Inspiring loyalty in financial services customers

In my last blog I explored how it has become easier for customers to swap and change financial products and that the comparison services are missing a trick by not integrating with incumbent service providers.

I have been thinking a bit more about this problem and it really is a deep-rooted issue that affects product loyalty across all financial service products today.

Most customers exploring a new financial product, let’s say a bank account or insurance policy, will use a comparison service online to check on the best deal. The primary reason we all use these services is because they save time. It is possible to search every insurance company one by one, but entering all the details required for a quote is extremely time consuming so the comparison sites allow a quick and easy comparison.

We all know that the insurance company will pay a commission to the comparison company and this is fine – but the whole comparison site industry has been rocked recently by allegations that some companies pay better commissions than others, which may in fact lead the comparison engine to recommend options that are not necessarily in the best interest of the customer.

So the first thing the customer wants when using one of these comparison tools is to trust that any company getting their business as a result of being recommended by the comparison tool is getting it fairly – all the options were compared fairly and the best ones recommended.

If the options on the comparison engine are trusted then an additional way to improve the comparison experience would be to ensure that the incumbent service provider knows about your search. Perhaps there could be an option for the customer – some customer might not be at all interested in staying with their present provider. However in many cases, the incumbent provider could jump into a conversation – probably via a chat window – and negotiate on how they could retain the customer just because they can see the customer searching for alternative options.

Additionally there could be a similar option for the customer to choose a recommended policy and indicate that they like it, but if one change could be made then they would purchase it. This could also be a simple chat option, with the insurance company representative popping up and able to discuss whether the customer request is reasonable or not.

Will these changes take place? The companies providing comparison engines need to inspire confidence that they really are the place to go for the best deals and after the recent issues over variable commission it seems that this kind of additional functionality would mean there is no better place to check on products.

What do you think about the comparison engines and how they could improve their service? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn…

Apples & Oranges - They Don't Compare


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A mobile phone tariff designed for the individual customer

What do customers really want? Usually it’s the best product or service at the best price. With all the complex tariffs available in the mobile phone marketplace that is rarely what they get, but o2 is showing not only how to put their customers at the heart of their business, but also how customer centricity may disrupt the entire market.

The o2 Refresh tariff allows the cost of a handset to be separated from the calls, texts, and data used by a customer. This means that once the handset is paid off, they can then tailor the bill to a tariff that perfectly suits the way the customer uses their phone.

O2 predicts that once this comes on stream they are going to halve the bills of 1.5 million customers. It sounds counterintuitive – which telco would want their customers to be paying half their normal bill? But by sending a message to the market that their systems can automatically give you the best tariff it will not only create strong loyalty with existing o2 customers, but will attract customers from other providers who traditionally fix customers on tariffs for several years, whether they are right or not.

One of my own personal complaints about mobile phone contracts is that I often want to upgrade early, yet the provider insists on me seeing out the remainder of the contract even when I am offering to pay extra to upgrade early. By separating the handset value from the service value as o2 have proposed, it should be far easier to know when you can upgrade, regardless of the contract termination date.

This is probably not yet enough to get me to switch phone provider, but it is a step in the right direction. Hopefully this is the first sign that phone providers will all be doing something similar soon – tariffs that are designed for the individual.

O2 World Berlin


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Connected strategies for a relationship economy

Last week London hosted the annual conference of the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) with the theme this year being ‘connected strategies for a relationship economy.’

I was particularly interested in a talk titled “Relationships versus Contacts: Propaganda, Marketing and Feedback, versus Global Co-Creation” by Professor Prabhu Guptara, Distinguished Professor of Global Business Management.

I have been out to India recently and I was thinking of ways in which we could learn from some of the strategies they are already using. In fact the UK National Outsourcing Association (NOA) was also out in Mumbai recently meeting the Teleperformance team at the annual Nasscom summit – the big annual gathering of technology and BPO companies in India.

The real question about the research of Professor Gupta is whether customers can guide your business, ethical, cultural, and leadership decisions? Is this even possible or desirable for customers to almost directly lead the strategy of a business? And if not, then why not?

I think that many more companies are going to find themselves on a journey soon where customer service becomes customer engagement and this eventually leads to customers having a direct impact on business strategy.

A striking example is the Lego toy company. They encourage customers to design new products. Customer can send their ideas to the company for consideration. Other customers vote on the ideas they like with every idea allowed one year to gather support.

If an idea passes a certain milestone of support then the Lego team will consider the idea. If the idea gets a higher level of support then it can be automatically approved and put into production without the executives even taking a decision themselves – the customers can bring a new product to market if enough of them agree that they want to buy it.

Why can’t a similar feedback and innovation model work for banks or retailers? It really is the next step towards managing the relationship economy that the ICS conference was focused on.

Let me know your thoughts on this move to managing relationships and allowing customers to set business strategy. Leave a comment here or tweet me on @aniederer.

Lego Scooby Gang


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Building Customer Loyalty in a Virtual World

The multichannel revolution goes on. I often hear customer service experts speaking about the difficulties of managing so many new customer channels and then the subsequent demands for an omnichannel, but I rarely hear many thinkers looking further out.

In my view the way that people themselves communicate has changed dramatically over the past 5-10 years and this has fundamentally change their relationship with brands. This is really important because of the way they relate to a company is changing rapidly then that means trying to manage any loyalty is also a moveable feast too.

In my own area of focus I can see several issues ahead:

  • Changes in financial product and service regulation have already made it easier for customers to swap and change products between providers.
  • Further changes to those regulations will make it quicker for customers to change from one provider to another.
  • A vast amount of the product switching that already exists relies on the customer researching their options and then using an online tool to switch – missing out on the chance to retain customers by meeting their requirements or changing an option in a way that might encourage an undecided switcher.

This needs product providers to better appreciate what it is the customer wants and needs when it comes to a relationship. Some products drive a minimal and transactional relationship but product providers should create options that customers appreciate – in fact customers are demanding an easier way to manage financial products today and simple choices are a key factor.

Offering a simple choice builds trust and trust leads to loyalty.

In many ways it would seem that the providers are making it easier to lose customers, but I believe that if they can introduce a more conversational element to the switching process, a clearer and simple appraisal of their product choices then the better products will retain more customers.

What do you think about the way loyalty in financial products is changing today? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Stirling Branch - main floor


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Is Net Neutrality Just a Red Herring?

Net neutrality has been back in the news again with the recent Federal Communication Commission (FCC) decision in the USA coming down in favour of supporting the concept of net neutrality – much to the anger of the network providers.

But I wonder if much of this noise in the media is just a red herring? Has anything really changed?

For example, in the UK customers can use BT as their ISP and there are already a range of packages available that vary based on the speed of broadband offered and the amount of data upload and download allowed.

BT cannot start charging Netflix more for generating such a large amount of online traffic, but they are already charging customers variable amounts based on what they use.

Even if ISPs don’t get the revenue they need to provide a great network service from the companies creating heavy network use, will they not eventually get the money from the end customer anyway? I haven’t heard of any outcry over Virgin’s Big Kahuna package or BT’s best Infinity package –all of which offer consumers more speed for better service. And rightly so. Customers have the right to pay more to expect more.

The reality is that someone has to pay for the network and if Netflix start offering even higher resolution movies that eat up even more bandwidth, the customers will rush to order a more expensive service direct from the ISP.

I think that there is an additional risk in all the debate over net neutrality in that the regulation may prevent network investment. Virgin Media has recently announced Project Lightning, which will introduce thousands of new connections in areas yet to be confirmed, but if NN does create an additional layer of regulation then rolling out new connections in this way might become more restricted with policy dictating what is provided where. It’s a slippery slope.

What do you think? Will the market decide how to pay for network bandwidth or should the heavy users like Netflix be charged extra? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @simon_dillsworth.

Hollywood Hills


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The ICS Annual Conference: My Thoughts

The Institute of Customer Service Annual Conference on March 3rd 2015 was inspiring for its depth of board level insight against a precarious position of the lowest customer satisfaction levels reported since 2010.

At Teleperformance we support over half of the companies listed in Interbrand’s “Best Global Brands 2014″ and we know how crucial great customer experience is to businesses growth. It was with disappointment then that delegates considered the opening remarks from Jo Causon, CEO of ICS, which highlighted the drop off in customer satisfaction reported in the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index. At the same time the Index also cited the impact of high levels of customer satisfaction on leading brands – and it’s no surprise happy customers shop more and stay longer with brands that provide a consistent, quality experience across all touch points. This correlates with our own survey of 69,000 people which revealed the percentage of happy and loyal customers exponentially increases after a positive experience, indicating on average a 33 percentage points improvement was possible in the overall perception of a brand.

Highlights from the day included a fearlessly open and insightful presentation from Simon Roberts, MD, Health and Beauty UK and ROI, Boots UK. For Boots the aim is to “form a personalised relationship with customers in a world that is becoming increasingly impersonal”. To a business that’s 160 years old, customer life-time value means exactly that, a life-long relationship across a generation with customers. But to truly enable that in a business takes a significant change in leadership mind-set, where every board meeting doesn’t begin with a data pack but begins instead with a review of what customers are “seeing, feeling, thinking and noticing” about their business. Most interesting was Simon’s statement that “we all know the saying – what can be measured can be managed, but with customer experience, what really matters can’t be measured.” Companies have to first earn customers’ trust, today and tomorrow, then work out how to monetize it.

Rita Clifton, Chairman of BrandCap and formerly of Interbrand was rifle-shot on the challenges facing businesses today to satisfy and delight customers. As a multichannel customer experience business we resonate with her statement that “every touch matters” and that brands need to be strong in vision, mission and values (in that order) to withstand the changes wrought by the smart device empowered consumer. The challenge from Rita to senior and board level teams was to find “clarity, coherence and leadership” as a business and brand to survive and thrive.

James Henry Bagley, Marketing Director from Naked Wines, made us an offer I’m sure most delegates won’t refuse and probably left many a little sanguine about their current employment/employer – 10 days on a bus drinking wine with the producers sounds more like an excellent gap year than an Outlook calendar item! But on the serious side he made several key statements on the role of the customer in a modern business, referred to as Angels at Naked Wines. He impressed with several examples where Angels had helped form and develop strategy and had been directly involved in the success of the business. Notably, at Naked Wines this is reciprocated by the employees who have even established a specific approach to meeting customer’s needs – Project Giraffe. So named as it literally comes from the idea of ‘sticking your neck out’, it includes everyone, including management and board doing whatever is necessary to provide – not customer service, not customer care, but customer happiness. Over the Christmas period in 2014 that meant everything from picking and packing to physically delivering the orders themselves, right up to Christmas Eve.

No one at the Park Lane Hilton envied Paul Loft, MD of Homebase, following that and yet he pulled it off, a great presentation that again identified that truly great customer experiences need both energised and engaged employees as well as customers to succeed. The changes he is co-ordinating at Homebase are both sweeping in their scope as they are in their vision: “At the heart of Homebase is your home – that’s a hugely emotional part of our customers’ life”. Paul articulated how the difficulty for many established businesses in moving the customer experience forward was that they have seen more of the past than they have of the near past or spent time contemplating the future. By seeking collaborative working with other retailers, even competitors, the change can be made, from simply shelf-stacking and selling paint to inspiring customers in the first place.

Host for the day Jonathan Edwards CBE, World Record Holder triple jumper, had a rethink about the insurance premium he charges for his services when Fred Sirieix, General Manager of Galvin at Windows literally put him in a miniature boxing ring on stage, with boxing gloves and protective headgear (“I am going to hit you”) to illustrate how great customer service is all about winning. Specifically Fred wanted to press home the need to focus, to adopt the right stance, to stay fit, to understand the competition and know the outcome you are going to achieve and have the plan to achieve it in order to truly deliver customer satisfaction: “losers have goals, winners have systems.”

It was interesting how our business and our client programmes around the world relate so much to what was discussed at the conference. Multichannel customer experience is our core focus. We are constantly considering the customer in everything we do – in our vision for clients, our vision for technology, our vision for our own people and of course – our vision for customers themselves. As speaker Professor Prabhu Guptara pointed out, the world has entered a new and disruptive era of consumer/customer/company interrelationships, but helping customers achieve their outcomes, however they wish to interact with their preferred brands will remain key to customer experience and satisfaction. And I can be sure we will be playing our part in 2015 to reverse the trend for next year’s UK Customer Service Index!

Were you at the event? Leave a comment with your own thoughts or tweet me on @matt_sims1.

Customer Satisfaction
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How do brands gain – and lose – the trust of customers?

At the Institute of Customer Service annual conference (ICS) this week Rita Clifton, the chairman of BrandCap, will be talking about how brands gain – and lose trust – in this era of social media.

But why do we trust brands? Retail historians tell us that in the early days of retail a brand marked out a product as being of consistent quality. When I read stories like this it makes me think of those old grocery stores in ‘Wild West’ movies where they sold everything, but nothing had a brand name.

In the modern world, brands are still around because we trust them and they reflect our lifestyle choices. You buy a certain brand of shoes because you loved the last pair. You go to a certain café because the coffee is always good there. We identify with and trust brands today and this trust is becoming even more important than ever.

This is a particularly important topic for us at Teleperformance so I’m looking forward to hearing what Rita says. If you look at the InterBrand Best Global Brands of 2014 then I’m proud to say that Teleperformance supports over half of them.

As I expect Rita’s talk will indicate, people are looking to brands more than ever as they are being bombarded with information. They need products and services they can trust in a very uncertain world. Now that customer engagement is so much a part of brand identity, it is an enormous achievement for our team to be making that happen for some of the most famous brands in the world.

Let me know what you think about our trust in brands? Is it even more important than ever or can you manage without branded products? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @matt_sims1.



Photo by Mark Hakansson licensed under Creative Commons

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