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Christopher Kollat,Country Manager UK&I, Marketing Applications,Teradata

It’s no secret that the growth in customer channels and the resulting data explosion has brought both opportunities and challenges for all brands. According to Forrester Research, 88% of people doing online banking are now using two or more channels to interact with their banks each year. Clearly customer touchpoints have increased and so have consumers’ expectations in terms of the type of experience and service they want to receive. With so much information being generated on customer preferences every day, there seems no reason for brands to be unable to meet individual needs and successfully deliver a highly targeted and tailored service and experience.

Christopher Kollat
Christopher Kollat

That said, whilst it’s a topic on everyone’s mind, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an area that everyone is excelling at. The finance sector in particular has much to gain and yet a long way to go. Forrester Research has highlighted the growing trend towards multi-channel banking; consumers are no longer as cautious about interacting with their banks via mobile or online as they once were, and banks should react and adapt to this. According to the research, over half (58%) of those consumers who are researching online ahead of a purchase, are going on to purchase online using a mobile phone or tablet computer, whilst 56% are purchasing online via a desktop or laptop. In contrast, only 19% are going to make the purchase in a branch, following online research. Customer behaviour and habits are changing. Relying on data collection in branch is no longer enough to achieve an accurate view of the customer; any bank hoping to build a customer relationship based solely on this will fail at the first hurdle.

As with sectors like retail and travel, investment in the correct technology and tools that will enable the financial sector to use data-driven insights to build a better relationship with customers, will encourage longer term loyalty.

The introduction of the current account switch service last September, designed to make it easier and less time-consuming for people to move bank accounts, should have provided a stern call to action for banks to ensure they are placing the customer first, more than ever before. The obstacles once associated with trying to change banks, which previously provided banks with the reassurance that they would maintain the majority of their customer base, have now been removed. It has therefore never been easier for customers to embark on new banking relationships. Those banks that aren’t making the most of the technology available to maintain engagement with customers and generate greater opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of them will quickly find themselves losing out to a competitor, who has taken time to invest in the relationship.

So, how can banks ensure they are meeting the needs of the customer to go beyond the standard and what are the systems available to help drive greater interaction and loyalty?

Automation is a key area of focus that can enhance and tailor the content being sent to the customer inbox and allow a brand to adapt to the ever-changing landscape, in real time. This is crucial to keeping up to speed with the rapidly evolving preferences of a customer. The interaction with a customer will only be deemed effective if the content is relevant to them at that moment in time. Inboxes are overcrowded and competitive; anything less than targeted and the brand will simply be wasting time and money on something that is likely to be deleted, unopened. Banks should be looking for continuous opportunities to remind the customer of the relationship, be responding to interaction in real time, and be looking for ways to build on customer relationships further.

For this to be truly successful there must be investment and interrogation of the data available. Pulling the customer data from all resources is crucial and with banking becoming far more digitalised, there has never been a better time to gain a single customer view. The rise of the cloud has significantly increased the amount and type of data that can be stored about products, customer preferences, and customer behaviour. The data is only valuable if the systems are in place to collate it, as it’s this that enables brands to identify groups and build targeted, personalised emails. A successful email campaign will use all available customer data to craft messages that contain relevant and highly personalised content in a desired form, which is sent out to customers at a desired time, without any need for increased personnel. Achieve this, and banks will see a far greater customer retention rate and create more opportunities to gather further insights that can be reinvested in the future.

Investing in the correct technology is the first step for banks hoping to take the market share of customers, but equally important is the tracking, evaluation, refining and improvement that follows. With the pace of change showing no signs of slowing, customer needs are never static and brands should not be either. They should be continually looking for ways to improve the service being delivered. Whilst this may require initial resource investment behind it, the gains to be made are vast and worthwhile in the long-term. Understanding why a customer may not be opening an email, their motivations for clicking on certain preferences or checking online statements, for example, the factors affecting a drop-out along a credit application journey and the overall key “moments of truth” customers truly care about, are all part of making the experience better for the customer and more profitable for the brand. It’s this knowledge that will ensure campaigns are fully optimised, which will in turn see customers more willing to share deeper insight data in the future.

Achieving a single customer view is now critical, no matter what sector. The data insights are available, so there’s no excuse not to use them. For the banking sector this has become imperative if they are going to remain competitive and keep hold of customers successfully. Any interaction with a customer should be viewed as an opportunity to create a deeper engagement with them and could be the difference between making the sale, retaining the account, or not. The day of the blanket email has long gone. Good email marketing is increasingly dependent on the ability to store and manipulate customer data – a huge area of opportunity that cloud technology can help achieve. Data is no longer enough. It’s going beyond this to ensure the systems and engagement processes are in place that will enable banks to see the true value that data-driven insights can deliver – and most importantly – place them ahead of their competitors.