COMMUNICATION AUDITING – UNDERSTANDING AND RECONCILING CONFLICTING OBJECTIVES
How do you employ creative communication techniques to improve take‐up of an underperforming product in the financial sector?
We came across this client through our interest in financial markets. Although based in the US, the company had recently opened an office in the UK offering services in day trading and Forex, and was gaining a good reputation for excellent service, low transaction charges and great transparency. Their systems were reasonably user friendly, but did require a certain level of knowledge and familiarity from the user, and uptake was not great. They operated as a small team, and we quickly built up a good relationship with our allocated account handler who soon realized that we were picking up on failings in their software and site navigation. Our account handler started to pass on our comments to his boss.
WHAT SPARKED THE REQUEST FOR OUR HELP?
In the heady pre‐crash days of the early 2000s, companies such as this were proliferating in the City, and interest from the general public was high. Regular seminars and workshops hosted by self‐acclaimed ‘experts’ promised to make their attendees rich by learning how to beat the markets. Our client was in a very different league, with a good pedigree and no such wild promises in their marketing, but they did begin to realize that the customer was in need of some education around their product offering if they were to grow their business in the UK. We were invited to meet their Marketing Manager, who was keen to listen to what we had to say, and asked us to suggest a plan that would help explain their business and create an improved user experience.
OUR SUGGESTED PRACTICE AND METHOD
This situation presented us with an obvious case for our ‘Communicate’ practice. Whilst our client had a great product, a good visual presence and very competent account handlers who built strong relationships with customers, they were suffering from poor communication. Many of their potential customers simply failed to understand the range of products on offer, the level of risk involved, and the ease of exit – an essential factor in persuading an amateur trader to open an account. Armed with a little knowledge and first‐hand experience of using their products (as well as comparable services from other similar suppliers), we realized that what was needed was our total immersion in this service to the point where we knew it better than the client. Only then would we be able to advise on how they should communicate with their potential customers and successfully convert them into users.
From our initial meeting with the Marketing Director, we went on to organize meetings with all members of their sales team, where we suggested they improve their online presence and accessibility by providing light hearted yet informative personal profiles aimed at helping customers choose their preferred trading partner. This gave a much needed human face to what can be an uninviting and intimidating business proposition, reassuring customers that friendly advice was on hand.
We commissioned a simple, highly illustrated ‘manual’ which explained the various services in a clear, step‐by‐step format, highlighting an option which allowed new customers to operate a ‘dummy’ trading account with no risk before gaining sufficient confidence and familiarity with the product to open a live account. This was available to download, along with a host of other helpful online features that alerted customers to potential dangers and guided them smoothly through the process.
We also organized regular seminars and workshops for which presentations were prepared, demonstrating the software in action and clearly explaining the most suitable applications for different users.
The whole process took around 12 months from start to finish, by which time the client had built up a solid bank of support material and was able to take over its management and development.
Customer take‐up improved dramatically as a result of our involvement, and more importantly, our client saw a marked improvement in customer retention. Through an increased presence via seminars and workshops, the client’s brand was given much needed publicity, helping to create greater awareness among potential users. The open, helpful approach adopted by our client helped establish them as a company to be trusted in a market where suspicion and fear tend to rule.
Unlike several of its competitors, our client survived the financial crisis of 2008, and continues to trade successfully.