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"The world has changed and so have consumer expectations to financial products"

Clive Gosling is the Principal Marketing Consultant for Experian in the Financial Services sector. With over 20 years client experience, including spells as Marketing Director for several large financial organisations, Clive has been a consultant within Experian for 4 years. Primarily helping clients to maximise customer value and growth through the exploitation of both internal and external intelligence, Clive supports Experian’s clients to engage customers through the many marketing channels now available. We spoke with Clive to understand better the challenges that financial organizations are going through.

What are the top three pain-points finance clients are currently sharing with you?

a. The need to restart customer acquisition activities with reduced resource, experience depletion and reduced budgets but with pre-crunch expectations. Many clients are struggling to come to terms with why activities repeated from  a few years back are not reaping the same rewards  today
b. How to maximise value but perhaps more importantly, how to understand customer value, not just now but in the future
c. The world has changed and so have consumer expectations, not least attitudes to financial products. Clients are struggling to expand simple supply and demand models into a more granular understanding of their customers’ needs and, equally important, their changing attitudes.

It has been turbulent times in the financial sector in recent years, what do you think will cause the biggest impact this year?

Obviously multi /new channel utilisation will be essential, but the biggest impact will be created by the business that gets the customer understanding and subsequent relationship building correct before many others do. There will be more losers than winners in 2011.

What techniques are you seeing clients use to reconnect with their customers and rebuild trust?

To be fair it’s limited, businesses in FS are almost coming out of hibernation and in quite a few cases it’s been a return to business as usual. However as mentioned this doesn’t really cut the mustard anymore and results are not as expected. Those investing time in planning a value strategy and getting under the skin of their customer data are going to be the winners this year.

Customer retention versus customer acquisition - where should financial organisations be placing their marketing efforts?

Well it has all been about retention and maximising current customer value over the last two years. But with signs of a more active market or playing field, it is rather like asking should a football team focus on attack or defence.  You only have to look at any league table to realise that those at the top are the ones scoring the most goals AND conceding the least? Focus on both is essential in my view.

With brands competing with offers of interest free balance transfers and 0% interest credit cards widely available, how are financial organisations building relationships with fickle customers?

Marketers need to focus more on emotion and matching products to the customer’s needs, not the instant and long term value destroying tactical offer. The consumers head is now ruling the heart meaning businesses are having to work harder to convince the customer that the product is right for them, not just now but in the future.

With such volatility abounding in the market, how can financial organisations best place themselves to rapidly respond to market changes?

Well given the above, one might expect me to say it, but it’s worth repeating. In  depth understanding of their customers attitudes through enhanced data, combined with what they are saying online, in store, at the branch to build a robust picture of who to target and who to bide their time with. Businesses don’t have limitless budgets anymore, so when clients ask me this question I often reply with another question of, ‘If that business had only 100 clients and an allowance of just 10 telephone calls: Who would they call and why?’ the first answer is always ‘those who will make me the most money’ but the understanding of which 10 based on the factors of need, attitude and receptiveness to an offer rarely exists.  Additional customer insight and profiling is a must.

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