Before you get to the customer journey, understand the customer experience.

Posted by Rick Hall

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“Customer journey” has already become one of financial marketing’s most popular buzzwords of the year. It seems you can’t have a conversation about banking, read a marketing strategy document or sit through a marketing presentation for senior management without hearing the term…along with disparate views as to what it means.

But here’s the problem with buzzwords: too many people spend more time bandying about a phrase like “customer journey” than doing the hard but fruitful work of actually deploying end-to-end initiatives to deliver the journey your customers desire. To really demonstrate your understanding of the customer journey, you have to dig in and be prepared to make some significant changes to the way your institution engages customers – across every channel they access.

The customer journey spans every interaction a customer has with your institution...

...from the first communication they receive about a new product or a branch opening to every social media post to their experience when opening an account and their engagement through every channel.

So how can you as a financial marketer move past using customer journey as a buzzword and on to demonstrating your institution’s commitment to transform customer relationships? While this isn’t exhaustive, here are a few ideas that we have seen work:  

1. Look in the mirror

Get a clear-eyed view of what the current customer journey really is like at your institution. Have you ever tried to open an account at your own institution? The answer from most marketers I talk to is no - so they haven't experienced first-hand the process their customers and prospects go through. They have no real idea what the customer experience is like while opening accounts, in trying to get help with an online banking issue, or when meeting with an associate at the branch.

To get a clear idea about what kind of journey your customers actually experience, you (and your entire marketing team) will need to do some legwork. 

2. Listen honestly 

How does your institution currently talk about the customer journey? Is it really about the customer or is it disguised messaging all about you? What kind of promises are you making about the customer experience - in your ads, your marketing collateral, your social media presence, and your onboarding materials? And more importantly, are you able to deliver on every one of them – most of the time, with a plan to target all of the time?

3. Identify the gaps

Let’s face it, honesty is more valuable than promising the moon – most customers are easily able to spot the difference, even if you aren’t able to. The time has come when you cannot continue to overstate the reality of what you really can deliver.

  • Where does your messaging not do justice to how great the customer journey is?
  • Are you even communicating about the customer journey at all?
  • Most importantly, how could the customer journey be improved (think incorporating relevant feedback here)?
No customer journey is perfect – there are bound to be areas where your institution could improve. Find them and fix them.

4. Gather the data

One of the most frustrating things we hear from our clients is “we don’t have the data we need to support our plans or measure our efforts.” While it’s not always easy to get your hands on, the truth is that the data exists somewhere.

Figure out who it is you need to talk to in order to gain access to your website’s Google Analytics or internal CRM (or the like). Gather a detailed report of new account openings after your most recent product outreach campaign – what are the direct and indirect benefits from each program? Look at your closed account and relationship files periodically – any trends? Without knowing how your customers behave, you can’t make plans based on anything but your best guess.

5. Tell better stories…or just begin to tell stories

As a marketer, telling stories should be your bread and butter. But many of us are telling the wrong story. It’s all about how great the bank is, when the real story should be about how great the customer’s experience will be. Creating emotion is a powerful tool and testimonials are a big help here.

6. Be an agent of change

This is the hard one. Many marketers don’t feel it’s their place to talk to senior management about changes that need to be made to improve the customer journey, because many of those changes may fall outside of the marketing department. But I guarantee you two things:

  • If you make the effort, you will feel empowered and better about your job, even if nothing comes of your efforts.
  • If something does happen because you cared and because you pushed for change, people in senior management will notice. 

7. Refocus priorities

Make sure you’re spending most of your time as a marketer looking for ways to communicate your vision for the customer journey – customers want some level of aspiration. Getting the logo right on the golf ball for your sponsorship of an 18-hole charity event shouldn’t take more time and energy than ensuring that every channel is maximized to deliver your most important messages about the customer journey.

Let the goal of improving the customer experience be the primary filter that informs all of your decisions.

For example, banks have identified the most pressing strategic priority of 2017 as redesigning the digital experience – a critical part of the customer journey. But with more than 70% of respondents citing this as a priority, only 20% of banks have a person whose job it is to actually implement a digital experience. Clearly, many banks need to take a hard look at their priorities and invest in activities that will make this part of the customer journey a reality.

Above all, as we have discussed in previous posts, the most important thing you can do is to identify your institution’s aspirations and honestly assess how close you are to reaching them – or not. When you discover a gap, own it and fill it as soon as you can. Consumers today are much more savvy – they’ll quickly spot the discrepancy between the customer journey you promise and what you actually deliver, and they have many other options to turn to when they don’t like what they see. And check out this recent Gartner post on how customer experience projects can go off the rails for some examples of what you want to try to avoid.

Finally, anyone notice U.S. Bank’s news that they intend to build a plan by the end of 2017 to eliminate login passwords? Think announcements like this and other news around biometrics and artificial intelligence won’t impact your bank sooner than later? Think again. The bar is constantly moving. If you’re not laser focused on topics like these - and from what we can tell most banks are already at least two years behind - the gap for you to effectively compete will become too wide to overcome.

Learn more about BKM's Financial Services practice

Topics: Bank Marketing