Banks and financial institutions find themselves competing for customers more today than ever before. With a myriad of options available to consumers for everything from standard banking services to investment management and sophisticated financial planning, every financial services provider must be mindful of the competition – and that means having a deep understanding of what attracts customers, what makes them stick, and what keeps them happy.
Thanks to the vast abilities created by digital media and data technology, there is no shortage of opportunities to glean more data about a bank’s customer base. It’s not enough to simply gather raw data, however. Banks need to understand the connection between different data points, be able to generate baselines and pinpoint trends and patterns to be proactive in their response, and generally know what actions will result in desired outcomes before it’s too late.
In other words, valuable customer insights are the name of the game for modern financial institutions. But how can banks best gather information about their customers and translate data into meaningful, actionable insights? To dig a little deeper into the current trends and best practices in customer analytics and insights among financial institutions, we asked a panel of customer data experts and business leaders to answer this question:
“What’s the single best method a bank or other financial institution can gather useful customer insights?”
Find out what our experts have to say about the best tactics for modern banking and financial institutions to gain valuable insights on their customers by reading their responses below.
Meet Our Panel of Data and Analytics Pros and Business Leaders:
Jim is the CEO of Perceptive Selling Initiative, Inc. He helps businesses build sales and accelerate cash flow.
“The best method for banks and financial institutions to gather useful customer insights is…”
First, provide well designed input to customers, usually in areas of cash flow acceleration or sales.
Then, conduct a personal follow-up, asking for their reaction to the submitted material. Finally, ASK: ask what help/need/wish THAT customer would ‘really like.’ Then meet that need.
It’s a two step process leading to uncovering a real need and to meaningful rapport.
AJ Saleem is the Director of Suprex Learning, a leading private tutoring and test prep company based in Houston. AJ has created a big dent in the private tutoring market by offering well-trained, highly qualified teachers who are also dynamic instructors. The company also operates in New York and Chicago.
“I am a client at two different banks, Chase and Wells Fargo, and I have
found that the best way these two banks have been able to gather insight on me is…”
1. Surveys: Nothing beats the good old fashioned survey with a free credit. Chase offered me a free $10 gift card in exchange for writing a review, and I am able to give insight on what I like and don’t like about the bank.
2. Trials: I have been offered a couple trials on new platforms of bank software, and there is always an option to give insight into the new software. I believe it is great that banks are working with their clients directly.
Chris is a digital marketing specialist for FlexMR. He develops bespoke strategies that are used to improve brand awareness, lead generation, competitive intelligence and raise the profile of market research insight as a B2B resource.
“One of the best methods for banks to gather customer insights is through…”
In-home ethnography. Moreso than ever, financial institutions are an integral part of consumer lives, and there are opportunities to be found in the micro-moments of interaction. These are moments that elicit an immediate emotional response but are unlikely to be remembered at a later date – meaning they are rarely ever recorded in surveys or VOC programs.
Fintech institutions are using these micro-moments and personal experiences to draw inspiration for ideas that shake-up the previously accepted model of banking. To keep pace and retain loyal customers, banks must use similar observational techniques to gather unspoken, but very real, insights from their customers.
Ethnographies offer the perfect platform to do this due to their holistic nature. Ethnographic observation can be supplemented by digital research diaries that allow consumers to record their thoughts and emotions in-the-moment, at the point of interaction – giving banks access to rich, emotive data that was previously unattainable.
Terence is the Managing Director of SaltMines Group.
“Using mobile technologies, such as their own native app and beacons…”
Banks can collect great information on customers such as how often they visit the branch, how long they stay at the branch, whether they come inside, use the ATM or drive through. This allows banks to create an individual profile on the specific user’s banking preferences.
Deb is the Chief Operating Officer at ForeignExchange.com and previously worked at GAIN Capital, a large financial services firm for institutional investors.
“Consumers, especially millennials, are increasingly sharing information about their experiences with companies on social media…”
Banks can monitor online what clients are saying about their brand. This is important for increasing transparency, developing new financial products, and improving relationships with customers. Social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube offer unique channels for banks and financial institutions to gather consumer insights in real time.
John is the Founder and CEO of Due.
“The most effective way for a bank or financial institution to gather useful consumer insights is…”
Through social media surveys or a mobile app survey. Their customers are most likely using these platforms as well as their smartphone. The more convenient you can make it for customers, the more likely they are to share their opinions. The surveys can be created with easy, low-cost online tools like SurveyMonkey, which manages the results and offers the data in various forms to assess the insights of your customers. Of course, banks can also sweeten the deal with an incentive or prize for participating in the survey as well.
Patti is CEO of PG Research and Advisory Services, LLC, where she provides independent consulting services to the industry. Her professional background includes holding executive positions at SunTrust Bank (formerly Sun Bank), PaySys International (owned by First Data) and Fiserv. Most recently, Patti was Vice President and Managing Director of Consulting Services for Mercator Advisory Group and continues to contribute to the firm as a Director, Emeritus.
“I believe one of the key activities financial institutions should incorporate into their data analytics is…”
To examine the demographics of the transactions that are posted to and from their customers’ accounts. This would include not just the type of transaction, but its originator, location, frequency from the same source and amount for example. This kind of analysis yields important insights into how, why and where consumers are using their funding accounts. Armed with this information, financial institutions can better understand not just how to personalize promotions, but what competitive providers their customers are doing business with and gain velocity data that can be used for business planning and projections.
Sylvester Kaczmarek is an award-winning entrepreneur and product manager with over 16 years of international, quality-driven IT industry experience.
“Banks and other financial institutions can make use of…”
Big Data Analytics to help them gather sufficient insights of their consumers, which will help them to have a deeper look into the existing usage patterns of their products. Analysis of these patterns will help to understand the prevailing consumer behaviors and aid in coming up with personalized products. To help data analytics gather insights about the experiences of the customers, they can end up using information from call centers, demographic data, and data obtained from specific product logs such as ATMS to be able to reveal the existing problems, uncover unfavorable patterns, and to correlate their offers with the expected outcome.
Clint Evans, CEO of StandOut Authority, is a #1 Amazon best-selling author, speaker, and coach to decisive and growth-minded entrepreneurs. He has columns with Entrepreneur.com and Business.com. He’s been Featured on Forbes, Huffington Post, ReadWrite, CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and more. He was one of the first to be accepted to publish on LinkedIn’s publishing platform (Feb. 2014) and has been read by 151,781 LinkedIn members and counting. He’s taught workshops for the Small Business Administration and CreativeLive. He loves spending time with his two nieces in Texas and snowboarding and other high-speed adventures around the globe.
“The single most effective method for banks to gather useful customer insights is…”
A blend of offline and digital behavior. There are tools like Crazy Egg to see where customers gravitate to and click on the bank’s website. This behavioral data is valuable to see what the customers find useful. Then management sees what’s working, and they can decide how to better display information and what position on a screen it should be.
A percentage of customers won’t want to enter sensitive data online or fill out surveys. But usually about half would be willing to do so over the phone or at a branch. This is fascinating because the phone or branch employee is just going to enter it into the computer system anyway.
A bank should have an effective process to gather the data and insights management decides are meaningful with a specific process for digital, telephone and in-person.
Sean is the Co-founder and CEO of GetFeedback, a customer experience solution for brand-conscious businesses that want to engage their customers with beautiful, mobile-optimized surveys.
“By far, the most effective methods for gathering customer insights are…”
Timely customer satisfaction and net promoter score surveys.
Banking issues are more stressful than most. Money is on the line. So when customer service interactions are over, it’s a critical time to collect customer feedback on the quality of the support. If it went poorly, banks have an opportunity to repair the damage and keep a customer.
According to a Cisco study, 72% of banking customers who had a negative customer service experience either engaged less or switched banks altogether. On the flip side, 87% of customers who had a positive experience ended up making a purchase decision or engaging further.
It’s clear that customer service and customer satisfaction are crucial for banking institutions, but many ask for general feedback and fail to target the right customer at the right time. This provides little actionable insight on customer health.
On the other hand, asking for feedback at the end of an interaction can lead to quick, preventative measures that stop customers from churning. If a customer had a negative experience, banks should know about it.
Tracking customer satisfaction trends over time reveals service trends. At an account-based level, banks can put a closer watch on a customer who had a bad experience. On a grander scale, customer satisfaction changes over the course of months can reveal branch progress and predict churn rates. And net promoter scores are crucial indicators of overall customer health, revealing customers’ willingness to refer friends, family, and colleagues.
These insights are invaluable to banks. They reduce the mystery around churn and retention, helping executives effectively plan for the quarter and beyond.
Lucjan Kierczak is an inbound marketer at Survicate – a tool that allows users to quickly collect feedback across digital channels, including one-click email surveys.
“Banks and financial institutions can’t get enough of customer insights…”
Switching a bank is easier than ever before, and banks and financial institutions seek to overtake the customers of their competition. That’s why collecting customer insights is so important – it helps discover and reduce pain points and improve customer experience. How can banks collect insights effectively? Long questionnaires sent to email are still popular, but it’s changing. No one has time to spend 10 minutes answering questions today.
That’s why one-click email surveys are gaining popularity. People answer the first question right in their inboxes and then can be asked a few additional questions on a page that opens in a new browser tab. It’s ideal for researching not only NPS but also more in-depth insights about your offer or their pain points. One-click email surveys report higher response rates than traditional surveys, especially on mobile devices. While some people can sacrifice a few minutes to fill out a survey on a desktop, barely anyone will do it on mobile devices. Equipped with data gathered with email surveys, banks and financial institutions can prepare more personalized offers and improve customer experience.
David Poulos has over thirty years of marketing experience, ranging from private enterprise, to state and federal government, non-profit and charitable organizations.
“As a business owner and market researcher, I can tell you that there are numerous ways to gather customer data and use it to glean insights into how customers view your product or service…”
One that we’ve found most effective for our customers, many of whom are financially-related, is the In-Depth Interview – or IDI.
We actually delve into the client’s customer database, segment the data into large sectors, and sample each sector. We query their prospect database to balance and match that sample size, so that we have a control group (the potential customer) and the test group (the customer).
We schedule interviews with a representative size sample of each group to give us a confidence factor of over 97%, and structure a guided conversation around about 10-15 key queries that will shed some light on the desired behavior. We use this to assess brand strength and memorability, values and preferences of customers, specific service and approach issues, specific operation issues (fees for ATM vs no fee, but lower interest payments, versus no minimum balance), etc., which are not only intellectual but emotional questions (how do you feel about paying to access your own money, on a scale of one to 5 how angry are you when you read your bank statement?). The calls are recorded and transcripts made for analysis.
Once these insights are gathered, they are analyzed by marketing experts and a plan of action is devised, one of which includes ways to change messaging, approach, customer service levels, timing, etc. to alleviate the major pain points, or shift perception to a more acceptable area.
We’ve been using this methodology for nearly 20 years and the results can be quite astounding.
Chip Bell is considered a world-renowned authority on customer loyalty and service innovation, writing over 600 articles for many business journals, magazines, and blogs. He has authored eight national best-selling books including his most recent book, Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service. Global Gurus in 2014 and again in 2015 ranked him the #1 keynote speaker in the world on customer service.
“Every bank has a secret weapon in garnering real-time customer insight…”
The front line. When customer-facing employees—whether face-to-face, ear-to-ear, or click-to-click—are asked to be customer intelligence scouts, they typically reveal brilliance about issues, themes and trends. When their information is valued and used, it sharpens and focuses their pursuit of more and deeper customer feedback. When leaders bring their special perspective into the boardroom, it leads to a much richer understanding of what matters most to customers. As we engage in high-tech data collection while failing to value the high-touch side, we miss the priority of the valued emotional connection with today’s customers. According to research, a lack of emotional connection causes banks to fail to grow, lose market share, and become commoditized to a point at which they are chasing rates and fees as their only competitive differentiator.
Anurag is the president and CEO of Infinite Convergence Solutions. He has over 25 years of experience as a high tech executive in the wireless industry.
“The single most important effective method a bank can use to gather useful customer analytics is…”
A secure mobile messaging platform. There are mobile messaging platforms that are not only SOX compliant for the finance industry, but also provide customer analytics based on how they respond to marketing campaign messages. For example, messaging services with rich management portals and analytics offer deeper insights into banks’ customers’ behaviors and provide an accurate gauge of campaign success.
Lowell is a co-founder and CEO of Quovo, which works with numerous banks on gaining valuable data-driven customer insights.
“Banks frequently make the mistake of…”
Exclusively looking at internal data when searching for insight on their clients.
Unfortunately, this leads to a distorted view of reality as the majority of Americans have relationships with multiple financial institutions. To avoid this pitfall, I encourage banks to offer account aggregation to their clients, which can fill in the gaps of their client’s financial picture and has the added benefit of giving them increased customer service. Without a full picture you end up with garbage in – garbage out.
Alexander is the CEO of iTestCash.
“Banks can get a lot of information from their customers by using…”
Easy-to-answer surveys on their websites. Banks can easily set up survey programs that can pop up with a couple questions that can be answered quickly on their websites.
It can vary from quick, multiple-choice questions to ask if they are satisfied with the bank’s service, and a lot of surveys will ask the customer to write any suggestions they have to improve their banking services.
Alternatively, you can also send out email surveys to your online customers, but due to the constant marketing emails most people receive on a daily basis, the pop-up, quick surveys often have better conversion rates than emails.
Mandy is the Head of Communications for ReviewTrackers.
“The most invaluable source for banks to understand their customers is…”
To look for this data in the places it exists without a motivator: online reviews.
With online reviews, customers are not incentivized to provide feedback; they are providing their thoughts based on free will. For banks to get customer insights, they must go to the places where their customers already are, and this place is within online review sites.
Here, banks can understand what shortcomings they have and obtain insights to help improve customer experience. These are a much better source of information compared to the survey route.
Elysia is the Author of the #1 Best Seller How To Get Approved for the Best Mortgage Without Sticking a Fork in Your Eye. As one of the nation’s leading mortgage experts with more than 13 years of experience, Elysia has been interviewed and featured by the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post for her expertise in VA mortgages, conventional mortgages, and government loans.
“I have found that when customers are comfortable, they will…”
Share their experiences. So our process encourages multiple client connections and open communication during the loan process. My team and I do everything we can to encourage open communication and client questions during the loan process and welcome customer feedback. During the loan process, I call the client and ask if they have any questions and if there is anything else they think I could be doing to help them. In addition, our clients receive electronic updates during the loan process where the borrower can also comment, as well as paper customer surveys at closing and an electronic customer survey after closing. We use this feedback to improve our client’s experience whenever necessary.
Gustavo is a Sociologist with over 20 years of research experience. He has spent the last 16+ years studying consumer behavior using both qualitative and quantitative methods. He’s worked on projects for many of the top U.S. and global companies in sectors such as retail, CPG/FMCG, restaurants, banking, consumer electronics, transportation (rail and airports), OTC, and apparel. He has also worked with not-for-profits such as museums, opera houses and healthcare facilities. His work has taken him to countries in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
“Banks, like many industries, are flooded with customer data…”
Banks know the who, what, when, and how about all their customers. What banks lack is the why? Banks and other financial institutions need to put all their data in context by employing qualitative methods to understand why customers choose and stick with their financial institutions. Here is an example from an in-depth ethnographic interview with a customer:
He opened his first bank account at this bank when he was 18 years old. It was a very meaningful event in his life, a rite of passage from teen to adult. Twenty-something years later, he still holds an account at this bank. While it is not his main banking institution (for many reasons, one being bad customer relations from that bank), he has not been able to close the account. Every time he reaches the point of closing it, he can’t; he is emotionally attached to the bank because he remembers what it meant to him when he was 18. He keeps a few thousand dollars in checking to keep it open.
What does this mean? First, even in banking, there is an emotional attachment to the brand. Second, despite the bad experiences, this bank hasn’t lost the customer yet and can still salvage the relationship if it understood it better. The bank has his data. The bank knows (or can know) that there is a rarely used account and that the balance remains just above the no-fee limit. There is no effort to reach out to this customer, because the bank doesn’t know the why issue with which to approach this customer. Qualitative methods are a beneficial supplement to big data and can put data in context. That is customer insights.
Tripp is the Director of Marketing for DNA Behavior.
“The best customer insights would come from a…”
Validated psychometric process – basically, a personality profile questionnaire. And some exist specific to the financial industry. Some individual enterprises have cobbled together version of their own to suit their needs, but most likely not validated.
The insights gained are more accurate than any self-reported or observed client behaviors, as hidden behavioral biases are inherent in both the client and the person engaging the client – the resulting insights will be skewed.
Also, some processes only capture a specific piece of a client’s personality, like Risk Tolerance. While valuable for most financial institutions, it’s still only a part of a given person’s complete profile. For example, beyond risk, there are a person’s decision making process, communication style, quality of life goals – all things that come into play over the course of an extended client relationship. And all can be skewed if behavior biases are not identified and mitigated along the way.
And then there’s Compliance. At what point does a client’s satisfaction with the level of service, results and communication process turn from success to reporting an individual or organization as non-compliant? The DOJ has outlined stricter compliance policies, but not how to adhere them. So that’s where deeper client insights come in handy.
Last, the type of questionnaire does matter. Again, self-reporting or observed results can be skewed by behavioral biases on both sides. So a forced-choice method removes all subjective tendencies where there are no obvious or right/wrong responses.
Kate Kennedy is the owner of Kennedy Marketing Services, a full-service marketing research company. Kate has over 20 years of market research experience and regularly conducts focus groups and other types of research which bring companies closer to their customers.
“An effective first step to gathering customer insights is to…”
Conduct focus groups. Focus groups are a qualitative research method in which 5-10 consumers are recruited for a 2-hour discussion. Discussion topics can range from financial planning to bank fees to the online banking experience. The groups are lead by a professional moderator, and bank employees can watch the discussion behind a 1-way mirror.
It is easy for a company – banks included – to make decisions which make logical business sense. But seeing and hearing the reactions of customers LIVE is vital to assessing how the market will react to the new offerings. It is important to have a pulse on the consumer – what they do and what they think, how they feel and what they believe. Seeing the trade-offs that are made by the customer can be very insightful, help bank executives make better decisions, and provide for the long-term growth of the company.
Stephen Wunker is Managing Director of New Markets Advisors and lead author of Jobs to be Done (AMACOM, 11/15/16) as well as Capturing New Markets: How Smart Companies Create Opportunities Others Don’t (2011). He led several successful ventures, including the development of one of the first smartphones, and is a long-time colleague of Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen.
“To gather consumer insights, banks need to…”
Step back and think through the full set of ‘jobs’ their customers need to tackle. This ‘Jobs to be Done’ process is an effective means to identify solutions, and highly differentiated products. For instance, a large emerging market bank we consulted examined how to enter the market for cross-border mortgages, particularly for expatriates buying vacation properties. They first looked at tweaking existing products, for instance selling a mortgage coupled with a currency hedge.. While some of these ideas had merit, they didn’t address the key jobs that expats were trying to get done. In speaking with the bank’s customers, as well as real estate brokers and wealth advisors, what emerged was a product that included the currency hedges, but also legal and translation services, home security, and home repair. This unique mortgage offering, while priced at a significant premium, was enthusiastically received by the real estate community and customers.
Understanding customers’ ‘Jobs to be Done’ requires a broad, holistic look at their objectives and experiences. In this case, customers weren’t just seeking a mortgage, but to buy and maintain a home in a foreign country. Reframing a market this way can open up totally new ways to compete.
Phil Haslehurst is Head of Marketing for Decibel Insight, a disruptive web analytics startup that solves problems for the world’s largest brands by revealing exactly how their online visitors behave.
“The most effective way to gather useful customer insights is…”
To do so in a way that gets a true and unfettered view of genuine customer behavior. When it comes to understanding online behavior specifically, that means deploying customer experience analytics.
Unlike ‘traditional’ web analytics, which models where traffic to a website comes from and the path it takes to a given result, customer experience analytics reveals the way visitors react to, interact with, and actually behave on website pages.
The result is a clearer picture of the sources of frustration and friction that impact on the way a user experiences your brand online.
We’ve worked with clients in the financial services sector who’ve deployed this new breed of analytics to answer questions like what drives our customers to reach out to our customer services team? and what stops visitors to our website from signing up for our products?
Gabe Fenigsohn is the research manager at Cardwell Beach, a Brooklyn-based digital design team which recently won the Summit Emerging Media Leader Award for developing a financial empowerment app serving the unbanked and underbanked. He is also a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.
“Tech solutions are sexy, but in the digital age it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of undervaluing…”
The human element. In-person focus groups and consumer interviews may sound like antiquated techniques from another era, yet to this day they remain indispensable for banks to fully understand how and why they’re meeting customer’s needs or falling short. In fact, the current climate of ever-increasing fintech options and alternatives to traditional brick and mortars means financial institutions of all types must compete for one thing: fitting into the complex and evolving lives of their customers. Understanding the context in which people bank involves asking in-depth questions that go beyond a pop-up survey or web analytics with all the bells and whistles. Listening never fails.
Alex is a personal finance expert and founder of cardsmix.
“One way to gather valuable customer insights in the financial services industry is through…”
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which gathers customer complaints from financial institutions around the country. It is an invaluable source of information for the bank.
Just by looking at aggregated complaints data for your institution and for your competitors you can easily determine weak points in your products and services, better understand customer needs and develop solid approaches how
to improve your services.
Ryan Ruud is a Minneapolis, MN-based digital marketing consultant and the Founder & CEO of Lake One & The Credit Union Consulting Group. Both firms focus on building modern, measurable marketing programs that grow traffic, conversion and opportunity for organizations across a diverse industry set including financial services and credit unions.
“For banks and credit unions looking to gather useful consumer insights…”
The best thing they can do is focus bank marketing strategies and efforts on becoming publishers. Start by developing detailed personas of existing and high value account holder segments, then use those personas to produce life stage content. This content will drive engagement throughout consumer journeys and inform all aspects of marketing both digital and traditional, kicking off triggers for call to actions and follow-ups and providing insights into the personas you’ve identified as key to your organization.
For example millennials. Millennials are often targeted as high-value segments to organizations looking to the future. If an organization creates two separate personas for male and female millennials, and follows these personas through life stages, providing informative content for things like transitioning into the workforce after college, getting married, buying your first house, planning a growing family, preparing for retirement etc, a few things happen. First, you establish a relationship with the target segment as a resource. That’s a winner, create top of mind moments when they make financial decisions. Second, you start to gather insights and data based on how they interact with your content over time that can either trigger follow-up action or refine and inform your person. For example, you may learn that as millennial males become fathers, they take on a new role unlike generations in the past. They are more active in household affairs and very concerned about being a great dad. Therefore a decision maker in things like preparing for little Tommy Jr’s financial future. This also happens to be data backed up by research from Google, and you can put together online ad, email, direct mail, and other campaigns to reach those who have interacted with your content with very targeted, very personal and most importantly, very relevant content that you know, matters. Because you have the insights of where they are at this moment in time truly, one to one.
Robyn is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Catalyst.
“To gather valuable customer insights, banks and financial institutions should…”
Develop a customer experience map for each stage of the banking relationship: account consideration, account opening, onboarding, relationship expansion, and account close.
A journey map will tell you what your customers are thinking, feeling and doing at each stage of the relationship. It will yield actionable customer insights that can be used throughout the bank to improve the customer relationship.
Dr. Jillian Ney
Dr. Ney is the UK’s first Dr. of Social Media and a Digital Behavioral Scientist with experience in social media and audience behavior.
She works as a consultant to marketers, helping them to analyze and use social media data to tap into their audiences’ non-conscious thinking and behaviors to create immersive experiences that make more money. She is a two time TEDx-er and has presented her work to many society organizations including MRS and IAB. She has worked with Fortune 100 companies including SSE and Vodafone, and Fortune 500 companies including ING Bank, General Mills and IBM.
“The move into digital banking and social customer care (including web chat) has opened up a raft of new ways that banks can gather customer insights…”
For instance, by not only using customer care channels to answer queries and service customer needs, but by analyzing the data, the content of these communications can help banks understand their customers and how to better to meet their on-going needs. If 20% of all incoming social queries are about one subject, we can begin to answer these questions earlier or renew self-service content to meet the exact needs of the customer – the bank saves money on customer care and satisfaction, and the customer is satisfied.