Digital Transformation Means Going Through 3 Mindset Shifts

If you want to thrive in today’s digital landscape, you must re-think three fundamental activities for your business: How you define and develop your products and services; how you interact with your customers; and how you attract and retain new customers.

Keri seated

Keri Gohman, Executive Vice President and Head of Small Business Banking, Capital One

Keri Gohman, Executive Vice President and Head of Small Business Banking at Capital One, made these three “mindset shifts” the theme of her keynote at the 2016 CEB Financial Services Technology Summit. To succeed by building customer loyalty in the new digital environment, argued Gohman, companies must develop products that are built not on the latest features but on what matters to the people that are going to buy them; find new ways to engage with rather than talk to their customers; and create relevant and timely discovery for customers, delighting them with meaningful experiences.

Banks serve as a great example of surviving the digital transformation sweeping all industries, where some thrive on “digital” and others fail. The hallmarks of leading banks have always been tradition, stability, and staying the course. Not anymore—their customers have different expectations and the nature of competition has altered irreversibly. “The landscape will continue to change,” says Gohman. “Millennials are very willing to work with businesses that are not traditional banks, and Fintech startups further fragments and disintermediate the primary banking relationships.”

In the opening keynote of the conference, “Reimagining Loyalty in the World of the One-Screen Shop,” CEB Managing Director Bruce Young cited the following data from the firm’s surveys:

  • The percentage of clients who use one wealth management provider fell from 55% in 2011 to 30% in 2015;
  • The percentage of small businesses that use only one financial provider fell from 64% in 2012 to 32% in 2014;
  • Heads of retail banking estimate that the percentage of retail (branch) sales out of total sales will fall from 91% in 2014 to 63% in 2019.

Talk about a rapidly shifting landscape. “Historically, banks gained loyalty because they had a branch around the corner and a personal connection with the customer,” Gohman told me on the sidelines of the conference. But today, almost 80% of customers who are primary banking customers say that their interactions with their bank are transactional rather than advice- or relationship-driven. “Transactional, I would argue, is one step away from a complete commodity,” says Gohman.

The answer is not to simply digitize existing products. According to Gohman, “it actually reinforces the impression of a transactional relationship.” And everybody is doing it, creating “a sea of sameness.” Gohman says that her favorite quote from the research about customers in her industry is “if I wait 12 months, my bank will have it too.”

Instead, whether you are in banking or any other industry rapidly going through digital transformation, consider these mindset shifts:

Fall in love with the problem, not the solution

Gohman thinks she first heard this axiom at Intuit (where she led sales and technical support for accountants and tax professionals) and it’s by far the best definition of “design thinking” I’ve ever heard. The term has been around since the 1980s, but it has recently taken the corporate world by storm, driving a new approach to product development. “The whole idea of design thinking is transformational,” says Gohman, “you are designing for the customer and how they want to engage with you.”

For the small business owners, Gohman’s Capital One Spark Business wanted to create products that “make their lives simpler and easier.” For example, signing up for an online account in four minutes.

Furthermore, the ten or so financial or non-financial products small business owners have to put together to run their business should “work like Google Maps—all right there when you want it,” says Gohman. So Capital One built an open platform, integrating third-party small business applications, and offering it for free. Gohman: “We started to bring together the relevant pieces of the financial world to make life easier for business owners. We believe that by designing from the business owner’s perspective, we can create something special and help them be more successful.”

“Traditionally,” adds Gohman, “you do your research, you do focus groups, then you develop products. Design thinking flips this process so you start with a deep emotional customer insight. We asked small business owners what do you feel about financial management and they said ‘it’s too complicated, I just want to spend time running and growing my business and not deal with this stuff.’”

Once a product is developed in this digital age, it means a lot more information is available about how customers interact with it. CEB’s Bruce Young reported that 35% of banking executives describe “digital” as “customer access” and 34% as “marketing analytics,” highlighting the two sides of the online world. For her part, Gohman recommends sticking to the original customer insight: “Digital products give us a lot of information to continuously improve the product and make it better. The key is not to get lost in the data but stay connected to the problem we are solving.”

Don’t talk to your customers, create an engaged community

“Customers do not want to be told what your brand is,” says Gohman, “they want to experience it.” One way in which Capital One’s online banking division is driving home this line of thinking is by opening Capital One Cafes in major cities around the United States.

In a digital, online-driven world, investing in face-to-face interactions is a differentiating approach to creating engagement and fostering loyalty. “Customers can come in, charge their iPhones, have a cup of coffee and engage with us in a conversation about what matters to them,” says Gohman. “We are there to help them from a financial perspective but also to give them a unique experience.”

For small business owners, Capital One is creating a supportive and engaged community through its Spark Business IQ program. “It’s a forum to provide practical insights to small business owners,” says Gohman.  At the recent SXSW event, for example, they had a number of successful CEOs give advice to small business owners, stories that were then promoted online to the community at large. An extension of this work is actually providing small business owners with specific business services, an area of current experimentation for Capital One.

Delight customers and let them discover you when they need you

This is certainly not a traditional bank, where “engagement” meant making an appointment and “experience” meant waiting in line at the local branch. “We want to engage with customers wherever they are,” says Gohman. Capital One customers can now ask Amazon’s voice-activated Alexa for their balances and recent transactions and even pay their bills.

For Gohman, this is an example of what businesses need to do in a world of “no UI,” where the mobile phones (and their screens) that were the focus of the digital push for many businesses just a few years ago, are no longer used by consumers as the primary means for getting information and conducting transactions.

Another way Capital One went about delighting customers was to tell the world about them. Finding out from small business owners that they were confused and overwhelmed by the myriad of choices offered by digital marketing tools and social media channels, “we took our marketing dollars and applied them to help business owners acquire customers,” says Gohman. Capital One created professional ads for about 150 small businesses featuring their happy customers and bought the media. “It led to 85 million social media impressions for those businesses,” reports Gohman. Not only they succeeded in increasing the loyalty of existing customers, the social media exposure for Capital One “led to great conversations with potential customers.”

Today, we are bombarded with marketing messages and have learned to ignore them if they don’t come to us at the right place and the right time. “If you don’t like what they say about you, change the conversation,” Gohman quotes Mad Men’s Don Draper and notes that “this is not how marketing works today.” Instead of talking to customers and controlling the conversation, you need to reach customers where they are at the right moment, pull them into your ecosystem, and create with them engaging experiences.

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