Personalizing the High-Transaction Marketplace

We don't expect the cashier at our favorite coffee shop to remember our names, but often we encounter a remarkable person who not only remembers us but also just the way we like our morning jolt of java. Isn't it ironic that customers rarely have the same experience with the financial institutions that are entrusted with their hard-earned life savings?

Remember me? I'm your customer
Can your customers speak with a single representative at your organization who can help them manage their entire portfolio? Do your account managers have access to the customer's entire portfolio of accounts with your institution? Do your customers know about your latest products and services?

If you answered no, you are not alone. Mega-mergers mean that more people are serviced by fewer institutions and new technologies have brought both competition and transparency to the market--making it harder to earn profits from the average customer. The interaction model is changing as well. Financial institutions must act to differentiate themselves in the minds of their customers in order to prevent the commoditization of their goods and services.

How did everything get so cloudy?
Ongoing mergers have absorbed regional brands into national franchises, leaving customers feeling as if they've lost their local financial partner. While few customers change institutions immediately following a merger, the loss of a local brand and the adjustment to new institutional policies and procedures cause longtime customers to reevaluate where they keep their investments.

Customers are demanding new means of accessing their accounts outside of the traditional brick-and-mortar branch office--from ubiquitous access to no-fee ATMs to secure, feature-rich Web portals providing account balances, transaction downloads, transfers, and bill payments. Providing these services is difficult for institutions that have invested in multiple 'point solutions' optimized for retail banking, mortgage origination, and portfolio management. The diversity of products makes it nearly impossible to provide a comprehensive view of the customer's relationship across service lines.

Even the products have changed. Fifty years ago, people relied on their pensions for retirement income. Today, the security of a pension from a longtime employer has been replaced by a variety of investment alternatives--from mutual funds, ETFs, and investment portfolios to IRAs and 401(k)s. Customers are confused, and no wonder: It's difficult for even those of us in the industry to understand the nuances of the new products and changes in tax law.

Seeing your customers as they see themselves
Ever have a prospect turned away because the account manager does not know of her relationship to one of your most valuable customers? Or have you had a customer become frustrated because his investment manager knows nothing of his other accounts with the institution?

Customers want to feel that we 'know' them. Integrating your internal solutions can improve the customer experience without adverse cost or complexity. Develop a corporate definition of customers, accounts, and relationships. Include important relationships such as:

  • influencers;
  • household members;
  • associates; and
  • referral sources.

Evaluate what information is stored in each of your internal systems that impact these relationships. Develop a standard process for managing customer relationships that will guarantee sharing and synchronization of changes to ensure consistency across your key systems.

You can significantly improve customer retention by implementing customer relationship management solutions. CRM is an ideal centralized repository of customer information, including accounts, relationships, and referrals. Typically leveraged by account managers, CRM can also provide the comprehensive view of the relationship to tellers and other customer-facing service roles that directly interact with customers.

The value of personal relationships
This consolidated view of your customer relationships is the foundation for improving the customer experience--and organizational profitability--by helping representatives to position new products and services ideally suited to each customer. Unlike our original scenario, your customers are greeted by a representative who understands the scope of their relationship with the institution and can either directly assist them or connect them with the appropriate representative.

Even with this foundation, there is no substitute for good employees. Customers still want the comfort of a relationship where they are known by name rather than account number. Complexity has created a greater opportunity for financial institutions to redefine their roles as trusted advisors. The trick is developing a model that provides a personalized experience to the greatest number of the most valuable customers.

Don't we all want that personalized experience that makes us feel special?

About the Author
Richard Smith is VP and CRM Practice Director at Green Beacon Solutions. For more information please see

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