Allister Green Allister Green Business Development Controller, Cumberland Building Society
Making digital work for your customers

Making digital work for your customers

In the last few years, digital transformation has grown to become an impossible-to-ignore buzzword, and a core competency of many management consultancies. For those focused on the customer experience, the potential benefits of digital change are many, as technology promises to deliver greater flexibility and a more bespoke service to customers. Here Allister Green, who has been instrumental in delivering digital change at Cumberland Building Society, writes about keeping the customer at the heart of your digital strategy, and remembering who the technology needs to serve.

At over 160 years old, the Cumberland, like many other building societies, has had to continually adapt to meet the changing needs of its members. 

This evolutionary process continues and, in an increasingly connected world, one of the most pressing challenges is how a modern mutual should deal with the emergence of digital channels and technologies. Debit cards, ATMs and internet banking started the digital journey, providing consumers with easier and more convenient ways of managing their finances. However, in the last few years, the rate at which digital technology has developed has been striking. Increasingly consumers expect to be able to research and purchase financial products, access and manage their finances, and communicate with their financial services provider at a time and place of their choosing. The use of digital technology, in conjunction with branch and telephone channels, provides consumers with never-before-seen choice and flexibility.

Digital should no longer be considered ‘niche’. For many people the use of digital services is becoming ubiquitous and we must accept that mutual members of the future will have grown up as ‘digital natives’, where their norm is the use of digital channels and technologies.

At the beginning of the customer journey, digital media can help reach those who no longer interact using traditional marketing formats. Digital marketing can drive website traffic and for many, a visit to a website will be the first, and possibly only, interaction they will have with a mutual.  Mutuals have always prided themselves on the service they provide to members, primarily via face-to-face in branch, and the challenge is to maintain this through digital channels. Therefore, websites should provide consumers with rich and relevant content, in a format optimised for the full range of digital devices. It is acknowledged that an increasing number of people will want to acquire products during their website visit at a time of their choosing and providing this facility in a quick and easy to use manner is a key part of our development plans going forward.

As a current account provider, the Cumberland has been an early adopter of digital technology and has witnessed its rapid evolution first hand.  The introduction of our internet banking service in 2007 enabled members to manage their current account online, make payments, transfer money between accounts and communicate with us via a secure online messaging service. The popularity of smartphones meant that our members soon wanted this convenience ‘on-the-go’, leading to the launch of our mobile banking service in 2011.  The introduction of text alerts and fraud prevention tools further enhanced our digital service and in April 2014, we were the only building society to participate in the launch of the national Paym service, which enables our members to make payments using just a mobile phone number

The popularity of mobile devices continues to increase, and brings with it a raft of new alternative mobile payment methods which are constantly evolving.  The choice can be overwhelming, and the challenge is to keep pace with these developments and understand which will be relevant and of benefit to our members to enable them to transact 24 hours a day.

We have also seen big changes in the way people engage with financial services providers, with e-mail, SMS and other online messaging formats (including social media) increasingly accepted as communication channels.  Each brings their own challenges; however, for many, these are now their preferred methods of communication and we need to incorporate these, where appropriate.

To stay relevant, retain existing members and continue to attract new ones, we, like other mutuals, must continue to adapt, embracing digital technology whilst balancing this with the traditional channels and values which have served us so well.

Allister Green will be speaking at next year's 20:20 Customer Experience Summit - find out more about the upcoming event here.