The ‘Cinderella Syndrome’


Corporate Communications

Ed Knight

Senior Consultant


They’re not bright, colourful, fancy or loud. They rarely get to go to glitzy award ceremonies. And they’re never first in line when the budgets are handed out. But every Financial Services (FS) marketing department has them. And in our experience they can make up around 80% of what your customers see from your brand.

Mandatory and Regulatory communications are the Cinderella of Financial Services marketing. Hiding away in a dusty corner, under the shadow of their higher profile big sister (discretionary marketing).

An unloved and overlooked underdog (think how your customers feel!)

We know these communications are tricky. We’re not denying that.

They are expensive and a great deal of hard work. They need to communicate complex changes, bad news and mundane details to apathetic customers. And their effectiveness can be hampered by a lot of internal ambiguity, numerous stakeholders and a hard stop on the deadline (just don’t mention pumpkins).

Yet these communications are crucial to the everyday experience of your brand. It’s these letters and emails (about changes to terms and conditions, fee increases, and bank errors) that customers remember when it comes to deciding on whether to take a new product or service from you, or switch to a shinier, sexier competitor (such as rapidly growing challenger banks like Monzo and Starling).

This is the place where customer loyalty is won or lost.

If the glass slipper fits…

We strongly believe it’s time for these communications to be let out of the proverbial cellar, and put into the spotlight. Like Cinderella, they are destined for much greater things.

A succession of external factors like GDPR, digitisation of services, and branch closures has meant that direct interactions between the customer and the brand are becoming less frequent. Therefore, mandatory communications have become an increasingly important brand touchpoint, perhaps second only to mobile apps.

They ought, then, to be tailored to fit each individual customer’s needs as perfectly as a custom-made glass slipper.

In reality, our research has shown that the bulk of what lands on the doormat is in fact a very poor fit for each individual customer. The communications we’ve reviewed tend to lack any of the same attention to best practice of communications that you would typically see with discretionary marketing communications.

And there will be hundreds of millions of them being sent to customers every year. Which means that the timely, accurate and personalised delivery of M&R communications is a surefire way to secure a competitive advantage for your brand.

Financial Services brands could be missing out on £millions

Of course, we understand that improving M&R communications is not as simple as waving a magic wand.

That said, we believe there are very good reasons to tackle those challenges head-on in a way that reduces, rather than adds to the complexity involved.

For one thing, it’s not just the customer experience that suffers. UK Banks and Building Societies are throwing away millions of pounds each year on under-optimised M&R activity.

Whether it’s high print and postage costs due to poorly constructed messaging; sending multiple communications to customers when one would suffice; perceived inability to use digital channels as the default medium; or the high costs of telephony support to customers that are concerned (or just confused) about what the latest letter actually means.

The status quo is high on waste, low on efficiency, and few are pleased with the outcome. Surely that’s a good reason to recognise the hidden value in your M&R communications and elevate them to a starring role.

You shall go to the ball

Thankfully, there are some proven tools for optimising these communications (that don’t awkwardly expire at midnight).

Behavioural economics holds the clues to radically better content design, with improved wording and layouts that take people’s natural psychological biases into account. And better content design in M&R comms means less printing and more informed, more confident customers, who go on to make better financial decisions. They also place fewer “what the hell is this?” calls to call centres. Better CX and lower costs. Win-win.

Channel choice. Some customers prefer to get comms through email, but many banks are still using print as the dominant channel for M&R comms. The requirement for a ‘durable medium’ is enforced by the FCA, but this needn’t rule out using email as the primary channel (albeit it helps to have automated bouncebacks in place like we do for our major clients).

One message per customer. With a UK average of 1.2 current accounts per customer, and that data potentially being held in multiple sources, it’s easy to see why banks might take the less risky route and send one message per account (rather than one message per customer). But with smart data aggregation in place, the process of removing duplicate messages and sending one message per customer can cut 20% of the total production cost of the project.

Smoother processes. The number of people and teams involved in M&R activity can lead to rushed processes, full of errors, rework, and frustrated staff. Yet, the risk of making changes to established processes (however painful and inefficient they might be) can be daunting for senior management and leads to inertia. By introducing a collaborative planning approach, we get client teams together early – across disciplines – to define the critical path for each project and prioritise the customer experience. This aligns the vision, clarifies the capabilities across data and content, allows for leaner production, and allows for change while also reducing risk.

Who will be your Fairy Godmother?

Ok, so maybe we’re stretching the Cinderella analogy to breaking point. Nobody will be able to guarantee a fairytale happy ending (although Signal would certainly like to try), but we believe that following our guidelines, anyone can make a real impact that benefits both your brand and customer.

Better financial decision making and understanding for customers, which means happy regulators, increased customer loyalty and significant cost savings.

To find out more about how Signal can help you transform your mandatory and regulatory communications, get in touch.

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