Leslie Osman of IncredibleBank on Building Incredible Customer Experiences

Leslie Osman of IncredibleBank on Building Incredible Customer Experiences

“Back in the day,” says Leslie Osman, director of marketing at IncredibleBank, “you would walk into a [bank] branch and the teller at the front would say, ‘Welcome, Mary. Good to see you again today.’ How does the app do that same thing?”

Therein lies a key challenge for fintech and other digital categories: creating the kind of personalized customer experiences that were once reserved for community-oriented, brick-and-mortar businesses. 

In this episode of CleverTap Engage—our podcast and video interview series spotlighting marketing leaders who are achieving meaningful and memorable customer engagement—co-hosts Peggy Anne Salz and John Koetsier speak to IncredibleBank’s Leslie Osman about how to achieve exactly that.

IncredibleBank: Innovative Neobank 

IncredibleBank is a leader in the fast-growing fintech sector. America’s first national online community bank—a “neobank” specializing in personal and business banking, loans, and insurance—IncredibleBank has been honored as one of America’s most innovative banks by the Independent Community Bankers of America. 

As part of her marketing portfolio, Leslie Osman drives the brand’s product development, digital strategies, and customer experience initiatives. In our discussion, she shares her insights on how to succeed in a world where consumers expect everything to be hyper-personalized to their needs.

Creating One-on-One Experiences in the Digital Space

How does IncredibleBank create a personalized, human-centric experience in the mobile space where many of its customers live their lives? By making the “teller” an integral part of its mobile app. 

“Because the app is authenticated, you have to put in your credentials before you come in,” Osman explains. “We know you, so we can say, ‘Hi, Mary,’ in the app. We can still have a human there chatting with you. [Mobile customers] don’t want to see you face-to-face, but they still want to interact with you, so let’s put the teller in the app.”

When It Comes to Loyalty, Learn from the Best

In Osman’s view, customer loyalty in a category like fintech is built on delivering consistently high-quality experiences in customers’ preferred channels. 

“Our customers want easy-to-do banking, and they want to trust their bank. How do we create [that] experience across all channels? That’s where we see the loyalty coming to play.”

To improve customer retention, Osman encourages marketers to look outside of their own competitive set and learn from proven leaders in customer experience across the commercial spectrum—translating those companies’ best practices into ones that resonate with your customers. 

While IncredibleBank directly competes for customers with other banks, “the experience that Netflix, Google, and Amazon are delivering to customers, that’s the expectation now,” she says. “Even though our competitors may not have those experiences, that doesn’t give us the excuse to not deliver that experience. We’ve got to compare ourselves to Google. We’ve got to make sure that as a bank, we’re living up to that.”

Let AI Answer the Questions You Didn’t Know to Ask

Osman also advises marketers to use AI and advanced analytics not just to answer known questions around the marketing channel mix, but as a more open-ended resource for strategic decision-making at the highest level.

“If we’re using AI, we can understand our customers better than we ever have before,” she says. “The data is giving us insights that we didn’t even know the question for. For example, [AI-driven analytics] could be telling us that we have a segment of customers that loves Disney and they have kids. Maybe that gives us insight into developing some new product bundle for them. Maybe there’s an entirely new vision for the organization based on [these] insights. If you’re not using those insights in developing the strategies of your institution, you’re doing it wrong.”

For more of Leslie Osman’s wisdom regarding AI, personalization, and delivering exactly what your customers need when they need it, listen to the entire episode.

 

Mobile Marketing is Easier with Expert Guidance

 

Full Transcript

Leslie Osman: We sometimes fall into the trap of comparing ourselves just to other banks. While, literally, they are our competitors – they are competing for the same loans that we are competing for, they are competing for the same deposits that we are – the experience that Netflix, Google, Amazon are delivering to customers, that’s the expectation now. So, even though our competitors may not have those experiences, that doesn’t give us the excuse to not deliver that experience. Because that’s what customers, that’s what our consumers are expecting at this point in the game.

John Koetsier: Can you reward loyalty in real time? And if you can, how does it impact customer engagement, customer retention and customer lifetime value? Hello, and welcome to CleverTap Engage. My name is John Koetsier. My co-host is Peggy Anne Salz. Today, we are talking to a top fintech CMO about AI, personalization, and delivering exactly what your customers need when they need it. Peggy, who are we chatting with?

Peggy Anne Salz: Well, as you said, we are looking at real time and we’re looking at loyalty, and we’re chatting with Leslie Osman. She is CMO at IncredibleBank. Of course, that is an important sector to be looking at right now because fintech is growing – insane growth, compound annual growth rate of over 25% projected to last until 2027. 

IncredibleBank is probably going to leave its impression because it’s a neobank, John, that specializes in personal and business banking loans, insurance services, but more than that, they’re a bank that understands consumers want everything hyper-personalized to their needs in real time via their top-notch mobile app, which is rated five stars by customers. We’ll find out how because we’re welcoming Leslie Osman. Great to have you.

Leslie Osman: Thanks for having me.

John Koetsier: Wonderful to have you. Leslie, let’s start here. You’re sort of on the cusp here. You’re a bank, and banking is a really old and dare we say hidebound institution, but fintech is new school. Neobanks are new school, and you value different things: customer service, one-to-one relationships, all that stuff. How do you walk that balance?

Leslie Osman: It’s a good question. Walking the balance is, you need to do both. I think that we’re in an interesting time where a bank, a brick-and-mortar location – data is telling us that a brick-and-mortar location, even for new generations, is still just as important as the digital experience, but that doesn’t mean that it’s more important than the digital experience. The digital experience is right up there with it. Delivering the experience that you once did in the branch, you’ve got to really challenge yourself to deliver that experience in the digital app now or that digital bank.

We have a model, we call it ICE. It’s called Incredible Customer Experience, and it’s trademarked to us. What we mean by that is, how do we deliver incredible customer experiences, whether you are walking into the branch, whether you are pulling into the drive-through, or whether you are checking your activity on the mobile app? What’s the experience? When we once opened the door for somebody walking into the branch, what’s the equivalent of that experience in the app? What does opening the door in the digital world look like? Let’s make sure that we’re doing that there as well.

Peggy Anne Salz: I have to wonder what that does look like actually on a mobile app.

Leslie Osman: Back when digital banks were really just getting started was when IncredibleBank opened the online-only bank. These were two separate brands, separate companies. A few years ago, they merged, and they merged because we recognized that customers wanted both of those. They didn’t want one or the other. So we could leverage the things that were differentiating us in the digital world, in the brick-and-mortar locations, and vice versa. We were able to do both of those. It’s the marriage of technology— digital and human. You need both of those. Bringing the experience from brick and mortar into the app could look like having a live chat with a human inside the authenticated app.

We know that, back in the day, you would walk into a branch and the teller at the front would say, “Welcome, Mary. Good to see you again today.” How does the app do that same thing? Because the app is authenticated, you have to put in your credentials before you come in. We know you. We know that that’s you, and so we can say, “Hi, Mary,” in the app, and we can still have a human there chatting with you. We know because people are utilizing that channel. They don’t want to see you face-to-face. They want to use technology to interact with you, but they still want to interact with you, so let’s put the teller in the app. Let’s use that channel to communicate with them.

John Koetsier: That makes a lot of sense, and that’s actually really interesting because, I mean, you’ve got that old-school world, that old-school retail or banking experience where somebody knows your name. My dad had that. He went to the same branch for probably 50 years and they knew him. Near the end of his time at that branch, it was like there was new people all the time and they didn’t know him and he missed that experience. But in the app, as you said, people are logged in. You know them. You know their name. You know a lot about them and you can give them a very personalized experience.

Now, Peggy is a researcher and she digs up all kinds of cool stuff. She found a really neat quote that you made, and that is, “Rewarding loyalty in real time is now table stakes, thanks to consumer experiences learned from Netflix, Google, Amazon and others.” Dig into that a little bit. How do you do that? What does that mean?

Leslie Osman: We sometimes fall into the trap of comparing ourselves just to other banks. While, literally, they are our competitors – they are competing for the same loans that we are competing for, they are competing for the same deposits that we are – the experience that Netflix, Google, Amazon are delivering to customers, that’s the expectation now. So, even though our competitors may not have those experiences, that doesn’t give us the excuse to not deliver that experience. Because that’s what customers, that’s what our consumers are expecting at this point in the game. 

What I mean by that is that we can’t compare ourselves to the bank. We’ve got to compare ourselves to Google, and we’ve got to make sure that as a bank, we’re living up to that as well.

Peggy Anne Salz: Analysts at E&Y are talking about the Netflix effect. Customers now expect immediate gratification; research shows it. You’ve recognized it and they expect it in every app they use. But how does the expectation of real-time gratification influence your approach to marketing it?

Leslie Osman: That rewarding loyalty piece, I think sometimes as marketers we forget the basics. What is loyalty? What does that mean? That means that a person is committed to using your brand, and so we need to ask questions like, well, why? Why are those customers committed to using our brand? Is it only a certain type of customer that’s committed? Maybe there’s a segment over here that’s not as loyal to our brand. And what does loyalty mean to us as a bank? Loyalty or even rewarding loyalty would look different to a consumer in Netflix and look different to a consumer in Amazon, but what’s the expectation of reward for a bank?

What we are seeing is, rewarding loyalty is simply just showing up and having this level of service and experience with our brand. That’s unlike any other. It doesn’t mean points. It doesn’t mean different perks. While those things are important, they’re not the driver for a loyalty program with our brand. When we see our customers wanting service and easy-to-do banking and they want to trust their bank, how do we create an experience that gives them that across all channels? That’s where we see loyalty coming to play.

John Koetsier: I want to dig into that a little bit, Leslie, and ask for your take on it, because as you’re starting to talk there and we’re talking about personalizing experiences, giving them immediate gratification, all that stuff, I’m thinking about the one favorite mobile game that I play. I’m thinking about… You know, I like that game and I come in there and I have these little hits of endorphins because I killed the alien ships or something. Sometimes I win and it feels great and I’ve got, wow, I can get on with the rest of my day. And sometimes I lose and it really sucks and I force-quit the app out of frustration.

We’ve thought about gamification in terms of other apps for years now. But you’ve also just brought in – look, we’re a bank, right? We do want people to get immediate gratification but we’re not… I’m not sure that you want somebody that’s handling your money and your mortgage to give you the same kind of immediate gratification as a mobile game. Talk about that a little bit.

Leslie Osman: I think of Netflix. The immediate gratification of Netflix is that it knows I finished my series and it knows what new show I should start next. That’s the immediate gratification that I get from Netflix: the more that I use it, the more that it knows me and the better its recommendations are for me. That’s gratification. Or the example of the game that you play. The gratification there, the immediate gratification there is different from Netflix. What’s the consumer’s expectation within that business or that industry? What’s the expectation of immediate gratification? So, back to the Netflix example. It came from them getting it right. That was the immediate gratification. They got the next-best step right, and I feel known and I feel understood as a result of that.

So, as a bank, how do we get it right? What’s the next-best step in getting it right? That’s where the immediate gratification is going to come from. There is absolutely nothing that’s more frustrating than having an issue with your financials, right? It’s a sensitive thing for people. There’s high emotions that are tied to your financials, and so there’s nothing more frustrating than having an issue and picking up the phone and getting stuck in a phone tree that’s got you going all over the place. There’s nothing more frustrating than that. The immediate gratification and the expectation for customers in our industry is, I want to pick up the phone and there’s a human on the other end that answered my call and is getting my issue fixed or getting whatever I’m calling for resolved. That’s the immediate gratification that we can see in our industry.

Peggy Anne Salz: If we put this all together, what we’re looking at is consistency. We also want convenience, as you said yourself. We want that in the next step. There’s also a level of context. When I do finally get someone, it all goes back to the customer expectation and that goes back to understanding how they want to communicate with you. I’d like you to tell me a little bit more about the channels that your audience uses and the ones that you yourself are using for your effective marketing.

Leslie Osman: You absolutely got it right. I think going back to the basics of understanding your customer, looking at the data. Data is different than it used to be. It lets us see a much different picture into our customers than we have ever seen before. Before, we would need to go into the solution and ask questions. We would need to ask those questions, and it was more on demographics and products and services versus behaviors and actions. We’re understanding and knowing our customers differently than we ever have before. As a result of that, we’ve grown all of these different channels. We have in-person. We have a drive-through. We have a digital app. And we have social. You have all of these different ways that our customers are communicating with us.

I think it’s actually really interesting being in the marketing department because we now have customers reaching out on social, which is an owned channel in marketing, asking about a loan or a question about a product that we have, or maybe they had an issue with banking. You see customers starting to utilize all of these different channels. When we’re thinking about how we communicate with them on those channels, one is really understanding the purpose. I have an example. Once, I was buying a car and I researched the dealership and I reached out to them online, and I filled out the form, and I said, “I’m interested in this car.” They called me back, and I didn’t answer the call because I wanted to communicate through that channel. My preferred channel in that instance was online and they utilized a different channel back to me.

Making sure that we are staying within the communication channel that our customers are choosing, and then making sure that, again, back to our original question: How do we still deliver that experience across all of the channels no matter what channel our customers are deciding to communicate with us on? It doesn’t mean that because we’re in digital we can stop doing this one over here. You’ve got to do all of them, and you have to make sure that you’re delivering that level of experience that you’ve been promising your customers for years in the branch is now matched in the online world as well.

John Koetsier: You have lots of channels. That’s great. How do you use them, and how do you send customers messages they actually want to receive?

Leslie Osman: Again, talking about the basics is really understanding, what do they want to receive? It goes back to understanding the different segments of your audience. What stage of life are they in? How are they utilizing your service? Make sure that you’re communicating with them in a method that is appropriate for them. Thinking about Netflix again: Netflix, based on my history of watching a show or a series of different types of shows, will customize even the graphic of the series to me. The graphic of a new TV series may look different on my TV versus your TV.

John Koetsier: If you look at one person’s Netflix homepage, it won’t look like your Netflix homepage, and that’s because we’re really trying to personalize with machine learning every aspect of it in order to get folks to continue to stream and watch and be engaged and then to renew at the end of the month.

Leslie Osman: So, if we’re thinking about a customer showing up in the app, they’re authenticated, we know it’s them. We can talk about personal information, and they’re in a different headspace when they’re in the app. They’re managing their money. They’re paying bills. It’s more serious once they’re in the app, so we need to make sure that our communication style is reflective of where they are when they’re in that channel.

John Koetsier: That makes a lot of sense. I mean, it’s really kind of amazing, Peggy, if you think about it, because every Netflix show or every product or every company like IncredibleBank has a different set of products, – products that have different attributes that appeal to different people in different ways. If you can customize your approach on the very same product to different people based on what they care about, that’s going to be more successful for them. It’s going to feel more personal. I love it.

Leslie Osman: Yeah. And know where you’re meeting them. When someone is on social, they’re a little bit more carefree when they’re scrolling through Facebook versus when they’re authenticated in their app and managing their money. Even if it’s the same customer, you’re going to communicate with them different ways in both of those channels.

Peggy Anne Salz: We absolutely agree on the goal here, but now we’re going to come to something that really fascinated me. John said I love to research. I do. I saw this quote, Leslie, and it was like, wow. You have said, “CMOs should be hyper-focused on using AI to make better decisions.” That’s a very strong statement for CMOs. That’s now their next talent they need to master, as if they didn’t have enough already. I’d like to understand that and also how you are using AI to help you in your marketing because of the hyper-personalization, I get that. That’s a lot of heavy lifting. That’s a lot of effort. That’s a lot of data points.

Leslie Osman: I love that you said a marketer’s job is way harder now than it was 15 years ago, 20 years ago, way harder. Gone are the days where you throw out a billboard campaign and TV and radio and you keep your fingers crossed it’s going to work. That’s not a thing anymore. That’s still important; that’s not to say that those things aren’t potent. But just like we said earlier, the branch is still important and digital is still important. Traditional marketing is important and this new way of marketing is important. You can’t do one or the other. As our jobs get harder, we can start to leverage AI to make it easier again. If we’re using AI, we can segment our customers. We can understand our customers better than we ever have before.

While there are more channels, more personalization, you’ve got to be so much smarter in how you’re delivering your message. AI is helping us get smarter. Five years ago, you would ask your data program a question – tell me the number of customers that have this product and this – and it would spit you back a list and then you do something with that list. You can do a campaign, whatever it is that you were doing. Now, the data, the solution that we have is giving us insights that we didn’t even know to ask, the question for. It’s more behavior and activity-based versus, let’s ask it a question and it’s going to spit an answer back.

For example, the solution could be telling us you have a segment of customers that loves Disney and, in fact, they have kids and they take their families there, usually during the holiday break. Or you have a segment of customers, maybe 70% of your small-business customers are making payments towards solutions that help them invoice their clients. The system is telling us insights like that. You can’t ask those types of questions. You can’t get specific like that. You can ask questions based on product and demographic but not the way that the solution can identify those insights and trends back. So, AI then allows us to be just smarter and more strategic.

We can look at the Disney family and say, “Is it something that we need to pay attention to? Maybe that’s our target demographic. And they love Disney.” Maybe that gives us some strategy and insight into developing some new product bundle for them. Allowing it to help drive strategic decisions of the bank, not just your advertising, not just that component of it, but what new products do we need to develop? What new solutions do we need to bring into the bank?

Maybe there’s an entirely new vision for the organization based on some of the insights that you’re seeing within that AI. While our jobs are getting harder with the number of channels and the amount of personalization that’s required, AI allows us to be smarter about the roads that we’re traveling versus maybe traveling down one and saying, “No, that didn’t work. Let’s try again.” It allows us to be smarter not just in marketing but as the company as a whole. If you’re not using those insights into developing the strategies of your institution, you’re doing it wrong. You’re missing out.

John Koetsier: Let’s talk about loyalty a little bit. Peggy and I recently interviewed MasterCard CMO Raja Rajamannar, a super interesting guy. Lots of quotable quotes, thought grenades as we talked about, Peggy. One of his thought grenades was, loyalty is dead. It’s flawed. We’re dealing with it wrong. It needs a rethink. What’s your approach to customer loyalty?

Leslie Osman: Loyalty is not one-size-fits-all. It sort of goes back to our original conversation: You’ve got to understand your customers and what makes them loyal. A real-life example is, we found in our customer data that newer customers were more loyal than older customers. Why? Why is that? We were able to start to put together, our older customers need something else versus the newer customers. We’re putting a lot of attention upfront versus not so much in the later half. Really understanding, what is making our customers loyal, and what is the expectation in your industry? We found – You know, we talk to our customers all the time in lots of different channels, through lots of different surveys after lots of different interactions, and we can see that loyalty to them is trust, is service, is security. They want that, and that’s what’s going to make them loyal to our bank. A loyalty program or rewarding loyalty needs to reflect those things.

Peggy Anne Salz: Speaking of new approaches and your bank as well, what is next for IncredibleBank?

Leslie Osman: IncredibleBank, it’s a very different kind of bank. Right now, what’s next for us immediately is we’re expanding into new states across the country. Right now, we’re about to build in Florida. It’s funny, if you would have asked me a year ago if we would be building a branch, I probably would have laughed at you because we are very digital and put a lot of emphasis into that digital experience. But again, understanding customers’ trust, security, humans, all of that stuff, is still really important. So, while branch traffic may be down, there’s this level of trust and security in driving past your bank every day. That’s still very important to people. Whether they go in there or not, that’s different, but they want to see it. So, as we expand, we put emphasis on certain geographic regions. We recognize that we’ve got to have a physical presence there as well.

John Koetsier: Leslie, we want to thank you for this. This has been amazing. It’s been super insightful. It’s been really pleasant. Thank you so much.

Leslie Osman: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Peggy Anne Salz: I have to thank you as well, Leslie, for opening my eyes to the role of AI in coming up with innovative new ideas and products. Because you’ve been clustering and looking at the data differently and it’s just like tapping you on this shoulder and saying, “Have you thought of this?” It’s a different way of looking at, a different way of framing it, and I thank you for sharing that.

Leslie Osman: Thank you. Thanks for having me again.

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Posted on May 23, 2022