Marketforce’s Operations and the Customer Experience (London, 23 March 2011)

Yesterday, I contributed to Marketforce’s inaugural event on innovation and transformation in financial services “Operations and the Customer Experience“.

Jonathan Simkins, Senior Conference Producer Financial Services at Marketforce, invited me to take part on the recommendations ofJeremy Fawcett, Finance Category Director at Yahoo! who I’d first met at a Financial Services Forum event on social media back in January 2010.

Congratulations to Marketforce which managed to gather over 100 delegates from the following companies: AEGON, Ageas Insurance, Allianz Insurance, Assureweb, Aviva, AXA Sun Life, Bank of America, Barclaycard, Barclays Bank, Baringa Partners, Capgemini, Capita Consulting, CGI Group, City Park Technologies, Cofunds, Co-operative Financial Services, Coventry Building Society, DenizBank, Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, Ellipse, Erste Bank, Firstsource Solutions, Hiscox, HP Enterprise Services, HSBC Bank International, Hughes Insurance, ICICI Bank UK, Intelligentsia, JLT Group, KPMG, Legal & General, Lloyds Banking Group, LV=, MetLife, MSV Life, National Australia Bank, Nationwide, NFU Mutual, Nimbus Partners, Norwich & Peterborough Building Society, Procter, Prudential, Purple Cow Media, QMatic, Royal Bank of Scotland, RSA Insurance Group, Santander, Standard Life Group, Sun Life Financial of Canada, Sword Ciboodle, TATA Consultancy Services, The Curve Group, Thomson Reuters, Xerox Services, Yorkshire Building Society, Zurich Financial Services.

It was a busy day, packed with no less than 10 educational and entertaining 20mn speaking slots, 4 discussion panels and a round table session.

The event covered five hot topics in financial services:
* Efficiency: transforming customer operations cost effectively
* Strategy: improving the customer experience
* Channel Innovation (incl. social media): responding to evolving behaviours and expectations
* Cloud computing: opportunities to deliver real customer service innovation
* People: serving customers more effectively

It was intense, but it was an excellent way for the attendees to leave with many actionable ideas and suggestions, and numerous case studies to share with their colleagues.

MarketforceSpeakersJonathan and his colleagues put together a strong event with someexcellent speakers from the following financial institutions: Ageas Protect, Aviva, Barclays Bank, Hiscox, LV=, Thomson Reuters, Zurich Financial Services, and a few consultancies,Capita and TCS.

Please find below some key thoughts and comments I’ve highlighted during the presentations.

Michael Gould, Group Chief Operating Officer at HiscoxHiscox is building a business with a brand based on trust, which relies on the behaviour of their people. Their goal: be responsible, nimble, efficient. They are customer obsessed and aim to provide a superb service. It is great that customers take the trouble to complain: it gives the organization a chance to increase customer satisfaction.

Michael also referred to American Express, the king of social media and onf of the very best examples of customer and partner engagement in B2C and B2B. I invite you to check their achievements in my Visible Banking Twitter Watch series (1,350 accounts tracked) and Visible Banking Facebook Watch series (600+ pages tracked). I agree with Michael when he refers to building “a strong emotional relationship” as a hygien factor: a bit like social media, being good on twitter or facebook won’t necesseraly help you increase your market share if your products are not appealing or your services are poor overall…

Shanti Duggal, Operations Director at Ageas ProtectI’m not convinced customer service is always what people are looking for, we opted for eCommerce and sefl-service, an environment where customers could give themselves good customer service, we outsource service / ou contact center to our customers, Head Office on every customer desk, key measurement is satisfied customers, customers and employees use the same system which is intuitive and doesn’t require any training.The staff are problem solvers.

I loved Shanti’s personal style and as far as I am concerned he delivered the best presentation with the right mix of insights, recommendations, and fun. One single system for staff and customers, brilliant. Indeed, we must keep things simple and convenient.

Rafaele Petruzzo, Retail Experience Director at Barclays Bankthey focused on what customers really wanted to feel and experience, they adopted a scaled design approach, the bank doesn’t display any poster or marketing message on the windows because it was blocking the way. The Operations & Distribution team, and not Marketing, developed and implemented the launch strategy (Aware, Execute, Engage, Attract) and launched their promotional activities. They made sure to make it relevant to the local community. Rafaele talked about their Tiger Team (a kind of alternative distribution network) and Barclays Live, the dancing contest launched by the bank last year.

Passionate presentation from the very international Rafaele. Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to take a picture of his corporate tie and shoes. Excellent case studies which linked back to social media on the promotion front with Barclays’ “Barclays Live” initiative: even though I personally wasn’t convinced by the concept (a bank organizing a dancing contest) or too thrilled with the platform or the reward, it looks like it delivered and local communities loved it which is what matter most right? Well done to Rafaele and his team.
More importantly, it was an experiment and social media is all about “Live and Learn”! Now, I’m eager to see how Barclays will leverage the learnings to launch a more engaging and longer term social media initiative.

John Spillane, Head of Sales Processes & Tools at Thomson Reuters6-month project to implement and roll-out a single sales platform for the Thomson and Reuters sales force. They implemented which acts as a front-end. Access anytime anywhere: tapping into the cloud helped them roll-out blackberry and iphone access within three months. Internally they use a tagging system which enable the sales guys to share info on prospects and clients globally.

John’s presentation demonstrated the value of the cloud and the importance of giving employees access to an intuitive and effective collaboration platform to share, save time, and eventually dramatically impact the Business. I enjoyed his non-BS approach and the frank conversations during the Q&As.

John Gilbert, Customer & Operational Excellence Director at Aviva:strategic focused on customer advocacy and growth, goal to “become the most recommended company in our market”. They measured two types of Net Promoteur Score: relationship (compared to the competition) and transactional. Aviva focused on two touch points: service (customer advice) and fulfilment (claims, internal). Most of their “Voice Of the Customer” strategy relies on surveys sent via email (1.3 million emails sent last year). The feedback is channelled directly to the Staff and the Managers which is very powerful. The key challenges are to maximize the volume of survey invites and the response rates (obviously, you need to capture emails first and maintain an up-to-date database of addresses). Two of their next goals are “shifting improvement goals from cost to customer, and accessing intermediated customers via partners and brokers.

I enjoyed this case study the most. I can’t stress how important it is to focus on your customers first and proactively invite them to share their feedback on not only your products, but also your services or your brand values. It is challenging to drive a good volume of feedback on ongoing basis, and it is critical to leverage the data to transform your business and increase customer satisfaction.

Moreover in order to fully maximize the value of this feedback, improve your SEO or the efficiency of your online marketing and eventually drive customer acquisition, you should think of displaying it in a relevant and interactive way online, on mobile, or in your traditional marketing materials. I invite you to check some excellent implementation of customer reviews from USAAAmerican ExpressGEICO or CIBC.

My Take – Social Media is Still Confusing
Outside our session dedicated to Channel Innovation and Social Media, many speakers mentioned the growing importance of social media, but without sharing any specifics. This is an improvement compared to just a year ago: now Senior Executives understand they can no longer ignore this phenomenon. Having said that, bankers and insurers still don’t know how to leverage social media, they struggle to identify its ROI, and I still heard too many times that social media was “risky” and “a liability”.

There is a lot of confusion around social media: banks don’t know where to start and how to engage with their audiences, they think that having an inactive facebook page or twitter account with a very limited follower/fan base is enough to conclude that “social media is not for us”.

Purposefully, I delivered a dense presentation packed with case studies and examples, and people were genuinely impressed. Indeed very few people in the room were aware of such a level of activity in the “risky” social media space from the heavily regulated and conservative banking / insurance industries worldwide.

This validates that even in 2011, and even with the immense popularity of facebook and twitter which are constantly promoted on every TV news channels and in the press, financial institutions need guidance, and their senior managers and senior executives need some coaching. As a matter of fact, they need guidance more than ever, because month after month customer expectations increase and it’s becoming more and more critical for financial institutions to start building a presence and adopting a pragmatic approach to social media, and start increasing their internal knowledge and expertise.

We are still very much in the educational phase of social media.

Every single digital agency claims to be expert in social media, and they all mention winning initiatives and strategies from the likes of Starbucks, Dell, Ford or Pepsi… but by experience most of them fail to help their financial services clients to successfully leverage social media, mainly due to their lack of understanding of the industry and their focus on the design / the interface more than the engagement or the content strategy. And as trusted advisors, they should convince their clients to build an expertise internally instead of outsourcing social media.

I had many productive conversations with doubtful or concerned bankers and insurers, but let me focus on one particular conversation with an insurer who told me that he was struggling to find hardly any conversations about insurance products online. On that basis, his Management challenged the value of investing in social media versus hiring one or two more customer support staff. But wait a minute, what if it meant that unsatisfied customers simply didn’t make the effort to express themselves and just switched their insurance policies… without even giving you the chance to win them back.  So is silence really such a great thing? 😉

Last but not least, the opportunity in B2B and B2B2C is enormous in the social media space and financial services firms should start thinking of strategies to support intermediaries such as IFAs or independent insurance brokers. They need easier, more efficient ways to explain and promote the financial products they recommend, they need to increase their online visibility and demonstrate their expertise… Designing and implementing the right social media strategy will enable you to become an ambassador for the sector, deepen your relationships with those intermediaries, generate sales leads and eventually increase your market share.

My presentation – “Innovation, Customer Experience, and Social Media”
VB-VBTWI created a brand new presentation for this event and I won’t publish it on my slideshare account.

Nevertheless, please find below the links to some of the articles I mentioned on my slides.

* A Few Trends
-> Innovation: Recent Articles from the Visible Banking blog
-> Transparency: Thoughts on Transparency & Social Media (15 Initiatives from 10 Countries)
-> Organisation: 5 Ways Banks Use to Build their Social Media TeamList of Banking, FS, Insurance Executives on twitter
-> Moderation: List of Social Media User Policies & Moderation Guidelines in Banking, FS, Insurance
-> Support Client: Financial Institutions Must Support Their Customers on Twitter
-> eReputation: 10-Step Strategy to Sail Through a Crisis Thanks to Social Media

* Towards More Engaging Initiatives
-> NAB’s “The Break Up”: a Traditional Marketing Campaign with an Efficient Social Media PUSH
-> Can ‘Lloyds TSB Me’ Emulate Nintendo’s Success?
-> The Wepad Project: Italy’s Webank Invites 6 Experts (and You) to Help Them Create in 6 Weeks the Best iPad Application for Banking
-> Idebank: Danske Bank Leverages Facebook to Improve its Mobile Banking Application

* Recommendations
-> 20 Ways Financial Insitutions Should Use to Promote Their Social Media Presence

I invite you to check the pictures I shot at the event which are all available onthe Visible Banking page on facebook. Please feel free to comment / tag them and add yours!

I am keen to help you and your financial institution to better understand and leverage social media.

Don’t hesitate to call me (0044 7736 446 357), send me an email (, or DM me (@Visible_Banking) to talk about about twitterfacebook, customer reviews & Voice Of the Customer (VOC) projects in banking, financial services and insurance..

What do you think?

Written by Christophe Langlois

Based in London for almost a decade, Christophe is an entertaining fintech marketing keynote speaker and a trusted advisor to the global financial services industry on the topics of digital marketing, innovation and B2B social media.

Christophe has contributed to over 140 events in 18 countries.

Currently, Christophe is advising a number of fintech startups on marketing and growth hacking and he is the Chief Marketing Officer of The Fintech Power 50, an exclusive annual programme helping fintech scale-ups to accelerate their growth globally.

Christophe's views on are his own.

EFMA’s Online Financial Services Study Day (Paris, 8 March 2011)

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