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Looking Beyond the Transaction to Truly Understand Your Customer

By Will Weidman, Senior Vice President

Personalization is a great way to show customers they matter, but first, you need data.

The days of "one-size-fits-all" are over. Customers expect personalized experiences, and understanding your customer on the level needed to deliver personalization opens the door to deeper relationships and better business performance. Not only that, the opportunity to create memorable experiences for customers continues to grow, as 90% of those surveyed in a Mastercard-sponsored Harvard Business Review (HBR) study say that the shift to digital is creating new ways to implement personalization.

But in an era where consumers receive endless communications, how does your company draw the line between personalized and pushy? Just as importantly, what insights does your organization need to effectively implement personalization strategies? To that end, what additional resources are necessary to better understand your customers' interests and needs?

Looking Beyond the Transaction Compendium Personalization Consumer Experience

Connect on a Deeper Level

Understanding your customers will improve engagement, retention and satisfaction if you look beyond customer segment transactions and go a step further to personalize their experiences. For example, when customers with a profile that indicates interest in small business loans visit your site, you could personalize sessions to this customer segment recommending content and services related to starting and financing a business. Or, instead of waiting until their next site visit, you could send a newsletter to this segment that includes a subject line and links to content relevant to that interest.

Optimizing the online customer experience is an important start, but if you aren't exploring other avenues for tailored offerings, like dynamic pricing, in-person customer experiences or social campaigns, you may be leaving profits on the table. Considering the fact that 44% of respondents to the HBR study reported that their organization's top line has increased due to their ability to create personalized customer experiences, it's important to think broadly about the ways to implement this strategy throughout the customer journey.

No matter what, personalization requires the ability to distill insights about different consumer segments. With that in mind, here are some principles to help guide your personalization initiatives.

Personalize the Customer Experience With the Right Data

Personalization requires a laser-focus on creating benefits for customers, and deriving insight beyond basic anonymized and aggregated transaction data, yet half of those surveyed in the HBR report say that their organizations rely exclusively on internal data and 70% admitted that their company struggles to keep up with the pace of digital change. On the other hand, those that see good results from their personalization initiatives note that their success is dependent on access to timely, accurate data.

A holistic view of customer's behaviors and preferences underpins successful personalization strategies — but how can organizations round out their data sets? Looking outside to third-party, anonymized and aggregated data sources and combining external data, such as benchmarks, with internal data, such as that collected from a survey or site metrics, can provide a more complete view of customer segments. Breaking down data silos within your organization will enable additional insights, such as the frequency with which different customer segments check their balances or how often they review different credit card offerings on your site, that can be merged with other learnings to inform personalization efforts. Add to that a well-designed customer feedback loop that captures direct feedback on customers' most pressing questions to deepen your understanding of what makes customers "tick".

Operationally, some companies may lack the funding and capabilities to develop personalization programs for every customer segment. In this case, you'll need to identify and prioritize the points in the sales funnel or stages in the customer journey that could most benefit from holistic, consumer-driven insights.

With thorough analysis, you might uncover surprising information, such as an unusually high attrition rate among customers who open their accounts online and rarely visit their local branch. A personalized email campaign that welcomes new customers to the bank and introduces them to key contacts could go a long way in creating a connection between a customer and their branch, increasing the likelihood of long-term retention.

Think Critically When it Comes to Full Automation

Sometimes, personalization really should be personal. While automating some tasks is crucial, it's important that customer service touchpoints provide you with the opportunity to speak directly with the customer and identify their pain points, track common issues and aggregate interactions to identify relevant trends across segments, ultimately enabling you to provide more effective solutions. For example, when offering financial planning services, instead of digitizing the entire process, consider including an option for a phone call or an in-person meeting to establish next steps to help the customer develop and execute an effective financial plan, for those segments that prefer a human touch. A personal conversation can help steer customers who don't know what they want toward the right services or offerings. It will also help customers feel more connected to your organization and showcase your expertise.

Creating a sustainable competitive advantage hinges in part on your institution's ability to deploy personalization strategies and use real-time data insights to shape your digital products. Instead of interacting with each of your customers in exactly the same way, with exactly the same messaging and offers, highly personalized customer experiences allow your bank to offer unique and memorable products and services that benefit both your customer and your bottom line.

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