When you ask most people how they feel about their banker, a blank stare or a frown are most likely what you’ll get in return. I spoke with two passionate customer experience folks from the high trust world of financial services to find out what’s inspiring, challenging, and changing the way they create experiences to delight their customers.
Rick Salmeron, a Dallas native I met at ISITE’s Delight 2012 conference, and Jennifer Spencer of PerkStreet Financial, who I chatted with at Customer Love Summit in Boston, share a fire for building great customer experiences that I was eager to explore. Though they both face similar concerns over regulations in the industry, each has a unique perspective on some key issues around what it takes to differentiate through meaningful interactions.
Building engaging relationships with prospective and current clients can be a challenge in an industry riddled with regulations. Legal boundaries and privacy concerns are an everyday part of business, and often so cumbersome that the financial industry has become what Rick deems a “desert of dullness” when it comes to customer experiences. Yet both PerkStreet and Salmeron Financial are looking for creative ways to blend delight into their brands, without breaking the rules.
Building Relationships with Cross-Continental Customers
While PerkStreet faces all of the rules and regulations of financial planning, they also must consider the fact that their business is entirely done online – both a challenge and a benefit as they try to foster positive relationships with their clients. Creating personable and genuine interactions can be tough to scale when clients are spread across the country, never entering a physical branch, but Jennifer says handwritten notes, Twitter, and recently Vsnap video messages have allowed their customers to get to know the people and faces they’re entrusting with online banking. Laying the groundwork for these kinds of connections, Jennifer says, is about figuring out how new tools or channels can function, considering the regulations, then figuring out how to make them work for them and the brand. That, and simply “treat people how we want to be treated,” she says – a simple approach that goes a long way in financial services.
At Salmeron Financial, the challenge of maintaining cross-country delight is crucial to maintaining the core of the business. As Rick says, it’s “not a transactional business, it’s a relationship business.” Once customers have come to trust the company and the honeymoon phase ends, keeping the “delight” factor alive can be a challenge. Rick cites Facebook as his core tool for making this happen. While he maintains a Salmeron business page, he also connects with individual clients through his personal profile to keep up-to-date on everything from graduations to babies. Staying in regular contact with clients is something Rick holds as a top priority to make clients feel like they’ve made the right decision – from the honeymoon phase well into the golden years.
Whether near or far, PerkStreet and Salmeron Financial both approach “delight” with tailor-made tact for all of their customers. Though the question of scale is inevitable, the employees at PerkStreet and Salmeron know the value behind all moments of delight is inherent: delivering great customer experiences will win hearts and true lifelong customers.
At Salmeron, Rick explained, they offered free ice cream last July (National Ice Cream Month) to anyone who sent him a message. Receiving nearly 100 responses from across the country, Salmeron Financial delivered – making a mark in the summer memories of dozens of customers and prospects.
Jennifer shared a story of valiant effort by the PerkStreet team, just before the company made the switch from Visa to MasterCard. When hundreds of customers failed to activate their new cards, PerkStreet employees jumped on the phones to make over 600 calls to ensure no customer was left behind.
The Testimonials Hot Button
To counter tricky issues around regulations, eliciting testimonials is mostly a matter of letting customers speak for themselves at Salmeron Financial and PerkStreet. For instance, photos from the Salmeron ice cream day were posted online, which serve to strengthen the brand presence online and support word-of-mouth. PerkStreet’s approach has been more overt, with video contests (using VideoGenie) for customers to share their experiences. As Jennifer explained, these kinds of testimonials (open-ended and user-generated) don’t go so far as market claims, and with some basic due diligence can be strong testaments to the brand.
At PerkStreet, Jennifer told us, one customer was so excited after winning one of these contests that she actually sent the company a framed definition of the word “Delight,” with stickers to boot.
Delivering delight in the financial industry, whether online or in person, comes down to the imagination and dedication behind the experiences, as each of these brands shows. Both mentioned how critical it’s been to look to other industries for inspiration, noting USAA, Warby Parker, and JetBlue as their top picks. Regardless of industry, seeing delight in action is often the key to recognizing potential opportunities for your own brand; as Rick explained, “you never know how much better you can deliver on CX.”
Where do you find inspiration? Is your brand pushing boundaries to build relationships?