Starling Bank: Listening To Your Customers - Your New Secret Weapon

16 Sep, 2022

Rachel Kerrone, Brand + Marketing Director for fintech giant Starling Bank, believes that because the 'latest' technology changes fast, brands should always remain focused on one thing, their customers, in her debut column for MAD//Insight.

Last week’s iPhone 14 launch might not have contained as many groundbreaking capabilities as the models that came before it, but this point still stands: technology changes fast. 

What doesn’t change so fast is human adoption of technology. Usually, a swathe of early adopters road test new devices and platforms before the critical point on the S curve is reached, mass adoption ensues and customer growth expands exponentially. 

With so many technologies emerging every day, marketers are tasked with the following challenge: ‘How do we incorporate this into our brand strategy?’.

Technology is key, certainly, but implementation is futile unless it supports what I believe to be the most effective thing that marketers can do: go right back to basics and determine what they can do for their customers. 

Yes, ‘customer experience’ is up there with ‘innovation’ on the leaderboard of marketing buzzwords. But hear me out, because, despite the numerous industry events on customer centricity that take place, we as an industry have not got to the bottom of what ‘customer experience’ really means yet. I believe it’s because we’ve been overcomplicating it.

I’m going to blow my Starling trumpet now, because I’m really proud of our approach to customer experience. It’s really very simple: we listen to our customers.

To us, listening doesn’t mean filing customer feedback in a folder never to be resurfaced, or responding to customer queries with chatbots and cookie cutter responses. Listening means listening and delivering what our customers ask us for.  

When customers wanted to pay bills from separate saving Spaces, we delivered; when customers wanted to set their own contactless payment limits, we let them; and when they wanted different colour cards for their joint account, we crowdsourced the new colour directly from them. Small things with a big difference on our customers’ money management; small things that the traditional banks didn’t offer until challenger banks raised the bar.

Our delivery against customer demands goes far beyond our product, it’s reflected in the values that we champion at every single customer touchpoint, from the recycled materials in our cards and packaging, the trees we plant when customers refer someone else and the campaign work we do to Make Money Equal for all. 

For brands to really listen to their customers, and action this insight within their own customer experience, the first thing to look at is workplace culture. Is the entire business, from customer service to sales, engineering to human resources, really united by a shared belief that it must deliver what customers want? 

At Starling, it is. We have a company-wide Slack channel where our customer service agents, who are the eyes and ears of our business, can ensure that customer requests are really heard. We have a dedicated team that manages this channel to cascade these requests to the relevant teams, all with a shared goal of delivering the products our customers ask us for. 

It’s a cultural shift that requires accepting that product roadmaps might change in an instant; re-architecting away from project management teams and towards customer service and engineering teams; simplifying operational processes to ensure that teams are really talking to each other; and understanding that there is always more that can be done and even more to learn. 

As the cost of living crisis accelerates, listening to your customers’ needs has never been more important. As brand marketers, it is our duty to make sure that our customers feel seen and heard, and it is therefore our duty to lead the charge towards true customer listening within the business. 

If that means setting up a bank branch in the Metaverse, or reimagining products as NFTs then so be it, but my suspicion is that customers will be requesting things that make their lives that little bit easier, their days a little brighter, and their £££ a little more powerful. 

The impact this has on brand loyalty is hard to overstate. Just wait for the queues that will form online and in store for Apple in the weeks to come - a true pioneer in customer listening. 

Rachel Kerrone, Brand Director, Starling Bank and speaker at MAD//Fest London 2022, will be writing a regular column for MAD//Insight.

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