Customer experience: Bringing new value to old-fashioned service

Superior, personalized customer service is nothing new. It’s inherent to any consumer transaction, and even more so when it comes to working with people’s personal finances. But the definition of what superior and personalized service is is changing. In today’s digital world, consumers have more information, and thus more choices than ever before.

With advances in digital marketing, bots, and targeted ads, the online experience has become more personalized than ever, and all without any sort of human interaction. Nowadays, a customer looking to buy a new electronic device might start by asking for advice for friends, then move online to research and compare products, and might go into a physical store to get the “hands-on” experience. But when it comes time to actually make a purchase, a growing number of consumers are turning to the mobile channel.

The Internet Retailer 2016 Mobile 500 Guide reports that mobile sales were 29.7% of all North American e-commerce sales in 2015, up from 24.6% in 2014. And according to KPMG’s Mobile Banking 2015 report, mobile is already the largest banking channel by transaction volume among North American financial institutions. As a result, personal relationships may be suffering.

The downside of digital: spam

With the sheer amount of digital data and information available, consumers are able to be make more decisions independently. In order to keep up, many business giants have jumped into the digital fray. Digital communication is easy to mass-market, and companies are able to reach more customers than ever before. But there’s a flip side to mass communication: customers are already inundated with so much digital advice, they’ve become extra wary of what appears to be spam.

In a study in The Economist, “Mind the Digital Marketing Gap,” research showed that 70% of consumers are jaded by what they consider to be superficial efforts at personalization. And 63% say they’ve grown numb to efforts that mostly mostly just insert their names into generic messages.

Customers can tell when they are the target of mass, untargeted communications. When customers feel like just a number, going digital is actually working against that feeling of personalization. With regards to the financial industry, it can feel like their advisor doesn’t know them at all. A Digital Banking Report called “The Power of Personalization in Banking” cites a study by Personetics which says only 31% of customers feel their banks know them and their financial needs well. And a whopping 28% believe their institutions put their interests before those of their customers.

Digitization is a powerful tool for financial institutions, but only if used properly.

So how to go digital without alienating customers?

Going digital is both necessary and helpful for financial institutions. As technology continues to advance and customer mindsets change along with it, those in the financial sector will have to change with the times or be left behind.

Digitization has revolutionized the speed, scale, and style of communications. Not to mention it has the ability to streamline your workflow and increase productivity. But to avoid alienating customers, it’s best to combine new technology with old-fashioned customer service.

Sending messages targeted to address needs actually felt by the customer are generally very successful.

Customers want personalized services. They want to feel connected to their financial advisor. It’s about finding the fine line between feeling more connected and feeling spammed with impersonal communications. Done properly, digitization can help close the customer experience gap and stay at the forefront of customers minds.

What keeps you up at night, Mike?

I’m always thinking about our company — at dinner with friends, on the commute home and even outside in the middle of the wilderness. I wake up in the morning with new ideas and I am constantly reminded that we cannot pursue all of our ideas, so I have to write them down and then keep them on the back burner for later. As an entrepreneur, I’m constantly processing what needs to get done that day or that week.

I had never really tried to articulate exactly what was keeping me up at night, I just knew that there were lots of things I was constantly going over in my head, whether i was consciously aware of it or not.

I recently met with a well respected entrepreneur and investor in Montreal and he asked me what kept me up at night. It was a great question, and quite a different experience being asked in person versus reading articles written by other entrepreneurs about the subject.

Ironically I spent most of that night staring at the ceiling thinking about that question, thinking about my journey as an entrepreneur to-date and how our team has evolved.

His question helped to center a lot of my thoughts on important things in the company that were being executed or conceptualized on a daily or weekly basis. Before, they were just things that needed to get done, so they got done.

We can’t always be treading water as entrepreneurs — we need to take some time in our day to reflect and to increase our awareness of the present while considering how we’re going to accomplish a long term vision.

What’s interesting is how the things that seem important or challenging at the beginning become the subsequent building blocks that are incorporated as part of your day-to-day routine. What used to be considered stressful is now something habitual. It doesn’t get any easier, you just get better.

And I think part of the problem is getting into the state of mind where you are “thinking fast and thinking slow”. We have the tendency to think fast too much of the time due to the sheer volume of tasks that we need to get done. But operating like that leaves no “down time”.

We need to make it an intentional process to stop and consider how our team’s collective energy is being used throughout the week and whether every member’s effort is being aligned towards a common goal. We need a birds-eye view of long-term goals, with a zoomed in view of the day to day tasks that will get us there. We need to be mindful of what is keeping us up at night.

-Mike Blicker, founder of WealthTab