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TIME TO ACT: MODERNISING THE TRADITIONAL BUILDING SOCIETY FOR FUTURE SUCCESS

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Rob McElroy, CEO, Sopra Steria Financial Services

 

Our high streets are finally starting to heal from the challenges experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the building society remains a vital part of this recovery. For over 100 years, building societies have been a staple in our communities, having built and maintained a loyal customer base. However, this traditional model is being turned on its head as members now have more choice as to how, when and where they manage their finances.

Whether it’s traditional high street banks, new and digital-savvy challenger banks or fintech product providers, building societies now have a range of digital products and service offerings to compete with. This is especially true in the mortgage and savings markets, where they have their biggest stakes.

It’s now or never to move with the times to ensure market share. Building societies must modernise their more traditional operating models. Thankfully, these changes aren’t a case of reinventing the wheel. Instead, it’s about making incremental changes to lending, savings and collections processes to ensure members are at the heart of strategies and they can create a customer experience that’s a true differentiator from their competition.

 

To create a truly ‘member first’ strategy, building societies should explore the following considerations:

  1. Increase digital touchpoints with customers

Customer expectations have changed. Like many other organisations, building societies are tasked with identifying new and innovative products and services to meet the changing needs of their existing and potential members who now expect a real-time 360-degree view of their finances, as well as access to services and products at any time via any device.

Rob McElroy

To ensure this, building societies must embrace both digital and traditional channels, exploring ways to deliver personalised and targeted services and offers. Member engagement should also be built around the ‘moments that matter’ in their lives. Whilst digital, telephone and email might work for business as usual, many members take comfort in knowing their local building society is there to help them through major life events, or when they face financially vulnerable situations.

This availability of information and ease of access via a customer’s device will become a differentiator for those able to make it happen. Failure to make the necessary changes or an over-reliance on traditional systems to deliver a true ‘digital’ strategy could see a rise in member attrition rates and cause the business to stagnate.

 

  1. See connected services as an opportunity

With the rise of connected services, such as open banking, customers are rapidly shifting towards aggregator sites for a cohesive overview of available deals suited to their needs. We’ve already witnessed the impact these sites have had on the savings, credit cards and loan markets.

As technology improves and provides members and potential members with the confidence to go directly to their chosen providers, mortgages and straight-through product/service processing will be the next focus of these sites. In the short to medium term, building societies should also remember aggregator sites still provide an important route to market for their savings and loan products.

Despite this, connecting to these services is not without its challenges. Many building societies are still heavily reliant on mortgage broker networks and don’t have the appropriate technology infrastructure to provide aggregator sites with real-time information and deals, potentially stopping them from competing via these channels. It’s time therefore, for building societies to prioritise building – through incremental change – an infrastructure capable of delivering real-time data and availability of products/services on their latest offers to these sites. This will ensure they are future ready.

There are many quick wins to building micro-services around existing infrastructure and establishing an orchestration engine which will allow almost immediate implementation of a digital strategy. Once in place, this infrastructure will also provide the foundation many building societies will need to ensure they’re correctly set up for the exchange of customer data to comply with open banking regulations.

 

  1. Personalise offers and services to meet members needs

Building societies need to ramp up personalisation efforts and keep pace with the advancing technology available to them. They’ve targeted sales and marketing campaigns aimed at specific segments, but still have much to learn when it comes to personalised offers and services. For example, many building societies still have a ‘one journey fits all’ approach to customer experience via digital channels, with no differentiation in the customer journey between different product sets.

In today’s data rich environment, customers expect to receive personalised experiences and offered products and services designed specifically to meet their needs. Using customer data at every customer touchpoint and continually refining the personalisation approach is no longer an option – it’s a necessity. Even simple personalisation efforts, such as an email with exclusive offers, can lead to strong conversions and better customer relationships.

 

  1. Maintain a community-first approach

Building societies have always been a key part of local communities. Whether it’s providing a couple with the mortgage to their first house, or setting up a child’s first account, this connection with customers has been built over many years. Therefore, it’s important this is not lost due to a lack of personalisation and/or digital channels. Communities are embracing digital, especially since the start of the pandemic which forced us to stay at home and closed local branches, and it is vital building societies provide these services alongside the traditional. Failure to do so will, over time, lead to severed customer relationships.

 

Final thoughts

In a post-pandemic world, building societies need to think about more than just surviving, they need to put processes in place to help them thrive. They must focus on delivering a member-first strategy and personalised products, services and experiences across digital and traditional channels. By planning these changes incrementally, and not undergoing a complete overhaul, they can start actioning these changes immediately.

 

Finance

2021: THE YEAR THE FINANCIAL SERVICES SECTOR WILL ENTER THE ERA OF BOUNDLESS CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT

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Steve Bell, VP EMEA Solutions Consulting, Verint Systems

 

It can feel like businesses lurch from one disruption to another. From macro-economic collapse to aggressive competitors, changes to regulations, political uncertainty, being slow to innovate; all these and more can undo the years of hard work that has been spent building up a viable, profitable company.

Yet dig beneath the surface of those issues, and despite the apparent variations there is a fundamental truth in all of them – that the reason for failure is an inability to change. History is littered with the names of once industry-leading companies that did not change their business model to reflect the evolving needs and demands of the market. Some have gone completely; others are shadows of their former selves.

 

Accelerated consumer demands

It’s likely that we will see more names follow them in the coming months and years. As we’ve seen in previous crises, not even storied banks are too big to fail. The pandemic will be blamed for much of it, and it will be a significant factor. But in all likelihood, all it will have done is accelerated what was already going to happen – just as it has done for digital transformation. We’re at a point now where consumers are expecting much more intuitive experiences and services from the brands they buy from, and that includes financial service providers.

Steve Bell

From new channels and ways of purchasing, to heightened expectations of what good looks like, banks are having to do much more with, in many cases, a workforce that is dispersed, disengaged, and underequipped to meet customer demands.

That means they need to adapt. They need to be able to offer self-service, social-media based customer interactions, mobile, ecommerce, and they need to be able to offer it at the same standard as innovators, all with a remote workforce. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling mortgages or fridges, whether you’ve been in business 12 months or 50 years – consumers are taking their experiences from other sectors and expecting everyone they interact with to be at the same standard. Put another way, financial service providers are no longer just judged against their sector competitors.

Decision-makers know this – a new study from Verint found that understanding and acting on rapidly changing customer behaviours was a top concern for 71% of financial service professionals. Their top challenges highlighted concerns relating to remote workforces, with maintaining established relationships with clients, a lack of physical interaction between employees and customers and inefficiencies in managing urgent client matters all causes for concern.

 

Ushering in a new era of customer engagement

It all points to creating a new approach to customer engagement. Banks and other financial service providers need to recognise that they have to deliver an always-on experience, irrespective of channel, while at the same time taking into account the fact that their workforce isn’t going to scale to meet the challenge.

What’s the solution? The answer combines culture and technology to create an approach known as boundless customer engagement.

It’s cultural because it demands a mindset change. One that sees the entire organisation as responsible for delivering an exemplary experience, not just customer service, or a subsection thereof. Where key performance indicators and objectives across all functions are dialled into how that department or team supports the delivery of better customer experiences. It’s also about empowering workforces to act appropriately and deliver the best response to customers, allowing the entire organisation to adapt and act faster.

 

Combining technology and culture

It needs to be cultural, because culture defines how the next part is used. Technology is inherently neutral – it is only through its deployment and adoption that it becomes either a force for good or simply a quicker root to short-term margin improvement. If the right cultural mindset is in place, then the technology that underpins it all will deliver boundless customer engagement.

It will do this through enabling the right balance of automation and human touch, allowing teams to scale without leaving customers feeling as if they are at the mercy of an impersonal algorithm. With artificial intelligence, everything from front-end chatbots to back-end knowledge management systems serving up the right information at the right time, can be deployed to meet accelerated customer expectations.

 

2021 – the year of boundless customer engagement

By combining a culture shift with the deployment of technology, financial service providers will be able to break down the barriers that disrupt better customer experiences and meet demand. And they’ll be able to do it without having to massively scale up or put teams under intolerable pressure.

Whatever else happens, the consumer experience in 2021 is going to be one characterised by speed, by intuition, and by a vast array of touchpoints. For financial service providers to be able to deliver on this promise without dramatically undermining their own employees will take a new approach – one that connects the realities of work today with data and experiences to build enduring relationships through boundless customer engagement. In doing so, banks, wealth managers and other finance organisations will drive real business outcomes that cements ongoing performance, irrespective of the wider economic climate.

 

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Business

HOW TO UP YOUR EMAIL MARKETING GAME IN THE FINANCIAL INDUSTRY

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By

Sam Holding, Head of International, SparkPost

 

The secret to a successful marketing campaign, no matter the industry, comes down to a well-oiled email programme.

In the financial industry, high volumes of emails are being sent every day, and it is vitally important that customers trust the sender and understand the information that is being shared through the email. And in the financial industry, this is even more true. But ensuring that emails are being received correctly, both in terms of deliverability and content, is much easier said than done. How can organisations ensure that their emails are reaching customers and prospects successfully, and sending the right message?

While financial services firms certainly need to consider the content and branding of their emails, they must also prioritise the foundational elements of email, namely deliverability, in order to make email the ROI machine it can be. That said, deliverability, content, and branding are the combined ingredients necessary for financial services to fully realise the potential of their email programs.

For high volume senders, even a seemingly nominal decrease in deliverability rates can represent a huge decline in how many customers are actually seeing their emails. More than that, with financial institutions, the value of each converted customer can be quite high meaning that even a 1% decrease in inboxing rates can mean major losses. Once financial organisations understand the pounds and pence of deliverability, it’s time to start implementing tactical best practices to avoid the pitfalls of declining deliverability rates.

 

Step 1. Improve your reputation as a sender

For financial organisations, using email to help boost their credibility and reputation is essential. Actions such as sending on new IP addresses with unproven reputations, can seriously impact an organisations reputation with current and potential customers, therefore it is vital that email activity is set up to improve a company’s reputation and not the other way round. It is important that anything considered personally identifiable about a customer (or PII), like their phone number, account number, or address, are properly protected and only shared with the customer themselves. On the other hand, another way to build customer trust is by letting them know information that you will never ask for over email, so that they can easily identify any suspicious communication that occurs, without finding out the hard way.

Also, when it comes to building a solid sending reputation financial firms shouldn’t send too much, too soon, from a new IP address.

 

  1. Relevant email sending is key

Once the more technical aspects of email sending are in place, organisations must next ensure that the content they are sending in their emails is truly relevant to the recipients. No matter how engaging and interesting an email is, if it is not relevant to the recipient, it simply will not yield success. The more relevant the emails are, the more likely they will be well received by consumers.

Financial institutions should be mindful when building lists for sends and use data like past purchases, traffic logs, and on-site search to inform who they’d like to send to, avoiding the temptation to blanket their whole audience with a single email in the name of efficiency. In order to get the most out of email communications, sending highly targeted messages will be much more effective in not only building reputation, but building out a strong and engaged list.

 

  1. Produce high quality content

Once the relevant audiences have been defined through segmentation, the next task is to decide on the content of the emails. When it comes to sending out marketing messages, financial institutions should consider the kind of information their recipients find valuable and produce content that is in line with their needs. One way of ensuring marketing emails resonate with the audience is through promotions. Who doesn’t love a good offer? Customers need to be able to see the value in subscribing to emails, and offering valuable educational seminars and content and special offers tailored to their financial picture via email is a simple way to do that.

Another best practice for financial institutions is to pay close attention to writing great subject lines. Since many customers won’t see more than the first few words — especially on mobile – senders should put the most relevant and targeted terms up-front, making the value to the customer immediately clear. With smart content informed by great segmentation, financial firms can really leverage the power of email in their marketing strategies.

 

  1. Use strong branding to boost integrity

The last foundational ingredient to a great financial services email strategy is branding.

To ensure brand integrity, it is essential that every aspect of an organisation’s messaging — visual identity, voice, value proposition — is consistent and compelling. A common pitfall is to use different systems or third-party providers for automated transactional emails, marketing emails, and other types of messages. This can lead the look and feel of the messages customers receive to vary widely, creating a confusing brand experience. By managing all messages through a single system, financial firms can build a stronger connection with customers and make each email they receive feel part of a coherent and valuable relationship.

As part of a financial services organisation’s branding strategy, it’s a good idea to use the brand name in the “from” field that shows up in the recipient’s inbox. Some marketers use an individual’s name with the belief that it will seem more personal, but this can also make it seem like spam. Instead, use a name customers will expect to see, then stick with it consistently across all emails to build recognition and trust. Using a solid and consistent brand is a best practice for any brand that sends email!

When it comes to your email marketing strategy, different approaches will work for different organisations, and will depend on the intended outcome. For large volume senders, like financial organisations, this is particularly true, and it is even more important that you know why you are sending your email and who it is intended for in order to get the most success possible. By following best practices, and taking care in your approach, email can be the gateway to a higher reputation and more loyal customer base.

 

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