Blue Star Direct recently sponsored the Australian Marketing Institute’s annual summit in Brisbane, for the second consecutive year. This year’s theme of ‘who dares wins’ challenged marketers to explore how they innovate in 2016 when big marketing budgets no longer guarantee success (and are scarcely available). I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at the conference and largely I focused on answering this question. How do brands innovate in 2016 and beyond when the days of throwing big money at campaigns and sitting back and watching sales increase are long gone? In order to address the question at hand, as marketers we first have to ask ourselves what does “innovation” look like?
In my (humble) opinion, the word “innovation” is bandied around all too freely and as a result it’s losing impact and becoming dumbed down. Stripping right back to the dictionary definition, an innovation is “the introduction of something new or different”. This is all well and good but then surely we can’t ALL innovate ALL of the time? Think about it in terms of product innovation. Yes a brand can consistently introduce “new” progressions, evolutions or versions of their products but actually how “new and different” are these “innovations” when compared to competitor products? Perhaps not all that much.
Needless to say the dictionary definition didn’t sit well with me when applied to marketing. For me innovation comes back to the customer. I slightly tweaked the AMI’s mandated theme (sorry AMI) and decided that when it comes to innovation, who cares wins. Let me explain. It’s the brands that genuinely care about their customers and the experience they have that will see the most success. The best return on investment and have the most loyal customer base.
Take a look at First Direct Bank. They’re a sub brand of HSBC Bank in the UK, dubbed the “unexpected bank”. They have no branches and are a solely phone and internet based retail bank. They offer all the same products and services as their competitors but they are currently Britain’s most recommended bank. Why? They have championed customer experience. How? Here’s a checklist of learnings that we as marketers, can all take from First Direct. If we dare to show our customers we care, we’ll reap the rewards.
Be open and available
First Direct are proud of the fact that they are available to their customers 24/7. No query will be left unanswered at 4am on a public holiday, not with First Direct. For the vast majority of businesses however it’s not possible for customers to have access to their customer service team 24/7, neither is it necessary. That said, when brands make themselves more open and available they see increased customer satisfaction measures. This could be extending brand or retail store opening hours, or providing a live chat service with a team member in the early evening and/or at weekends. Sometimes minor adjustments to the times of the week that your customers can reach you make have a significant impact on their experience.
Provide a personal touch
Use the data and technology you have available to make your customers feel valued at an individual level. Ever called your bank and been prompted to key in your customer reference number only to then have it requested by the customer service representative when you finally get off hold 10 minutes later? Not only is it frustrating by it makes you feel as though you are exactly that to your bank – a number. Call centre staff at First Direct are trained to pre-empt the reason for a customer’s call. So they will answer your call with a friendly “Are you calling to activate your card Mr Williams?” It’s a nice touch and demonstrates their understanding of exactly what you need from them.
Embrace the best and smartest technology available to your brand but do this for the sole purpose of making your customers’ lives easier. It’s not about technology for technology’s sake. First Direct launched Biometric Banking in early 2016. They now have the technology in place to enable customers to access their accounts via fingerprint identification and voice recognition, making passwords a thing of the past. We’ve all had the frustrating experience of forgetting our passwords and getting locked out of our accounts, it’s not fun!
Show you care
Invariably the best interests of your customers may conflict with the best interest of your bottom line (at least in the short-term). Despite the fact that banks can make millions when customers’ accounts go into arrears by charging overdraft fees, First Direct made the bold move to SMS a warning customers who’s account is about to go into the red. They saved their customers 85 million pounds in the first year after introducing SMS alerts. 72% of customers claimed that the alerts helped them avoid overdraft fees.