Utility and care define relationships

Right information. Right time. Right place. Totally soaked in segmentation, analytics and predictive modelling, we're all absorbed to some degree in picking the right time to intervene in the lives of our customers.

There's nothing sinister about it. It's just that we know that timely interventions into our customers' lives with the right messages is the best way of building lasting relationships to generate repeat business.

Customer satisfaction surveys typically cover multiple metrics. Having worked on many of these, I think you can align most under one of the 'utility' or 'care' metrics which, in turn, drive the most important metric in financial services - trust.

If you think about it, satisfaction with an advisor, newsletter content, online experience and so on, merely provide attribution to the drivers of the primary two. I was involved in four separate pieces of member research at Equipsuper, which support this argument.

It clearly showed:

  • most members placed a higher priority on choosing the place and timing of access to information and support;

  • deliver communications that are relevant to my personal circumstances;

  • be diligent and responsible in protecting and using my personal information.

This was true across all of our eight behavioural segments, which ranged from younger disengaged members right through to members fully engaged and approaching or in retirement.

While these were the predominant issues for all cohorts, their weighting varied, with the 'çare' priority rising as members aged and became more connected with their retirement savings. This was particularly evident as 'relevance of communication' migrated closer to the top of the priority list. For them, making their relationship with the fund more personal was of greater importance that ease of doing business, or utility.

At face value, the conclusion could be that we should focus on utility for younger members and on care for older members. But a closer look at younger groups showed that making communications and even products relevant still ranked highly in member priorities for over 70% of younger members.

At the time of the survey, Equip was not performing on this metric as well as it was for its older cohort. After the survey, the fund experimented with newsletter and web content for specific cohorts, and monitored back links to its blog, where it was running more stories on finances outside of super - in particular, the cost of housing, owning versus renting, paying off education debts and so on. The results were significant, with open and click-through rates from newsletters to articles ranking as high as rates to more traditional 'super' articles for older members.

Equip didn't expect to see an upsurge in consolidation or extra contributions activity from these web visits. That's wasn't the point of it. Calls to action for members who clearly have more pressing financial priorities would reflect something of a 'tin ear' for their circumstances.

For Equip, building empathy and connection with the fund as a trusted brand and source of financial information and advice was about playing the long game and ensuring that trust remained the primary driver of member retention, as it had been for the past three years*.

The fact that utility is the highest priority for most members for most of their journey challenges the whole notion of the value of, or even the likelihood of achieving active engagement with superannuation for many members.

What this illustrates is our communications need to account for people whose attitudes to  products and services vary greatly. Our engagement is something we can control, their engagement is not. Whether our engagement is delivering utility on demand or providing individual advice when they seek it depends on their circumstance and mindset. Knowing which is their priority and how best to connect with them is a measure of our engagement with them.

Finally, a quick flick to the other metric in the cluster 'how you collect, store and use my personal data'. Awareness of this has increased substantially over the past few years and must be top of mind as we increase the range and complexity of communications channels and member-facing platforms.

Confidentiality, particularly in sectors like financial services, is a big driver of trust. Get this wrong and trust will almost certainly evaporate overnight, along with your reputation.

*CoreData, 'Equip Annual Member Survey', conducted 2015-17