RBS View Obsession With The Customer As Driving Change In Financial Services

There have been few better times to be involved in the digital side of financial services. A combination of challenging trading conditions, regulatory changes and the valid, sky-high expectations of customers have made rapid change an imperative rather than an option.

The 2017 Digital Trends in Financial Services and Insurance report speaks to how organisations are responding to this environment. I believe that ‘catching up’ will make way to ‘forging ahead’ over the next 12 to 24 months. Two key themes seem to emerge in all the conversations we are having, both in and outside our own building. Firstly being customer-obsessed and secondly being data-enabled.

What Customer Focus Means
Being customer-focused, putting the customer in the room etc. have all been common mantras over recent years. I believe now though we’re seeing more clearly what that means and digitally how we can achieve it.

Know your customer and respect their priorities. Although message targeting may have moved on from being a binary affair of “you haven't got ‘Product A’ therefore you must want it”, are we truly at a state where a customer’s sudden interest in something, like buying a new home, makes all our marketing touches change to respect that? Also, what do we consider as interest? Is it interaction with the relevant bits of our site? Or is it wider engagement with online and social content?

We have to appreciate that as a bank we’re not a leisure activity and people come to us to do things. This could be to meet a new financial need or service a product the customer already holds. They are journeys which may be short or long. Our objective should always be to make them as effortless as possible.

Superstar DJs
At RBS we’ve invested over the last couple of years in creating a capability layer within our digital operation through our Superstar DJ program. This has resulted in 70 journey managers who are responsible for the end-to-end journeys our customers take with us. They are connected to their audiences through data so they can spot the pain points where people are struggling and A/B test variants until they can see they have fixed it. They are cognitive of different customer segments and that journeys do not necessarily need to look the same, and they constantly reinvent looking for marginal gains. Most importantly, they are enabled by the technology and culture of the organisation to do this all themselves. The net result is that now we feel the digital experience is evolving as fast as customers’ expectations.

Forging Ahead
The ‘forge ahead’ moment comes when the ‘touch’ is put together with the journey. When we suggest something to a customer, be it a change in the way that they bank with us–adopting the mobile app for instance–or meeting a need they have with a product, it leads into an effortless journey. Likewise when a customer begins a journey themselves, as they will increasingly do online, our touches change in a heartbeat to support that.

When we start thinking about people less as customers, who on balance like what we do, and more as guests in our brand we will probably be at the right level of obsessiveness. In a world where your brand is your customer’s last experience of you, nothing else will do.

Developing Outstanding Customer Experiences
With interest in the fintech space at an all-time high and some big landscape shifts happening–such as Open Banking APIs–it’s easy to be side-tracked into looking at who may be the winners and losers. I feel this is missing the point as the imperative to develop outstanding customer experiences be it from incumbent, new entrant or collaboration between the two will jump-start the industry significantly.

Already we are seeing collaboration in very meaningful ways. A competition this year run by NESTA (a UK-based innovation foundation) will give 20 fintech companies the opportunity to develop innovative comparison services for the SME marketplace. They will all have access to an anonymised data sandpit created by the leading banks in the UK to develop and test new services.

Open banking will enable individuals to give third parties permission to view and action transactions on their current and credit accounts. With many people in the UK having financial relationships with more than one institution, the opportunity for the organisation that can present a view across a customer-personal landscape will be significant.

What will it take to win this front-of-glass relationship? Well I guess our touches must be relevant and value-adding, and our journeys must be effortless to the point where you wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. An exciting time in digital financial services for sure.

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