How to provide personalization at scale

A personal touch has always been the name of the game — and a competitive advantage — for community banks. Being more than an account number is often what brings new customers through the doors and encourages them to expand their banking products and services over time. 

Yet, it can also feel that personalization has to be sacrificed in the name of growth. After all, what may have been previously easy to achieve with a 1:1 email or phone call becomes challenging with more customers. 

Not only that, but consumer expectations have also changed. Thanks to online pioneers like Amazon, customers have become immune to mass advertising and promotions. Data backs this up: According to a survey by Salesforce, 73 percent of consumers expect companies to understand their unique wants and needs.

A personalized experience aligns perfectly with community banking, but how can banks collect the information and deliver this type of result across thousands of customers and multiple channels?


Customer analytics: Understanding behavior

Customers — both current and prospective — are constantly sending signals about what they’re interested in. Banks need to understand precisely which behaviors lead to customer conversion and use this data to create targeted messages.

A non-personalized approach would be sending an email to the entire customer base about a special promotion for car loans. There are multiple issues with this type of campaign: It doesn’t reach people when they’re thinking about a car loan, and for those who are not interested it becomes an easy opportunity to say “too many emails” and hit the unsubscribe button, removing your ability to send future offers.

A personalized approach would be identifying the customers who read about car loans while in your online banking platform or mobile app. Within 24 hours, if an application is not completed, an email is sent to that customer with information about a car loan — and maybe a link to an online application within the email. 

With customer analytics tools, you’re leveraging customer data to provide more information at the right time: When it’s on the customer’s mind.


Unified data: Close the loop across touchpoints

Technology has made customer interactions much more complex. What used to be limited to a branch visit or phone calls can now exist across the website, emails, online banking, mobile banking, chatbots, social media and more.

What can often happen is that a complete picture of customer behavior becomes disjointed. Some of these interactions are tied to follow-ups (like the car loan example) while others become silos of valuable data.

Banks should examine all of their touchpoints and how to unify the customer data. This could be within the core or in a separate customer data platform. APIs have made it easier than ever to move data from one source to another.

And while much of this data occurs digitally, banks should not underestimate turning phone or in-person interactions into data. A call from a customer inquiring about a car loan can be entered into a CRM platform that then triggers the same type of follow-up as a website visit. 


Engagement: Tie initiatives to outcomes

Automated campaigns, special offers, retargeting ads — these are all ways to provide personalized interactions at scale. Yet banks also need to examine the success of their efforts and tweak if needed.

Depending on volume, banks can experiment with their personalization initiatives. Is a follow-up email most successful at the four-hour, 24-hour, or 48-hour mark? Should a bank employee make a phone call if a customer is browsing the wealth management page within online banking? Are retargeting ads for specific products effective for anonymous website visitors? Can a universal banker offer the right additional product to a customer who comes to the bank?

Community banking has never been only about selling, but also about building relationships. Personalized interactions go a long way toward being seen as trusted advisors who can not only meet, but anticipate, customer needs. By taking steps to increase personalization, community bankers can demonstrate the value in what they offer.