Companies increasingly interact with customers in a low-touch digital environment that places a premium on the online customer experience. Whether it’s via their laptop, tablet, or mobile device, consumers are using the Internet to access their existing accounts and research other potential solutions.
Consider how this plays out for financial institutions. Banking products, investment options, and insurance offerings are no longer sold predominately through advisors or branches, but instead in an online marketplace that features fierce competition and easy access to a wide range of financial providers. As a result, financial organizations are under intense pressure to develop a personalized online experience that not only improves user engagement, but also drives customer acquisition, retention, and cross-selling. The type of experience that requires firms to leverage in real time everything they know about a particular customer across multiple systems and sources. The type of experience that requires what analyst firms like IDC and Forrester refer to as unified information access (UIA).
The growing online trend, coupled with the proliferation of social media, makes it extremely challenging to aggregate all of the information required to build an intimate customer relationship. Multiple formats, disparate sources, and legacy applications further complicate the issue and create complex data silos. It’s a challenge to integrate, correlate, and analyze structured data like account and transaction information, semi-structured data like click-stream data that gives you insight into customer behavior and interests, and unstructured content like text in chat with online customer service, emails, customer documents, and social media. However, where some marketers see an overwhelming mountain of structured data and unstructured content, others see a tremendous opportunity to better understand their clients, enrich the user experience, and drive business results.
That opportunity is customer experience management. Excellence in CEM is directly tied to strong business performance. Consequently, marketing’s ability to create highly targeted campaigns based on interests, transaction history, demographics, and behavioral analytics is no longer a “nice to have,” but a core capability required to survive in today’s marketplace. And for those who feel that this intense emphasis on CEM is exaggerated: They’re wrong. Again, consider financial services: The current low-rate, low-return environment makes it increasingly difficult for financial firms to differentiate themselves from a product perspective. As result, it’s more important than ever for banking, investment, and insurance firms to find other ways to differentiate from the competition, making online CEM a critical component of every firm’s strategy.
Fortunately, new technologies can help organizations identify, integrate, and correlate all of their customer information. These include technology that provides text analytics, sentiment analysis, advanced recommendations and personalized landing pages; that enables a firm to anticipate client needs and provide a one-to-one customer experience; that supports unified information access.
Consider the following story as an example of what’s possible.
Meet Jessica – UIA in action
Jessica is the ideal first-time customer for a financial institution. She’s young, educated, employed, and beginning to establish life-long financial relationships. Jessica’s new job has taken her to Chicago. She had a bank account during college, but that organization doesn’t have any branches in the area, so she needs new options. Jessica goes to the Duke University alumni site, which helps students relocate after school. Once there, she finds a directory of banks in Chicago and clicks on a promotion for Bank of the North BasicPlus Checking.
At this point, Bank of the North collects two key pieces of information so it can better understand Jessica. First, the ad for BasicPlus Checking she clicked on indicates her product interest. Second, weblog and click-stream data reveal that Jessica is on the Duke University Alumni site and that she is using an IP address that belongs to an advertising agency in Chicago. Today’s unified information access platforms can ingest all this information and make it available to both users and applications in real-time. In this scenario, the UIA platform feeds Bank of the North’s content management system, which then uses the data to create a personalized experience for Jessica.
Jessica clicks on the promotion and arrives at the Bank of the North website, where she finds a fully optimized landing page that delivers relevant content based on what is known about her so far. The main graphic talks about BasicPlus Checking; highlighting its key benefits, which include no fees, no minimum balances, free direct deposit, overdraft protection, and mobile banking. The bank knows from experience that these benefits are the most popular among young professionals. Other products and services that appeal to Jessica’s demographic are also displayed; including the NorthCard cash back credit card, and the bank’s online bill pay capabilities. Additionally, because Bank of the North knows that Jessica is a recent college graduate, they immediately begin to upsell other services, such as how they can help customers pay off their student loans.
Finally, Bank of the North has a national affiliate program where customers receive discounts and special gifts from the bank’s partners. In Jessica’s case, they show two partners form the Chicago area – the Chicago Bulls and Goosefoot restaurant. Happy with the experience so far, Jessica opens a BasicPlus Checking Account and applies for the NorthCard. She immediately receives a thank-you email with tips on how to get started with her new checking account. The email also includes an offer to purchase two Bulls tickets for the price of one. Jessica takes advantage of the ticket offer and registers her NorthCard with FourSquare, which unlocks real-time mobile offers when she checks into events.
Using the data from Jessica’s credit card statement, along with the content from its marketing system, Bank of the North is aware that she took advantage of the Bulls offer. The marketing system also knows that Jessica has registered her NorthCard with FourSquare. The best part? All of this information is stored in the index that supports UIA, which does not require hardcoded connections to source data from disparate systems. So when Jessica arrives at the United Center to watch the Bulls take on the Pacers and checks in via FourSquare, she immediately receives a mobile text alert with information about where to pick up her free Bulls bag – courtesy of Bank of the North.
In this example, everything has clearly gone right. But it’s important to remember that Bank of the North’s customer experience management is what ensured that it went right.
The pressures to cultivate meaningful customer relationships are not unique to financial institutions, nor are shrinking margins and increasingly competitive business environment. Until recently, firms have been trying to address digital engagement with a series of disconnected point solutions, from campaign management and content optimization to CRMs and social media monitoring. But these just create new silos of information and isolated decisioning. To meet the challenge, agile institutions will apply unified information access to foster a new type of personalized online experience, capturing social feeds, historical, and other vastly different data types to create a roadmap that enables real-time, meaningful, one-to-one communications based on a tightly focused portrait of the customer.
Julio Gomez is GM of financial services at Attivio.