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The Banking Reality: Understanding the Customer Centricity Shift

"In our core businesses, work proceeds to integrate and streamline our products and services to ensure that we provide a seamless experience across our offerings and regions. A monumental effort is under way to transform our Consumer business from what is, today, too much of an amalgamation of 36 local banks into one truly global bank. We’re consolidating platforms, processes and products, all with the goal of giving our customers a consistently remarkable experience wherever they live, work or travel and across all our product lines.”

Michael L. Corbatt, Chief Executive Officer, Citigroup Inc.
Excerpt from 2013 Citigroup Annual Report

According to Michael Corbatt, Citi aspires to be the world’s digital bank, and as such provide consistently remarkable experiences to its clients. These are lofty aspirations to be sure, but what truly defines a consistently remarkable experience is in the eye of the beholder — the individual (where the individual is defined as the people and businesses who embody the customers and prospects of any company in any industry).

The corporate environment today is rife with notions of data-driven, customer-centric paradigms, and to what end? Will the world really ever see a day when honest and consistent two-way interactions are the norm for relationships between an individual and the companies they choose to allow into their circle of trust  — at each critical point in the conversation, or customer journey, over time?

Posing the same question from a slightly different perspective presents a foundation for understanding how financial services companies view this challenge: In essence, does Bank X truly believe in a possible future where an individual’s financial needs, wants, and desires are consistently and perfectly aligned to the acute awareness of Bank X’s products, services, and solutions at what Google defines as the zero moment of truth — the point at which decisions are made?

If yes, then the question bifurcates:

  1. How can Bank X act quickly to leverage its strengths and shore up its weaknesses to accelerate the execution of experiential marketing and be present, or top of mind, at each individual’s zero moment of truth on an unprecedented scale?
  2. Where should Bank X wisely invest its scarce resources over the long run to accelerate the transformation to truly customer centric, as Michael Corbatt mentions in the case of Citi?

Ultimately, finding the best answer to each of these questions is dependent upon knowing exactly where Bank X is in the transformative journey to customer centricity, and how its strengths and weaknesses impact its ability to evolve. If Bank X does not have a true sense of self, in other words an objective assessment of its true capabilities and clear understanding of its vision, the optimal answers are elusive.

To simplify this complex problem and begin to answer these two questions, there are two critical elements for Bank X to embrace as guiding principles: reach and relevance.

Reach and relevance are defined in this context as mutually dependent — i.e. Bank X must reach specific individuals to share the most relevant experience, where each individual has their own concept of what is most relevant to them, through the channel of their choice, at their zero moment of truth. Therefore, it follows that to be successful in this endeavor, Bank X must know, within a range of certainty, exactly what is relevant to each individual and where best to reach them in order to maximize the return on the experience it creates and shares at any point in time.

But how does any company expect to accomplish this for one individual, let alone at scale?

It must enable and encourage a fundamental shift in its marketing mindset.

Understanding the Shift

Historically, marketers have either focused on performance (ROI, data driven, predictive, and measurable) or customer experience (persona, big Idea, and the customer journey). The two are now converging to deliver addressable customer experiences through the 3 C’s of addressability: Context, Content and Connectivity.

The customer centricity shift

  • Context leverages everything we know about the audience, and ultimately refers to our applied knowledge of customers. Context is the knowledge of who our customers are as well as their behaviors, motivations, and location. We are able to have a complete view of them in their environment and gain insights into how the content, or experience, should be delivered. Context is driving a need for a massive variety of content. The way in which contextual data can be used to influence the customer experience varies. There are platforms like Facebook (cross-sell device identity, signal strength, etc.), Google bid-by-distance, and the Twitter platform that enables us to have context on our target audiences. The customer’s channel of choice, such as web, mobile, tablet, phone, or in person also informs the context of the experience.
  • Content is comprised of the stories, advice, and offers we share with consumers. Rich and differentiating, it must be delivered in relative context to have the desired effect. Content leverages everything we know about the audience, and includes every asset that we have to put in front of them. We are now able to know the device on which the content will be delivered, which drives individual design, messaging, and offers. 
  • Connectivity is how we integrate the targeting and tracking capabilities of the addressable platforms to bring context and content together through media and channels

The addressable customer experience is the answer. Envisioned and enabled by our capabilities, we are working with some of the top banks who are already placing their bets on the future of Addressability at Scale. It encompasses what all companies aspire to be — the best at providing their customers and prospects with exceptional individual experiences at all points in the space-time continuum that comprise the customer journey.

We will explore the Addressable Customer Experience in more detail and from various perspectives over the course of the coming iterations of this series. As you would expect, thoughtful comments, questions, and shared experiences are welcomed and encouraged to enhance the story as it unfolds.

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