Old habits die hard.
I bet many of you know this all too well, especially those of you who are battling organizational mindsets or processes stuck in the stone age or trying hard to transition to new ones. Matt Cappio, senior vice president of marketing strategies at Bank of America, can feel your pain. He told us so during a session at this week's DMA2013 conference about how the bank is shifting its marketing focus from products to customers.
Bank of America, like so many of its competitors, is pouring a lot of effort into creating a customer-centric model. The goal is to present a holistic view of a customer, not slice him or her up as a mortgage holder in one interaction, a checking account user in another, and a savings depositor in yet a third. That customer, whether reaching out via a smartphone app, firing off a question online, dialing into a call center, or standing in a branch, needs to know the bank understands all of his or her needs, not just the one of that moment.
From marketing's perspective, the asking seems simple, Cappio said: "How do we maximize the value of customer-initiated interactions?" The answer, however, isn't that easy -- despite Bank of America's best efforts.
The Tower of Babel
(Artist: Pieter Brueghel the Elder on Wikipedia)
"We've taken great strides in transforming our business model to a more customer-centric one, but old habits die hard and we still get our old product-centric vertical silos," he said. "Sprinkle in all the different channels, and we end up with what I like to call the marketing Tower of Babel."
In other words, customers are apt to hear different marketing spiels depending on the channel they're using. "This is frustrating for our reps and for our customers, who are getting mixed messages."
Of course, you can't apply the same one best answer to every customer interaction -- and that makes the challenge all the more complicated. Nothing can be considered in isolation, every option has tradeoffs, and the right answer often depends on what strategy you're applying. What's needed, Cappio said, is a deliberate decision-making framework to weigh the variables.
At the most basic level of business intelligence, you can run a standard report that tells you what needs to happen. But you can also add in more details, getting more complex and discerning, and create ad-hoc reports with even better answers. "As the spectrum continues, you get more and more sophisticated in your approach to determining the best answer," he said.
It's about optimization -- "that big, scary word that people are often intimidated by" but shouldn't be, he explained. "We, as humans, are really pretty good at optimization. We do it in everyday life," like when we decide whether we're going to drive, take the train, or hop on the bus. Each option comes with the comparative metrics of, say, speed, flexibility, comfort, cost, and constraints to consider. Not only do you have to get to work, but you have to get to work on time, for example.
The same principles apply when managing customer interactions, said Cappio, noting that Bank of America is using SAS Marketing Optimization software. "An optimization software solution generates potential courses of action. These scenarios represent different ways of quantifying and balancing tradeoffs."
The key is balancing the constraints for each channel. In making customer-interaction decisions, the marketing team might consider associate capacity as a constraint within a call center. Bank of America only licenses a certain number of service reps to sell mortgages, for example, and it wants to be sure it can roll out the red carpet for high-end customers calling in. So it needs to balance associate capacity against customer experience.
Using the optimization software allows Cappio's team to pull all sorts of levers, see the tradeoffs, and determine the best interaction possible -- and, yes, knock down that Tower of Babel.
"Ultimately, this software and the conversation and the thinking it enables gets us to a world where we're deliberate, customer-centric, and making mutually beneficial decisions," Cappio said. And yes, he added, it's a world in which all the product silos work together and the "right hand knows what the left hand is doing."
Marketing babble or cohesive story? Which do your customers hear?