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How U.S. Bank and Sun Life are approaching digital experience design in financial services

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How U.S. Bank and Sun Life are approaching digital experience design in financial services

financial services digital experience

When customers think about about the kind of experience they want from banks and insurance companies, they might naturally focus on service and support — the moments they need to contact their financial institution about a question or problem with their account.

Having the right channels available to respond to customers obviously important, but a more holistic approach to creating the right digital experience needs to take into account the earlier stages of the journey.

As executives from U.S. Bank and Sun Life Financial told the recent Digital Marketing For Financial Services Midwest Summit, this includes customer acquisition, offering additional products and services as well as knowing when to introduce new ones.

According to Matt Beckman, U.S. Bank’s vice-president of digital platform optimization, a good example is the firm’s credit cards. Customers might research several credit card options online that include those offered by competitors before considering U.S. Bank. That means its web site, mobile app and other digital channels need to be both compelling and friction-free. 

Matt Beckman,
U.S. Bank

Some of the bank’s efforts so far have included driving online prospects to variations of its product and service pages based on where they’ve indicated a specific interest. Those browsing travel-related sites, for instance, might be led via a digital ad to a U.S. Bank page with a credit card geared towards travellers, with travel-specific messaging.

Beckman said this form of personalization has led to a 15 per cent increase in application starts and a 17 per cent increase in those who go through and submit their application for a credit card. U.S. Bank also works to ensure customers don’t get overwhelmed by the details.

“If they want to educate themselves (about our offerings), it’s positioned in a very scannable manner, without a lot of text,” he said. “We really don’t want the user to have to think or work hard to get what they’re looking for.”

Once customers have signed up for a financial product or service, a good digital experience also means there don’t have to manage a lot of disjointed transactions, said  Anna Foat, director of Sun Life’s global digital transformation office.

“The temptation is to digitize little portions of it, because it’s hard, but that is not meaningful to clients,” she said. “How do we allow a client not to do one piece of a journey, but — if they want to submit a claim and coordinate their benefits, if they want to change their beneficiary — how do they do that from soup to nuts in a digital channel?”

Unlike brands working in other sectors, of course, banks and insurance firms have to design customer experiences that take into account all the regulations to which they must adhere. This can become more challenging in digital experiences where there aren’t branch employees to talk through the reasons certain data needs to be collected.

Anna Foat,
Sun Life Financial

Foat said Sun Life has addressed this by publishing a set of data principles written as plainly as possible. This includes what kind of data it collects, what it does with the information and, perhaps most important, what it won’t collect. Unlike a bank, Sun Life’s focus on insurance means it needs to be particularly mindful given it works with customers’ health data. That’s why there are also rules about how information can and can’t be shared within its own business units.

“In my world of innovation there’s all kinds of things we can cook up and think would be really cool, but there’s all also that ‘creepy’ factor,” she said. “And rightly so — people are concerned about their health information.”

Beck said U.S. Bank also works closely with its compliance team and usually tries to think three months in advance prior to launching anything new that would involve customer information.

Where customers appreciate a more personalized and data-driven experience, he said, are contextual offers. Those using its mobile app, for instance, might be served a notification that they could have earned thousands of points over the previous three months if they had signed up for a cash back credit card.

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Other opportunities in customer journey orchestration include offering a customer a no-interest credit card shortly after buying a new home so they could purchase furniture. The experience should make it clear how the bank is trying to align its offers with what’s going on in the customer’s life.

“We’re not just pushing, pushing, pushing,” he said. “It’s more of, ‘Here’s what you missed out on, here’s the opportunity and here’s why.’” 

Foat described this approach as making “nudges.” At Sun Life, examples could include proactively reaching out to customers when their children turn 21 and they will no longer be covered by an existing policy, or checking to see if a customer knows their employer has an offer to match their retirement savings plan. Whereas this might only have happened in person traditionally, Sun Life can offer nudges through Ella, a chatbot it introduced a few years ago.

Beck said the best personalization and customer journey orchestration should be based on a strategy of being “always-on, always listening.” That also helps inform when the bank is ready to launch new products and services to its customers.

“We really want the data to tell the story, and to tell us if we’re going down the right path before we get emotionally invested in it,” he said.

Foat agreed. That’s why Sun Life launched Luminio, an online service where its customers can find paramedical providers based on geolocation, price and customer ratings. This means Lumino can offer a customer-led experience, which is another way financial services firms can build and keep trust over time.

“We not only want to have a lifelong relationship with our clients — we most often do,” she said. “The business relationship could be decades in the making.”

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