Why Financial Services Brands Need to Get Personal

With the right foundation in place, financial services can succeed through good times and bad.

Indian woman on computer.
Why Financial Services Brands Need to Get Personal

People make financial decisions at every stage in their lives. And each choice — be it applying for student loans, working out a mortgage, or saving for retirement — gives financial services and insurance organizations a great opportunity to build trust and establish lasting value.

But in order to help customers make the best possible decisions, financial services companies must get to the heart of the matter with meaningful advice and specific solutions, which only became more difficult during the pandemic. Bank branches and offices temporarily closed their doors, and contact centers, many of which were operating at decreased capacities, strained to process the swell in customer queries.

Not only that, but consumers’ financial outlooks and confidence changed. Instead of checking balances and assessing credit card rates, they became concerned about making ends meet, and looked for ways to defer loan payments, lower investments, and pay less on existing balances.

Financial institutions and their customers can no longer rely exclusively on “tried-and-true” channels. Instead, brands must find new ways to connect, understand needs, and anticipate behavior — both during and after the pandemic. Compelling content can help bridge the gap, especially when attuned to customers’ doubts and aspirations, but broad changes in how organizations create personalized experiences are needed to achieve this level of resiliency.

Digital journeys begin internally

Like customers, financial organizations also evolve throughout their lives, and digital transformation is a crucial mark of maturity. But implementing technology is only half the story — staff must also commit to mastering the solutions. According to PwC research, this is where financial institutions fall short. The study found that 54% of the industry’s CEOs believe skill shortages have hindered their firm’s ability to innovate, even after investing in digital technology.

Improving digital fluency must be prioritized across all corners of financial services (“finserv”) organizations, from marketing and customer experience to learning and development and human resources. For some, this could mean more hiring and training for digital skills, or seeking out tools that make insights accessible. For others, it could mean building a rhythm where creative and compliance work closer on content. Whatever the situation, financial institutions must make their digital processes easily understood, implemented, and adopted across teams internally before they can ever hope to see them be effective externally.

How businesses respond in times of need will define customer relationships for the years that follow. With a strong digital foundation, financial organizations can collect and analyze data from multiple channels, produce and track content at a timely pace, and create tailored experiences for each customer. This will greatly help finserv brands to reach customers with relevant services and content — now and in the future.

The path to personalization

No matter how far they’ve come in their digital journeys, all organizations can improve on personalizing customer experiences. In financial services this requires more than simply approaching customers with products and deals — organizations should frame their services in a way that reflects who their customers are and what they want, while taking privacy concerns into account. People often worry that confidentiality is sacrificed for personalization, so it’s important that organizations show their commitment to data protection to continue building trust with customers.

  • Customer data gives finance marketers insight into the products individuals already own and help identify specific interests. The right content management system can then adapt the content that each user sees depending on — for example, the transactions they make and the things they do on an app or website.
  • Location data allows financial services and insurance marketers to show specific pages that are relevant to where a visitor is located. As COVID-19 impacts local services to different degrees, this is an effective way of keeping different communities up to speed on regionalized information.
  • Behavioral data can reveal not just what customers want, but how they express it. This is valuable information marketers can use to tailor communications to regional sensitivities, and adopt customer language to become more relatable. This may also help stem the tide on generalities and jargon, which can be barriers to customer engagement.

Under volatile circumstances, customer needs and behavior can change without notice — making real-time analytics essential to delivering digital services and content that speak to each customer’s needs. Prudential, for example, uses artificial intelligence and machine-learning technology to better understand the financial needs of its 22 million customers, ultimately streamlining experiences across channels.

Content paves the way to trust

Finance as an industry often deals in topics considered technical or inaccessible, but people have a real appetite to learn. For instance, 92% of millennials believe that financial literacy is important. Money matters to people in all demographics, and they’re keen to make better financial decisions.

Better storytelling can humanize financial brands who typically struggle with building trust. The key is to provide value to customers, whether by making information accessible or identifying relevant pain points and providing solutions. Financial organizations should create content for customers with three aims: be functional, be educational, be informative.

  • Customers want to get on with the basics. Clarify how people can continue using the brand’s essential functions, from making bill payments, transfers, and check deposits, to meeting payment deadlines and keeping up-to-date with interest rates.
  • Customers want to reduce risk and improve their financial management. Guide customers to make better decisions about topics that matter, like investing during market volatility, saving for retirement, and taking out loans and life insurance. Explain useful digital features, like using mobile to deposit checks or changing direct debits via online banking.
  • Customers need to know operational details. Let them know what services they can expect during times of crisis, and update them with any changes, such as branch hours, ATM restocks, and contact center delays.

With every conversation, make sure to get the timing right — like mortgage lender Quicken Loans does with its personalized escrow analysis videos. Effective content and digital asset management can help teams create and adapt their communications at a higher velocity. That way, marketers stay on the pulse of customer questions and motivations, improve customers’ financial well-being, and make their organizations easier to trust.

A leap of faith

In times of stress, people look to the institutions they rely on daily for guidance. To stick the landing, financial organizations must reach every customer with the right message, at the right time.

Financial institutions should train their people in digital skills and literacy — think storytelling, data analysis, software, and data privacy awareness. Then, they should build a strong and secure digital foundation that will help their teams create personalized customer experiences and produce compelling content.

Thoughtful, timely content strengthens bonds between institutions and customers. But trust requires ongoing commitment. Customers place trust in financial organizations by signing up for services and giving away data. By investing in technology and people, financial brands can prove they’re listening.

Learn how we’re helping financial services create outstanding experiences for their customers.

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