In today’s digital world, a consumer can learn just about anything and everything they need to know about a product or service without speaking to a human being. Good or bad? Well, that depends on who you ask. For starters, this relatively new process means that consumers no longer follow the traditional buyer journey, are far better educated, far more demanding in terms of both service quality and price, and are most likely considering far more competitive options.
The result is a concept called the Zero Moment of Truth, or ZMOT, which was coined by Google a few years back. ZMOT describes how digital channels, such as social media and search, have accelerated the customer decision journey. In short, a purchase that may have once taken days or weeks can now be transacted in just minutes… even seconds.
Now, as a financial institution (FI), how can you take advantage of ZMOT? This answer is this: Humanize your digital banking experience.
Studies have shown that banking consumers are not quite ready for an “all digital” experience. They expect and demand it, but in the end, they are not completely comfortable with breaking free of the traditional in-branch experience. Why? 1) Because as human beings and social creatures, we crave interaction. 2) The digital banking experience has yet to reach the same level of personalization that the branch offers. So what FIs have right now is a consumer who wants the speed, ease, and 24/7/365-convenience that the digital banking experience offers along with the personal touch of an in-branch experience. Is that asking a lot? Yes, it is, but FIs are stepping up to meet the challenge.
There are many advantages to personalizing the banking experience, the first being the ability to better target customers with services, products, and offers. An online bank can monitor and retrieve information and transform that data into useful insights that can be used to offer the products and services that make sense based on that individual’s particular needs and how they bank. This is, of course, a win for both the FI and the customer. The institution now has the ability to speak directly to the customer in a language they understand and with services they want — growing their business — while the customer now has all the information they want and need right at their fingertips anytime, any day. For example, online banking habits can inform the institution that a customer is actively searching their site using keywords such as “mortgage,” interest rate,” closing cost,” etc. Rather than wait for the customer to approach a branch, the institution can email or text information on mortgage loans and current rates right to that individual. Here we have the beginning of a personalized digital experience.
Says Abigail Posner, Director of Strategy for Google’s Brand Unit: “Brands should connect with us on a human level – and they need stories to do that. So, what the digital stuff does is actually – hopefully – make those stories better because we understand human beings better.” In other words, now that digital is taking some of the hard work out of connecting with customers, FIs can focus more on telling the stories that help make that connection. Where’s a good place to tell those stories? On social media platforms. Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and Periscope, for example, are the ideal vehicles for achieving a myriad number of business-building initiatives; for resolving customer service issues, selling your brand, engaging and informing, strengthening relationships, offering educational opportunities on financial matters such as investing… and the list goes on.
Keep Step with the AI Evolution
NOTE: Something to consider when considering personalizing your digital experience. More than one-third of FI consumers do not trust that their bank will go the extra mile to safeguard their personal information and data. Therefore, it’s critical that as you humanize, be sure to address this concern with your customers by fostering a relationship based on confidence and trust.
Another example of personalization is the chatbot. Some FIs have been using chatbots for years, and advancements in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) technology will continue to add value in this area. As chatbots’ intelligence has increased, so too have their capabilities. Siri and Alexa, for instance, are good examples of A.I.-based chatbots that, right now, are simple digital tools handling generic consumer queries. One day in the not-too-distant future, however, these AI-based apps will serve as digital assistants that will converse with customers, both initiating and managing multiple tasks simultaneously. This will lead to a growing number of FIs beginning to use chatbots for more proactive tasks, such as helping consumers set and achieve financial goals and manage their money more wisely. The AI-enable virtual assistants of the future will be problem solvers who (as opposed to “that,” since we’re talking “almost human” now) will interact with customers in relevant conversations and cement that personal relationship.
Personalize or Get Left Behind
Personalization is crucial when it comes to the overall customer experience and even small actions can go a long way. Think of digital personalization, in its most basic form, as addressing a promotional letter to a customer using their name, rather than an innocuous greeting such as “Dear valued customer.” You see, a little personalization can go a long way!
I hope this helps you with your bank’s marketing. Please let me know your thoughts.