Communisis: multifaceted communications – Andy Blundell

According to a recent report conducted by the Campaign for Community Banking Services, 140 branches have been closed or marked down for closure in the UK over the course of this year.

While the move away from smaller branch banking remains a point of contention, it also throws into sharp relief how banks are looking to communicate with their customers through more innovative and disparate channels.

"There has been a clear retreat of the branch network," says Communisis chief executive Andy Blundell. "Therefore, financial institutions are looking to communicate with their customers in a different way. In many ways, customer expectations have grown as a result of the rise of digital channels."

Data to get closer to customers

As a designer and producer of business-critical customer communications, Communisis partners with several major banks to help them get closer to their customers. One way this can be achieved is through promoting the concept of multichannel communication, by which financial institutions are encouraged to use different media according to customer needs.

"What the bank needs to be able to do is isolate the individual customer from the crowd and communicate with them in the appropriate way," says Blundell. "Many players are looking at the likes of Amazon and Apple and asking themselves, 'How are they getting it right in terms of customer expectation and what can we learn from that in our industry?'"

"Communisis partners with major banks to help them get closer to their customers."

Banks can pinpoint the specific needs of the customer through maximising the potential of data sources. Communisis has access to disparate sources - social, credit, leisure, retail and electoral - which are then parsed and evaluated by its industry specialists. Unsurprisingly, this needs to be done in strict adherence with the regulatory landscape.

"While the ownership of that data ultimately rests with the bank, Communisis can act as proxy on their behalf," he explains. "Appreciative of the data protection proviso, this enables banks to gain a stronger sense of direction and get a single customer view, which in turn means they can drive relevant messaging and advertising, and build customer loyalty."

The single customer view concept continues to gain traction, essentially affording banks a 360° view and ability to fortify relationships; however, in line with the proliferation of data available, this needs to be done while keeping the most appositive channels of communication firmly in mind.

"Today, more than ever, communication has to be carefully managed," says Blundell. "It has to be relevant, appropriate and helpful, as opposed to bombarding customers with information that they don't want or is patently irrelevant."

Print to get noticed

And what of printed media? Not as antediluvian as some would claim, according to Blundell. Whether it is direct mail, transactional print or brochures, it still has a part to play in helping banks reach out to customers, particularly the elderly, who may not be au fait with the likes of social media and other online platforms.

"Banks can pinpoint the specific needs of the customer through maximising the potential of data sources."

"It goes back to the omnichannel idea," he says. "While a younger consumer may be more appreciative to hear about certain products via mobile or tablet, an older customer, perhaps of the same bank, is usually happier to receive messages in a more traditional way like direct mail.

"In fact, print solutions are becoming much faster and flexible while remaining relevant - there is certain kind of gravitas to these kinds of communications. Furthermore, if you receive a statement or bill by direct mail, you are likely to take it more seriously compared with other forms of media."

Banking gets it right

In the face of more diverse means of communications at their disposal, financial institutions have clearly upped their game of late - a particularly salient initiative as the industry continues to do its best to reinstate consumer trust in the wake of the banking crisis. Consequently, more investments are also being allocated to better marketing drives.

"Print media still has a part to play in helping banks reach out to customers, particularly the elderly."

"The banking sector as a whole is definitely applying more rigour to marketing budgets," says Blundell. "There is also much more of an emphasis on measuring return on investment in this area. That's really the beauty of a data-driven approach and precise targeting - you know how to measure your feedback."

Ultimately, in Blundell's eyes, the key to banks improving the customer experience is based on a multipronged communications approach.

"It's about the four rights - right message, right customer, right medium and right time," he says. "This is what we are trying to achieve with our clients."

Andy Blundell is chief executive of Communisis.