My earliest impression of banking was shaped by a branch manager in a venerable State-owned Bank that my family had favored for generations. I don’t know how he did it, but he knew almost every customer – and there were thousands – by name and made each
one feel valued. This, at a time when technology hadn’t yet made its way to the branch!
Decades later, banks are striving to restore that same old intimacy with customers by recognizing each one as unique, a “segment of one” to be plied with personalized services.
Tough, when you consider that unlike the branch manager of old, today’s bank executive has no way of knowing when, or on which channel a customer will show up to indulge in his preferred type of banking. But while technology has eroded the human touch of
banking, ironically, it offers banks the only way to reach out “one-on-one” to millions of customers, on every channel.
However, before taking the technology route to “segment of one” marketing, banks need to understand who their customers are, what will mold their relationships with these customers, and how they are going to build those relationships.
They can find most of these answers in their conversations with customers. The key is to listen to both, what customers have to say, as well as what they leave unsaid. Easier said than done…remember, we’re talking of millions of interactions. Thankfully,
technology has become smart enough to “participate” in these conversations and fast enough to process their content in “real time”, with the result that it can now make relevant and contextual suggestions to the bank’s customer facing executive on how to take
the discussion forward, while the conversation is still in progress.
Let me give you a small example to show how big this really is. A bank in India figured out that a request for a 100-leaves checkbook often meant that the customer was issuing post-dated checks towards the monthly installments on a housing loan, taken from
some other bank. By probing the customers who called with such requests (with helpful cues from their intelligent conversation management engine), the bank’s staff was able to switch some to its own home loan product, and sell home insurance to some others.
In a few cases it was able to do both by sweetening the deal with a housing loan and home insurance bundle. What this tells us is that personalized service and innovative ideas aren’t always the result of hard data crunching; sometimes it takes soft insights
to do the job. And that’s what the segment of one approach can produce.