This article is part of our August series about the state of financial services. Click here for more.
Established by royal decree in 1783, The Bank of Ireland is the oldest in the country, with around 40% of the Emerald Isle’s economy flowing through it. While the bank is proud of its history, its outlook, however, is strictly forward-facing, determined to constantly update technology and processes across its range of products and services to offer customers the best possible experiences.
It was with this focus on delighting its customers that the bank hired Brian Corish back in July 2016. Serving as chief customer officer and director of marketing and analytics, he has been using the experience he gained as head of digital at Vodafone and director of strategy at agency TBWA, among others, to maintain the bank’s steady course towards digital excellence.
He told CMO.com how he is utilising the colossal reserves of data to which the bank has access to create truly personalised customer experiences.
CMO.com: You have a startup background. How does that differ from working in Ireland’s most historic bank?
Corish: That’s right—I came from tech startups. In large organisations, whether it’s a bank, a telco, or an FMCG company, there is a different set of strengths and weaknesses. I think that large organisations with disparate systems and platforms can find it difficult to create seamless user experiences, so that’s something we’ve focused on doing.
The benefit that large organisations have is the massive amounts of data we have access to. Small companies just don’t have that yet. They may be able to create a seamless user experience, but a seamless, personalised experience requires a lot of data. If you are to be a customer-centric organisation, you have to be data-driven; you can’t be one without the other.
CMO.com: What kind of data do you have access to?
Corish: We have 1.7 million customers in a country with a population of just under 5 million people. That’s a lot of customers relative to the size of the country and a very broad range of people. We have roughly 40% of the economy of the country running through the bank, which creates a massive amount of data. If we can use that to help people make better financial choices and increase their level of financial literacy, the country will benefit, so that’s what we're trying to do.
We’re also using that data to create the personalised experiences that customers would have had with us 20, 30, or 40 years ago when the bank manager would know them and their family. They’d know your credit, your circumstances, and be able to help you out. We’re using our data to understand our customers better, so we know what to talk to them about, when to talk to them, and how best to approach them.
CMO.com: What are you doing to make those personalisation aspirations a reality?
Corish: We’re using 2,550 different data points to track our customers. The data science team will look at users’ behaviour across multiple channels and multiple locations, whether that’s in a branch, calling one of our call centres, or using the app. We combine all of those use points to understand our customers better.
During that process we’ve transitioned away from thinking purely in terms of customer journeys. Customer journey mapping is very valuable, but no customer actually follows that linear path anymore. Those journeys are micro-interactions, so, really, data is the only way you can actually do that at scale.
The customer journey map is a great template for building an initial experience, but when you start to add personalisation to it, that experience can go out the window very quickly. What we’re doing now is using data to map out individual customer journeys and then using tools such as machine learning to serve the right experience to that customer based on that individual journey they have chosen.
CMO.com: How is that way of thinking manifesting in the way you approach customers?
Corish: One of the things we’re most proud of is what we’re calling “Segmentation 2.0.” The basis of that initiative is using our data to segment customers based on life stage, life moment, and attitude to money.
We’ve created a moment around someone getting married, for example, which can be a stressful time. We’ve changed the experience we create around that life moment, so the focus is not on the products that could be useful when you’re getting married. It’s about understanding the customer need at that point and communicating to them in that way that’s appropriate at that time. That content was all geared around helping customers as they got married with hints and tips about budgeting for the big day, for example.
That shift from product-based to issue-based marketing was a really big thing for us. If you look at our website architecture now, it’s all built around life stages, the customer needs during those stages, and what we can do to help them. When we personalised that content, we saw in the region of a 170% to 173% increase in engagement.
CMO.com: You’re using customers’ “attitude to money” as a way to segment them. How does that work?
Corish: We want to understand a customer’s relationship with their money so that we know the right way to talk to them about finances. A good example of this approach in practice is two customer personas we’ve created called “balancers” and “experiencers.”
A balancer is a customer who is on top of their finances and understands them fairly well. If you’re a balancer, we can talk to you about things like rates, terms, and conditions, and the more technical aspects that might interest you. An experiencer is someone like me who isn’t great with money. If you’re one of those people, we’ll talk to you in a different way and offer up content to educate you and help you understand your finances better. It’s this approach to communicating with our customers that we feel will really differentiate us going forward.