Barclays banks on being pers

Marketing has expanded its boundaries to such an extent that, in some companies, its impact is being felt across every function. Barclays is a good example. As the bank’s head of CRM Richard Zanetti explains in this issue’s profile on pages 48-50, the marketing function determines how to talk to customers based on their needs, rather than on what products the business wants to push.

As the bank’s results show, this approach is clearly welcomed by customers. Having been proven online, then in statements, Barclays is in the process of adopting the “next best action” approach right across its operations. This means that at the frontline, when branch staff are face-to-face with a customer, their conversations are driven by what marketing knows about that person. Futhermore, the prompts they use are written by marketing. This is a significant expansion of the usual remit for marketers. Messaging in outbound channels has always been the core activity. With the growth on inbound contact, marketing has steadily moved centre stage.

“The marketing function determines how to talk to customers based on their needs, rather than on what products the business wants to push”

It has taken longer for this to happen than perhaps it should. When call centres were the hub of customer management activity a decade ago, it
seemed obvious that marketing would move into these channels. After all, it knew most about the individuals making and taking those calls.

Yet getting marketing messages into call centre scripts proved difficult. Operations frequently resisted the involvement of a back-office function in its front-office activities. It was not until digital channels really opened up a two-way dialogue with the business that the benefits of using insight to drive messaging started to be realised.

Customers now demand that companies show they know them. So targeting, modelling and messaging need to be at the heart of the relationship. Doing that well, as Barclays has been, is still not straightforward. What has helped the bank is a change in its internal culture.

Until 2008, the marketing model as it was understood from the top was based around broadcast activity, especially TV advertising. With a change of personnel came a new view of how to work. As part of a re-organisation of the retail marketing department, Barclays has brought in staff with a thorough knowledge of direct marketing and CRM; Ellen Kinney, as response-based marketing director, and her boss Emmet Burns, marketing director.

With that level of understanding and support at the top, it becomes easier to advocate data-driven initiatives, like the one that helped Barclays to the Data Strategy Award (Best Use of Data for a Financial Institution), and Zanetti to his accolade as Data Professional of the Year. On top of the financial results being achieved by the bank, it is a clear statement of intent.

David Reed, section editor

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