Delivering a Personalised Experience…for Thousands of Commercial Customers

By Mike Miller | 23 October 2015

When it comes to capital requests, customer experience is taking the lead as a key input to the go/no go decision. A shift from compliance and cost-cutting, budget seekers are now justifying spend based on a new set of criteria: Does this help us differentiate how we enable and engage with our customers?  Will this allow our customers to self-serve? Does this enhance our customer understanding, so we can better promote, sell, and serve?  

One theme at the heart of these discussions, and ultimately these decisions, is personalisation. Banks, and service providers in general for that matter, have clambered on to this theme which is largely being dictated by the customer. Customers expect their transactional providers to know them – how they behave, what they need, what they don’t want – and providers are eager to leverage those understandings to make life easier for their customers.  

Founded on the concept of enabling customers to take ownership of how and when they interact with their provider, self-service applications have a natural tie to personalisation. On the consumer front, the benefits are clear – enable your customers, reduce your costs. But it’s not as black and white for the complex business customer-provider relationships that have been years in the making and attribute millions in annual revenues. The struggle on the commercial front is how to deliver on this need for a personalised, self-service experience without jeopardising the personalised, advisory relationships that come with traditional relationship management.

For these highly transacting customers, personalisation comes down to having the right data at the right time in order to make better business decisions. While manual processes and legacy systems with siloed data and tools have served as band aids for giving some customers the data and reports they need, this approach has resulted in a very disjointed experience.

In tandem, supporting internal teams are spending a considerable amount of time gathering and delivering customer information. Creating monthly reports, responding to one-off customer requests, managing customer hierarchies, etc. leaves little to no time for actual analysis of that data. With incomplete insights and a lack of time to dig deeper, account teams often resort to focusing on a few key customers, leaving an abundance of low-hanging opportunities on the table. 

So how can a bank with five, ten or more core data systems efficiently deliver personalised experiences across thousands of commercial customers in a sustainable fashion, while also ensuring their internal teams are armed with the information required to enhance that experience?  

Here are a few best practices for rolling out a data-driven experience that has a healthy balance of personalisation for the customer and efficiency for the bank:  

  • Empower the customer: Self-service is now table stakes  

Although this may require a learning curve for some (as your teams have been doing some hand holding to fill the gaps), customers long for the day when they can have direct access to what they need, when they need it, and how they need it. Online applications have become second nature for most, given the amount of time we interact with them in both our personal and business lives. Digital, direct access is quickly moving from a request to an expectation – and banks must embrace this new channel of engagement or risk customer attrition to banks that deliver on this concept.

  • The more data the better: But some is better than none

The end goal is to have all data for each customer, spanning all products, systems, and geographies, accessible via a single source. And by single source, I’m not referring to a single core system or data warehouse – this is simply the source where the customer accesses the data (which is fed from any number of data feeds), such as the online application mentioned above. Banks are often gun shy in deploying access to a portion of data but it’s important to weigh this option against the alternatives. Ask your customers – most will validate this data roll-out approach is preferred to extending the timeframe of when customer access is granted.

  • Don’t over customise: Focus on the 95%, not the 5%

Although the adage of ‘one size fits all’ is contradictory to the consumer view of personalisation, a twist of ‘one size fits most’ definitely comes into play on the commercial side. Yes, there will always be a few customers who have very unique business needs when it comes to data and reporting, but the goal is to address the 95% of the needs that customers have in common. Avoid the rabbit holes, invest in a solution that is highly configurable (at segment and account levels), and listen to ALL of your customers – not just the squeaky wheels.

  • Allow for self-personalisation: Give customers options versus mandates

We could spend days, weeks or even months attempting to define the optimal customer experience but the reality is, it’s slightly different for every customer, for every individual user, and will continue to change with new generations.  The relationship value, the industry vertical, the user’s job function, etc. all impact how your customers will interact with their data and ultimately, with your bank. Options enable them to further personalise their experience – how they view their data, report on their spend, export their reports, allocate their fees, share their data, etc. Offer a solution that doesn’t pigeonhole users into something they’re unfamiliar with and can be easily translated into their existing business processes. 

  • Embrace automation: Control + consistency = confidence

Commercial personalisation is about increasing the convenience and value of doing business with you. By automating the process from start to finish – how the data is gathered, analysed, presented, manipulated, and shared – you empower your customers to regain control of their experience. They know what to expect and you deliver against those expectations, consistently.  This helps customers to build or rebuild confidence in the value they’re receiving and allows internal teams to refocus efforts from manual support to proactive relationship building.  

  • Don’t leave your internal teams in the dark: Focus their efforts

No one likes for a customer to have more information than their account teams – not the customer, not the account teams. As self-service is embraced on the customer side, the same needs to occur inside your walls. Provide direct access to the information required to have a 360° view of your customers and leverage technologies that will help your teams identify opportunities at scale (recommendations, notifications, etc.) across all accounts – not just their top 10%.  

Personalisation is redefining the way businesses engage with their customers and given the complexities around the commercial experience, there’s significant upside at stake. Think about what fuels your commercial customers to demand a more personalised experience. It’s not the warm fuzzy of knowing you care about them as a customer; it’s about increasing the convenience and value of doing business with you. It’s not just having their account manager call them with a personalised offer; it’s having access to the information they need to validate that offer is aligned to a legitimate business need. 

By adopting a self-service approach that automatically delivers data that is relevant to a customers’ specific needs, banks are able to efficiently scale the concept of personalisation across thousands of customers. Couple this with a similar view for their supporting account teams and one-off, disjointed interactions become consistent, strategic experiences.  

 By Mike Miller, SVP of Sales & Marketing, Globys

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