Financial services companies must make sure their digital presence is human

Financial services companies operate in an increasingly regulated market – witness the new FCA Consumer Duty regulations. But that doesn’t mean reading out compliance regulations to irritated or confused potential customers like a robot, or presenting them with screenfuls of similarly irritating and confusing ‘I agree’ forms. Your digital presence must be humanised, argues Richard Morley, broking director at Markerstudy Distribution. With one in five brokers saying they just don’t ‘get’ social media, Richard explains how brokers must boost their digital presence and get creative with their customer engagement strategy.

Related topics:  Finance News,  Special Features
Richard Morley | Markerstudy Distribution
1st March 2024
Richard Morley Markerstudy Distribution
"Having a digital presence should apply throughout the whole customer journey – from being visible online to adapting engagement strategies to incorporate new social media and multimedia preferences."

In the highly regulated financial services industry, having a digital presence should apply throughout the whole customer journey – from being visible online to adapting engagement strategies to incorporate new social media and multimedia preferences. The number and variety of touchpoints must not be confusing to the customer or an impediment to the journey but provide the perfect way to engage and buy the most suitable financial services.

Here’s are some top digital customer engagement tips to help brokers define and refine their digital customer engagement strategy:

1. Multiple digital touchpoints help retain and drive business

The world is ever evolving and so must customer communication strategies. Brokers need to consider a variety of digital channels and assets to engage and strengthen relationships with new and existing customers. The number one rule is to understand your target audience and give them choice.

Digitally-driven activity provides a highly targeted, cost effective and measurable approach to improve brand awareness and generate new leads. Activations such as paid social, display advertising and digital audio/visual platform activity can be viewed by some as supporting brand awareness objectives. However, many of these platforms also offer a high level of targeting and retargeting that can be used to ensure messaging is tailored to customer segments, supports brand awareness, and considers existing customers too.

Email and organic social activity enable a broker to reach out and communicate directly with their customer base and engaged followers. These channels provide an opportunity to tailor messaging and share more detailed information at a time and in a way that suits the customer. Combining a number of digital channels from broad reach to highly targeted, provides an opportunity to reach and engage new and existing customers as they move through the decision-making journey.

2. Customer journeys often begin online – so an accessible and engaging digital presence is a must

Websites are a window for your customers to view your brand through and are fundamental in building and developing awareness of a company, its offering and expertise as well as its people. They allow companies to be agile, relevant and up to date with both the customer and business needs.

A well-designed website should be a perfect blend of many factors. It needs to showcase the broker’s offering and expertise, help build credibility through relevant and targeted content, be clearly signposted to allow a customer to find key information they require and provide a great end to end customer journey which is accessible to all.

Marketing campaigns that use digital channels can drive traffic to the website as part of a thought leadership or brand campaign. With relevant and insightful content on a company website, SEO opportunities can be maximised to improve organic search rankings to capture in market search. Websites also provide a valuable lead capture source from PPC, SEO, and other paid and organic media activity with dedicated landing pages or related content.

3. Customer-facing messaging is not written on a tablet of stone

The messages aren’t changing but the way we communicate and the language companies use are. Consumer Duty has improved the financial services sector in focusing on transparency in communication and ensuring that the message is appropriate for target audiences, including vulnerable customers. Bearing this in mind, accessibility is a key to open communication. Digital channels allow us to make information accessible to all customers and is therefore more inclusive as we can make sure content works for people who are colour blind, dyslexic or where English is their second language, for instance.

It is key to remove the jargon and simplify communications, whether online or not. Across our brand portfolio in Markerstudy Distribution, we continuously strive to improve our messaging to meet customer needs. It’s a process of continuous improvement. Putting customer needs front and centre has never been more important and there's clearly a challenge for all financial service providers, including insurers, to make sure their products are in line with customers’ requirements and expectations.

4. Compliance is essential but must not impede the customer journey

Having a thorough understanding of Consumer Duty and data protection regulations is key. Companies who see remaining compliant as a “burden” have maybe not fully bought into the new culture which the regulator expects. Consumer Duty has clarified requirements on brokers to meet the needs of their customers, and in particular consider any additional requirements for vulnerable customers.

The FCA also expects consumer understanding and consumer support to be just as important outcomes as the products and services they offer and the price and value of those products. Strictly related to the insurance sector, the FCA lays out: “Some insurance products, such as ‘essentials’ home and motor policies, offer lower levels of cover. We are concerned some customers may not understand that the coverage under these policies is less than they may be used to. Under the Consumer Duty firms should ‘put themselves in their customers’ shoes’ when considering whether communications are appropriate.”

Fundamentally, it is about putting customers’ needs at the heart of every decision and being transparent, so the purchaser is clear about the product/service they are buying and what is included. Brokers need to truly understand the needs of the target market they are servicing, whether budget, standard or high net worth, in order to create brands and/or products that fulfil that requirement and are compliant.

But why should we choose between the best commercial impact and remaining compliant... is it too much to strive for both? By being more tailored, focused and clear when designing messaging and content, communications are often more effective and impactful with the target/desired audience. The impact is improved when the customer completely understands and trusts the messaging they receive.

5. Words are not enough – to engage today’s customers you need messages in multimedia

Reflecting customers’ day-to-day habits across social media and how they prefer to consume content is a vital part of a financial services marketing strategy. Social media is an important part of the digital mix but over a quarter of brokers are not capitalising on the powers of social media marketing. For companies within the financial services sector, their messages and promotions need to follow the FCA guidance of being ‘fair, clear and not misleading’. The FCA have stated that companies must use social media strategies that align with acting to deliver good customer outcomes and last year held a public consultation in order for them to update their guidance for best practice.

Email provides a cost effective, highly targeted channel to engage existing and potential customers. With the ability to target customers as they move through the decision-making process, it is essential that messages are tailored by audience segment and/or stage within the purchase journey.

To maximise performance, consideration should be made when designing the email template to reflect the audience’s device preferences – for example taking a mobile/tablet led approach vs desktop. Copywriting is key. Utilising strong subject lines and headlines within the email will improve open and engagement rates. Keeping copy concise with clear and regular calls to action (CTAs) throughout will support CTR (click through rates) and traffic generation.

6. Brokers must collaborate to ensure consistent personalised customer contact

The key to successful digital marketing is knowing the customer you are trying to reach, their media preferences, and providing relevant content. By understanding the digital landscape potential customers operate within, media can be selected to reach and engage and creative can be adapted with relevant insight led messaging. Both brokers and lenders/insurers should work together to ensure a clear understanding of their target customer base so that content and messaging is consistent, relevant, and informative.

Ensuring a seamless user experience throughout the policy lifecycle and through any claims, is key in supporting customers. A better end-to-end customer experience is beneficial for customers, brokers and lenders alike and is a huge step towards a positive working relationship for all.

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