Using data to anticipate client needs

James Eardley, Global Director, Industry Marketing, SAP Customer Experience 

Once upon a time, the bank branch was king, and in those days of yore, bankers really knew their customers.  Not just as customers, but as people who lived in their communities and shared many of the same experiences as the bankers themselves. When they talked about banking, there was trust that the banker would propose the optimum offer based on everything he or she knew about that customer. Every interaction was personal, exchanged in the context of the moment. It was engaging and in real-time. Life was simple, the products few and the process straightforward.

But competition and the corresponding need to deliver cost efficient services began to change the way customers interacted with their banks. Branch interactions gave way to ATMs, call centres and telephony. The internet gave rise to online, email and mobile banking. Products became more numerous and sophisticated and were measured by their own P&Ls. Somewhere along the way it became less about the customer and more about the efficiency and the numbers.

Now, in the era of Digital the banking world has changed again. And in that world data rules.

Bankers simply cannot change the reality that in-person banking has drastically declined, and they cannot expect their employees to recognise the faces that come through the door since they rarely see them.  “Knowing” customers and providing a more personalised experience can only be accomplished through data and the ability to leverage that data in real-time.

Complicating that approach is the General Data Protection Regulation, and the increasing customer savviness about the uses surrounding personal data. Banks must now make sure they collect information that is appropriate and relevant and have the customer’s consent to do so.

So while data may rule, customer trust reigns and banks that are able to earn the customer’s trust/permission to capture and maintain their personal data will dominate as they will have a better understanding of their customer and be able to deliver more timely and more relevant offers and in the process capture a higher percentage of customer wallet share.

Meeting changing customer expectations

Taking their cue from digital experiences in other industries, customers now expect a more personalised and engaging banking experience centred on them. In the world of digital banking, sales processes or journeys are increasingly being dictated by the customer, and the idea of a linear sales process is an illusion confirmed by actual customer behaviour. Multiple touch-points across multiple channels inside and outside the bank lead customers on individual and unique journeys each and every time they interact with the bank. At each waypoint, customers now expect added value that is personal and relevant, taking into account not only hard data but also lifestyle.

Customers want their banks to understand them, to provide solutions tailored to them and to speak to them in a voice that is for them alone. This requires a transformation of the current product centric experience into a customer centric one that adds value and is consistent across channels.

The power of anticipating client needs

Customer-centric banks are those that provide a service that is smart, cognitive, helpful and delightful– something which is very hard to do in banking, considering that this is a very low engagement category in business.

New technologies can make this an easier feat. They allow banks to mine, aggregate and analyse huge volumes of customer data, structured and unstructured, in real-time. By implementing predictive analytics technology, banks are able to predict and satisfy customer needs, in some cases even before the customers know they have them. Banks can also draw data continuously, enabling them to achieve an in-depth understanding of each customer’s behaviour patterns.

Banks can then become trusted advisors capable of proactively warning customers ahead of time that they may need a credit product, for example, or that there may be an opportunity for a savings product – and then providing them the product they need at exactly the right time.  Using enhanced customer data, banks are even able to price products and services for the individual, and can negotiate that price in real time, taking personalisation to the ultimate level. As a result, the entire service model feels generous, warm and incredibly personal.

 Building trust paves the way for customer loyalty

The keystone to every successful relationship is trust. As demonstrated in The 2017 SAP Hybris Global Consumer Insights Report, people need to feel like they can trust the person or entity they buy from or interact with, which is why banks need to ensure there is no room for error when it comes to providing the best customer experience.The key is to put the customer first and align their organisational structure, technology and internal processes accordingly.

It is up to banks to prove themselves worthy of a trusting relationship with their customers by collecting and using data responsibly and transparently. They should also reward this trust by offering value-added experiences at all points of the customer journey, such as apps which give a full picture of a customer’s financial life in a way that is meaningful to them (categorising their spend, suggesting ways to reduce spend/save more), SMS and push notification services to warn of payments that will breach limits, and location– based notifications near airports advising on exchange rates and card protection when abroad.

With perfect execution across all touchpoints, comes perfect customer engagement. In a customer-driven world, consistent execution is the first step in creating a wholly personalised experience. In an industry known for being conservative, now is the time for to step up and own digital, to think big and take risks, before being left behind permanently in an ever-changing digital marketplace.

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