Who Will Own the Customer?
It’s a debate fraught with tension and one discussed perhaps more than any in Financial Services today — who will own the customer? Many feel that being the primary digital interface, the Digital Intelligent Virtual Assistant (DIVA) with whom the consumer engages first and primarily, will win the data battle, and decide the wider war. A SIRI of all SIRIs? And banks could be well positioned for that. When you think about it, money touches many of the decisions we make in our day to day lives. So perhaps banks will rise as the DIVA of choice, frictionlessly providing the funds, and information, to help us execute all of the decisions in our day to day lives.
Others predict however, that the DIVA of the future will remain in the hands of massive tech incumbents, which is not necessarily bad news for banks. First of all, the tech giants of the world are not interested in becoming large financial services institutions (FSIs), but their technology will likely reshape banking and other services. One of the advantages for FSIs to connect with these more established platforms is that they get in front of the customer, rather than waiting for the customer to come to them. So even though the primary touch point may be with a DIVA not owned by the FSI, the key will become having the best product and most beautiful interface experience possible to provide to the trusted personal assistant.
“One of the advantages for FSIs to connect with these more established platforms is that they get in front of the customer, rather than waiting for the customer to come to them”
Nils Von Zelowitz, a partner in IBM’s Interactive Experience practice has this to say, “The breadth and depth of services that financial institutions offer to customers will be determined only by consumers. Institutions may aspire to provide services that cross banking with customers’ lives, but this may not be of interest to a customer. Rather, banks would be well served with exploring partnerships with service based experiences that are already being adopted at scale and are trusted by consumers. For example, Alexa from Amazon service that is already used by millions. Better for FSS enterprises to partner with Alexa-like devices and provide services via a trusted existing platform than try to build from scratch. But remember, constructing partnerships that ensure access to important loopback information for continued service innovation will be essential.”
“Better for FSS enterprises to partner with Alexa-like devices and provide services via a trusted existing platform than try to build from scratch” — Nils Von Zelowitz
What is A DIVA?
A DIVA is a Digital Intelligent Virtual Assistant — it will be your own personal concierge for anything and everything you need. Think of it as the delivery mechanism for all other apps, products or services, that help you live your life to its fullest with the added help of a trusted advisor. Many in the industry imagine a time when a primary virtual personal assistant will interact with other DIVAs who bring specialized solutions in a given area. And we are not just talking about Chat Bots here, only able to utter pre-programmed, computer generated rote responses to predetermined questions. Cognitive analytics experts are actually studying what makes successful customer service agents, and are replicating their very best attributes to create a digital persona people will like — and trust. Technological breakthroughs are actually allowing DIVAs to have conversations with customers and creatively take action to resolve their unique, personal uncertainties — and fulfill their specific needs. These virtual assistants are pro-active solutionists, conscientious workers and are dedicated to putting customer needs first, creating a truly satisfying experience outcome.
Digital Partnering in an Eco-Sea of Providers
Think of it as two forces working together to ultimately satisfy the customer. You have the Aggregators, whose role it is to inter-face with the customer using a DIVA to bring the best goods and services available, in any market. And you also have the Curators. Their role is to create the best feasible product and/or service solution possible to achieve a goal, and pass that to the aggregator, and ultimately to the consumer. The jury is still out on where the FSIs of the future will fall. Will bank interfaces be able to compete, or collaborate, with technology firms to be the Aggregator? Or will they concentrate on the development of more complex solutions in their own ecology?
Let’s take one example for a ride. A customer wants to buy a BMW and says to their DIVA, “I really want a BMW but I’m not sure if I can swing it.” Diva could respond in two ways. One — ‘Sure, here is a digital car shopping site, here is a car insurance site, here is an auto loan site and here is your bank’s site.’ Frustration and confusion for the end user. Not very sticky for Aggregator or Curator. Or ‘Sure, why don’t I put you in contact with your bank. They have a digital solution that incorporates a car shopping site, insurance quotes, and auto loans — and will overlay how your choices will affect your financial situation on a short-term and long-term basis.’ Now we’re talking service — a win/win for both Aggregator and Curator.
The Aggregator of Tomorrow; Let’s Get Siri-ous, Siri-ous
So, what will it take to be the Aggregator of choice and be granted the most intimate interface with consumers of tomorrow? It will take technology that will be able to give recommendations, razor sharp and high in personalized customization. The Aggregators of tomorrow will differentiate themselves by providing experiences that are centered on the overarching needs of the consumer, including all of the edge interactions it will take to complete a goal. They will maintain a consolidated view of the customer, and provide key channels to superior solutions.
Their job will be to constantly re-engineer engagement through continual co-creation with customers — in any conceivable way they would like to receive it. The digital design and delivery expected by DIVAs of the future will be daunting. To provide these interfaces will take inter-disciplined teams of human-centered designers, data scientists, and software artisans working shoulder to shoulder in agile cycles, just to keep pace. As many experts in the digital space will tell you, you’re only as good as your customer’s last best interactive exchange.
The DIVA of the future will not only change how you buy; they will change how you shop. Done well, Aggregators using DIVAs will attempt to answer the question “What would I love that I don’t even know exists?” by, for instance, overlaying 20 years of Architectural Digest with a customer’s most recent Pinterest Pins of houses he liked, to help him decide what style of home to build. Aggregators will concentrate on providing a scope of services in an anticipatory manner, that will build trust and loyalty, in both consumer and Curator alike. Digital delivery, offering optimum beauty and ease, will be the differentiating factor of whose DIVA wins.
“The digital design and delivery expected by DIVAs of the future will be daunting. To provide these interfaces will take inter-disciplined teams of human-centered designers, data scientists, and software artisans working shoulder to shoulder in agile cycles, just to keep pace.”
Curate and Create. Then do it again.
The Curator will have a different focus. Rather than attempt to supply all things, and move horizontally across all types of products and markets, the Curator will deepen offerings by accumulating the right tangential services and partnerships to create superior solutions. A great illustration is USAA’s Auto Circle. USAA wanted to provide auto financing and insurance but realized that 70% of the time in the car buying process was spent picking out which car to buy. Most buyers just took whatever loan was offered by the dealer. To make their product more attractive and valuable, USAA teamed up with a premier car comparison website, TrueCar, so customers could shop and purchase on-line at their leisure, procuring a full package of car, financing, and insurance. USAA increased its market share by almost 40% and more than doubled their customer base for auto loans.
The Curator of the future in financial services will be willing to stay in regulated businesses and hold deposits and loans on its balance sheet. It will provide standards for secure and efficient data and fund exchange, confirmation, resolution, and compliance. These players will provide durable and stable risk protection and will differentiate by putting new value around traditional, commodity-type financial products and services. Although the Curators will take more of a vertical approach, traditional services will be offered in a modular way, with flexible choices and clear advantages for the customer — packaged versus integrated. Keeping in the customer feedback loop will be imperative for these solution suppliers, and will have to be part of the contract to provide. Aggregators and Curators working together will enable a “Deep and Wide” solution portfolio for customers, and if the ecologies work well together, they may well create the ‘Uber-Consumer,’ able to purchase the ultimate product, designed especially for them, every time.
Ubiquitous Information and the Seamless Consumer
Last year we saw tech giants like Apple begin to allow access to its internal capabilities, including Siri’s application interface. Now i-phone users can easily use Siri to order a car from Uber, check the movies with Fandago, and yes, initiate a payment with German ‘neobank’, Number 26. And remember that with the IoT, your conversation will be able to travel with you, from home to car to mobile device. Technologies of the future will allow you to complete transactions so easily, it will almost be like merely having a thought. And that’s what your future customer will want. In this ‘eco-sea’ of information, offering products and services both highly personalized and quite caring, the consumer of the future will comfortably float — learning, comparing and executing. Whether digitally on a device, virtually in the air, in natural language or chat, the cognitive prowess of the future has the chance to create the perfectly satisfied, seamless consumer.
The future then paints a picture of extreme consumerism, in which end users have immediate access to limitless information, consistently supporting human decision making, in a virtual environment. We will see the end of clumsy, administrative relationships with mobile devices, and will instead be witness to a stream of ubiquitous information delivered digitally virtually, by natural language, chat, and whatever else the future has in store. Curators will feed Aggregators, and Aggregators will connect Curators until perhaps the line between the two fades into one amorphous service delivery — with the customer ultimately winning. Ownership may just be in eye of the beholder.