look at the report “Blurred Lines: how Fintech is Shaping Financial Services”.  For an intro on the topic, check out part 1 of the series before reading on. Part 2 will examine the future of FinTech and what strategies financial service providers should use to counter FinTech.

There’s a definite disruption. So, what are the exact risks?

There was a time when physical video rentals or purchases were the only way for people to watch movies from the comfort of their own home. As technology progressed, these physical video outlets didn’t take the steps needed to counteract the disruption from newer video streaming companies. Slowly but surely, the newer technologies gained market share and won over the mass consumer market to the point that outlets that rely solely on physical videos are just not sustainable.

Similarly, the risks are clear in the financial services industry. 23% of financial services business is at risk of being lost to other FinTech options. That means 1 in 4 services offered by most financial service companies will end up being taken over by standalone, independent FinTech companies. The services at risk of being lost to standalone FinTech companies within the next five years are shown in the graph below.

FinTech Trends and the Response in Traditional FinServe: Part 2

The pressure is being felt within the sector with 2 out of 3 companies believing that FinTech will cause pressure on their own margin in the next 5 years, with 59% believing that they will also lose market share to FinTech firms. Both of these threats can be attributed to FinTech offering high-tech options for basic and convenient financial tasks. The high-tech options are often leaner, carrying fewer overhead costs, which, in turn, allows for the service to be offered at a lower rate. That cost reduction is passed down to the consumer, lowering traditional financial institutions market share and putting pressure on the margins of traditional financial institutions.

However, it isn’t bleak as it seems. There are opportunities related to the rise of FinTech. If a traditional financial service provider is willing to adapt and pivot into the future the risks discussed above can be turned into competitive advantages and lead to improved customer retention through simplification of processes, reducing inefficiencies, and innovation.

What are some strategies?

Integration – if you can’t beat them, join them. 60% of survey respondents in the financial services industry agree that FinTech should be put in the heart of their strategies and 78% of CEOs believe the same. However, there is quite a disconnect between the beliefs expressed and actions taken towards integration.

While 84% of the fund transfer and payment sector believe that FinTech has been put at the heart of their organization’s strategy only 56% of banks, 45% of AM & WM sector, and 44% of insurance sector have put FinTech in the heart of their strategy. All of these figures fall well below what the average respondent believes should be done towards integrating FinTech into the company’s strategy.

The first strategy involves developing a “mobile-first” approach. This strategy has grown in popularity because the majority of the financial service providers believe that up to 60% of their clients will use a mobile application to manage or transfer their finances. Currently, 53% of the industry has a mobile application and 18% of firms in the industry have an app in development. It seems this has become a standard strategy to combat the evolving landscape caused by FinTech.

A second strategy involves collaborating with FinTech companies and integrating the FinTech systems into their own organization. There are many ways this could happen, with acquisition of the whole company, internal R&D, or a joint partnership. All of these have their own pros and cons, which is more of a business problem – but the end goal remains the same.

Since developing a “mobile-first” approach and bringing FinTech thinking into your own organization are the two predominant strategies, many financial service providers have made strides towards modernizing their systems. Other potential strategies to combat the ever-shifting landscape caused by FinTech companies involve altering organizational structure, however, for this strategy to succeed many factors such as talent innovation and luck must be present and the organization must be flexible.

The overall strategies fall in line with the mentality of “if you can’t beat them, join them” because the amount of business FinTech can disrupt is fairly high. Getting ahead of the curve in terms of new and emerging technology is the crucial step in dampening the disruption.

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These strategies will become more mainstream as late adopters to FinTech get out competed and the industry matures. However, for the time being these strategies are the only way financial institutions can retain margins against the competition that is FinTech.

How Will the Industry Respond to Trends In FinTech?

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In this series of articles, We’ll be taking an in depth look at the report “Blurred Lines: how Fintech is Shaping Financial Services”. Due to the size of this report, each article will be broken down into sections based on 3 industries – banking, wealth management, and insurance. This article will focus on what exact risks and opportunities arise due to the disruption and how to counteract the disruption that FinTech is causing. .

What is the FinServ industry doing for the disruption?

From the inside of the industry, FinTech appears to be affecting a broad range of financial services. Although, the companies specializing in certain aspects of financial services believe that consumer banking and fund transfer and payments will be disrupted in the next 5 years. The graph below shows the results of the survey.

How is the current Financial Services Industry Responding to a Growing Trend In FinTech? Part 1The recent development of online banking platforms has greatly impacted consumer banking and fund transfers. Purely online banks, or banks with fewer physical branches, have begun to gain popularity due to the added value that is convenience. As an organic development from online banking, the technology to safely transfer funds and pay bills online has been developed.

There is also a high level of disruption in the insurance and asset management sector. 74% of insurers and 51% of asset managers believe that FinTech is going to cause disruption in their sector over the next 5 years. At the same time, outsiders believe that FinTech will disrupt those industries significantly less, signalling that there is industry knowledge of upcoming developments that hasn’t been diffused yet. The graph below shows the divide between industry insiders and outsiders.

How is the current Financial Services Industry Responding to a Growing Trend In FinTech? Part 1

What is the main cause? Digital experience. Clients are used to the experience other digital giants give, such as Google, Amazon, or Facebook, and they expect the same level of customer and digital experience from their financial service provider.

75% of respondents said that FinTech has made an impact on meeting changing customer needs and 51% said it has also made an impact on leveraging existing data and analytics. If these items were not on the to-do list for a company in the financial service industry, they sure are now – thanks to FinTech.

What are the members of the financial service industry going to do to counter the disruption?

  1. Banks are going for a renewed digital customer experience

The most important response from this sector is to implement solutions that banks can easily integrate or incorporate to improve and simplify solutions. Meaning, processes that increase customer experience just by reducing the amount of steps to perform an action or making it easier to do that action. The next biggest response is to move toward non-physical or virtual channels. While a portion of the consumers prefer a physical approach, banks must have virtual channels to compete with the changing industry.

  1. Fund transfer and payment priorities are security and increased ease of payment

The fund transfer and payments industry’s response to emerging FinTech trends included: creating advanced tools and technology to protect consumers from identity theft, fraud, and account falsification. This response isn’t necessarily one that could combat the emerging FinTech options, but it adds to the current value proposition. Since the existing companies specializing in fund transfer and payments have created a brand and acquired trust with their consumers, they only need to offer better value in comparison to the new FinTech companies. In addition to developing a more secure method of online payment and transfer, increasing speed of transfers in another common step to take in this industry.

  1. Asset and wealth management shifts from technology-enabled human advice to human-supported technology-driven advice

This industry will respond by improving data analytics to better identify and quantify risk and increased automation of asset allocation. The responses, however, will be leveraged with a human touch that can interpret the data and offer personalized solutions that fully automated solutions can’t.

  1. Insurers leverage data and analytics to bring personalised value propositions while proactively managing risk

Much like banks, the most important response the insurance industry will have is an emphasis on self-directed services. The increase in convenience increases customer experience as they are able to access all the information through an online portal. It can allow them to make claims, see their coverage, or access important documents. The next biggest thing is to differentiate their services by offering a usage-based insurance. As underwriting changes and technology becomes more advanced, the math behind underwriting can allow for more complex plans that allow for this. Usage-based coverage is another example of established brand to create and underwrite a complex solution.

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Developments in FinTech are causing financial service providers to move forward and innovate towards a better consumer experience. Part 2 will examine the future of FinTech and what strategies financial service providers should use to counter FinTech.

How Technology Can Help the Customer Journey for High Net Worth Individuals

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The customer journey, like much of the 21st century, has changed to include more technological aspects. Digital advertising and “Googling” are a couple examples of technology that have changed the customer journey for the masses.  They have made it easier to entice a potential customer to you through the awareness and decision phase through advertising and easily accessible information. Narrowing the customer journey down to High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI), you start to get a sense of how technology has impacted their consumer journey – which may or may not differ from the mass consumer market.

In a recent study conducted by LinkedIn and Greenwich Associates, it broke down the customer journey into 5 phases: awareness, consideration and selection, onboarding and action planning, network development, and keeping the relationship alive. In this article, we’ll take a look at technology’s impact on each step and interpret the data.

AWARENESS

In this phase, the client has to be aware of the wealth manager. Even though technology has added many different channels where you can reach out to potential clients, recommendations from family or friends remains one of the top ways that a HNWI would choose an advisor.

Once HNW clients are made aware, it can be difficult to acquire them since nearly 2/3 have had their wealth manager for over 5 years and have built up trust with them. Although, 2 out of 5 Millennials and over ¼ of Generation X plan to switch their wealth manager in the next 12 months. The change in wealth manager may not necessarily be because of higher returns, but could be due to service, engagement, and readiness to try something new. A chart with the exact percentages of whether or not each demographic plans to change their wealth manager is given below.

 

plantochangewealthmanagers

The awareness phase is still fairly traditional since technology has not beaten word of mouth recommendations from trusted individuals. It has, however, opened up the opportunity to acquire clients that were not fully satisfied with their past manager – mainly within the millennial demographic.

 

CONSIDERATION & SELECTION

The consideration and selection is the phase where the client would engage in research to determine which investor best suits them. A personal touch (mainly word-of-mouth) still exists in this phase as 1/2 of HNWIs look to family and friends for evaluations, and over 2/3 base their evaluations on face-to-face interactions.

Even though personal metrics, such as a face-to-face meetings or recommendations, play a part, the manager has to use all the tools available to stand out in this market. This includes developing their digital presence. This is because 1/3 of HNW Millennials use social media profiles of potential wealth advisors as their evaluation process. Half of HNW Millennials look at an advisor’s posts on social media. The need for social media drops significantly with older generations, but it is offset since clients with a net worth of over $10 million determine it as being important.

importance_useofsocialmedia

 

In terms of robo-investing, only 3% of HNWIs interviewed say robo-investing factor into their decision. The use of robo-investors has been limited to more routine, typical strategies while wealth managers are used for more unique and complex strategies.

In the consideration phase, HNWI’s preference for technology increased slightly. This is mainly to assist the individuals that want to research on their own. Although, the importance of a social media presence increases with the younger generation and with individuals with more investable assets. This importance, with the younger generation, is most likely due to their familiarity and the importance they place on social media in their personal lives. For the individuals with the highest investable assets, it is most likely due to their due diligence as they have much more on the line.

 

ONBOARDING AND ACTION PLANNING

Once a wealth manager is selected, the path and action plan moving forward has to be decided. To determine this action plan, an in-person meeting is still the preference for most demographics. However, a shift occurred in the Millennial demographic as only 40% met with their advisor in person to make an investment plan. One-third took a self-directed approach by using their manager’s website to research options. This change suggests that Millennials are more open to engaging differently or are more prone to use self-service options.

Another part of this phase is the transaction. Based on the respondents, 85% of HNWI believe that wealth managers should use technology. This would mean anything from making the transaction online or easier due to technology.

A key trend we can see, as we move along the phases, is that the importance of technology grows as the journey progresses. There’s a noticeable increase in the want for technology in the onboarding and action-planning phase. More specifically, technologies that make researching, communicating, and the transaction simpler and more convenient were more preferred in this stage. Unsurprisingly, Millennials see technology as an important part of the later parts of the journey.

 

NETWORK DEVELOPMENT

Millennials, Generation X, and individuals with the highest amount of assets find it really important to compare investment strategies with like-minded peers – as seen in the figure below. These conversations are extending to online platforms, such as social media. These are less of a threat and more of a community-fostering tool. This allows a community to come together and offer advice and foster goodwill for the advisor as well. Since personal recommendations are still very important in the beginning of the customer journey, this type of goodwill is very important.

importance_comparing_investments

 

For the network development phase, building a social presence, or an online community, is one of the key creators of goodwill to assist the wealth manager in acquiring more HNWIs. In this phase, technology becomes quite important to promote a conversation that will extend past physical meetings.

 

KEEPING THE RELATIONSHIP ALIVE

6% of all HNWIs expressed the desire for daily contact, while 60% wanted contact on monthly basis, at most. Although, 15% of Millennials want daily contact with their advisor when the markets get rocky. This could be a result of the vast amount of information that Millennials are exposed to leading to them wanting more filtered information from the advisor. Email remains the preferred method of contact; but Millennials showed their interest for different communication methods, such as apps. In terms of social media, LinkedIn and Facebook were the most used platform for financial planning.

Looking broadly, most HNWI prefer periodic contact through technology. It is best to group different demographics into their contact preferences and send market updates accordingly. In general, the younger demographic prefer more updates (through email or social media) in down times, but few updates otherwise. The older demographic of HNWI, however, is content with few updates through any market condition.

 


 

Overall, the customer journey for HNWI hasn’t changed much in the beginning phases. Word of mouth recommendations and evaluations trump many other aspects in the awareness and selection phase. However, the prevalence and importance of technology is growing in the later stages. Most notably, technology is used in parts of the journey to make things more convenient; such as, improving the transaction portion of the action plan phase, networking, and offering a more convenient platform to communicate periodically.

The best possible way to adjust to this shift in preferences is to deploy a high tech and high touch strategy. This means a blend of personal human interaction and technology to cover the different wants and needs of each demographic. A good base strategy includes offering real time communications during volatile times and limiting contact other times, creating groups or an online community, and using your client’s social media, by seeding content, to gain valuable referrals.

15 Inspirational Customer Experience Quotes that Relate to Business

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In today’s digital landscape, a great customer experience is crucial. Customers have the power to choose between competing companies with a simple Google search. As Doug Warmer, former chairman of the board of J.P. Morgan & Co said, “it’s important to remember that your competitor is only one mouse click away.”

Given that it costs 6 or 7 times more to attract a new customer than to retain a new one, customer experience is more important than ever. On top of that, consumers are 2 times more likely to share their bad customer service experiences than they are to talk about positive experiences. Research also suggests that it takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative one.

Providing a great customer experience has always been important – and always will be. However, the Internet has made an effective customer experience a major competitive advantage for any business. The connected, happy, and loyal customer has more power in today’s market than ever before.

There are many statistics out there speaking to the effects of poor customer experience on a business. Although statistics are part of the story, sometimes, greater insights come from quotes. There is certainly no shortage of inspirational quotes out there, but I’ve compiled some of my favourite quotes relating to customer experience. Here are 15 inspiring quotes that any business can relate to:

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” ~Bill Gates

“Trust: The reputation of a thousand years may be undermined by the conduct of one hour.” ~Japenese Proverb

“As you’ve noticed, people don’t want to be sold. What people do want is news and information about the things they care about.” ~Larry Weber

 “It is not your customer’s job to remember you, it is your obligation and responsibility to make sure they don’t have the chance to forget you. ~Patricia Fripp

“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6000 friends.” ~Jeff Bezos

 “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” ~Steve Jobs

 “Innovation needs to be part of your culture. Customers are transforming faster than we are, and if we don’t catch up, we’re in trouble.” ~Ian Schafer

“Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than trying to solve them. ” ~Henry Ford

 “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” ~Seth Godin

 Customers may forget what you said but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” ~Unknown

“Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.” ~Chip Bell

“Here is a simple but powerful rule: always give people more than what they expect to get.” ~Nelson Boswell

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” ~Roger Staubach

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.” ~Steve Jobs

I thought it was fitting to finish off with the following quote by Jerry Gregoire, “The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.” By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Customers have more power and choice than ever before, and if they don’t like the experience they have with you, they will leave, with little chance of returning.

What are some of your favourite customer experience and engagement quotes? We’d love to hear them.