Knowledge: Case Studies

UK banks need to focus on emotionally engaging with customers still nervous a decade on from the credit-crunch.

The British public has long memories when it comes to the financial crisis of 2008. They remember the long queues of nervous customers outside bank branches, the tales of excess and squander within financial organisations and the long-recession which caused huge damage to ordinary households and businesses.

Even a decade on banks need to tread carefully when it comes to the subject of customer service and engagement. They know they have a responsibility to do better but also understand the wariness of customers to slogans and slick marketing campaigns.

So how can banks and other financial institutions develop real and meaningful customer centric strategies?

The Customer Engagement Summit heard from two retail banks making progressive moves.

Tim Arthur, creative director at Virgin Money, said any change must be led from the top. “If your chief executive doesn’t buy into the strategy. If he or she doesn’t 100% believe in that what customers want, and need will change their business then you might as well not do it at all,” he said.

One way of convincing those at the top that closer knowledge of the customer can lead to results is to ‘storytell’.

“You could put masses of customer data and feedback in front of the board and they might love the information but have no clearer understanding of how to respond,” he declared. “Instead, tell them a story, show them a human form of engagement. Take all that data and find three things from it that our customers want and that we can actually engage with.”

“We carried out research on what the ideal bank would look like for customers and how it fitted in with our Virgin values of giving ‘heartfelt service’. We couldn’t take a red-hot approach like Virgin Atlantic does, we couldn’t make jokes about being overdrawn! We recognised that banks can cause huge fears amongst people struggling with their finances,” Arthur said. “Our customers said they didn’t want to be forced to sign up to a product that wasn’t right for them. They felt they could never see the same person twice and wanted us to show greater understanding and accountability. How much did we know about them and their changing circumstances? They felt banks never listened and that everything was about money. It’s not brain surgery, it was a simple message, but other banks were not doing it.”