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Episode 57: “Communicating with Customers in a Digital World”, with Debbie Miglaw, Head of Digital Solutioning and Business Development for Broadridge Customer Communications

Drawing upon the results of Broadridge’s fourth annual CX and Communications survey, Debbie Miglaw, Head of Digital Solutioning and Business Development for Broadridge Customer Communications, joins Matt Swain to discuss what consumers really want – and expect – from their communication experiences.

Matt: I'm Matt Swain and you're listening to the "Reimagining Communications" podcast where we discuss the opportunities and challenges facing companies on the road to optimizing their communications for the future. Today, I'm joined by a familiar guest Debbie Miglaw, head of digital solutioning and business development for Broadridge Customer Communications. Debbie, thanks for joining once again.

Debbie: Hey Matt, thanks for inviting me. It's always great to talk to you.

Matt: Yeah, certainly. So, Debbie, we just conducted our webinar last week where we discussed highlights from the annual CX and Communications Insights research. Now, for context for those of you who missed it, this research focuses on how North American consumers think about their communications experiences. And Debbie, I'd love to get your thoughts, because I've been super close to the data over the last few months. What really struck you from the research?

Debbie: Well, Matt, there are a lot of data points out there that I found very interesting. Let's start with the fact that 65% of consumers think that most of the companies they're doing business with now, need to improve their customer experience. Think about that, 65%. That's a pretty big number.

Matt: It was a wild number, and I completely agree on that being a big point of the research. That was also up from 59% last year, but from 35% in 2019. So, we have this progression trending in the wrong direction, right? Thirty-five percent of consumers thought that most of the companies they do business with needed to improve experiences in 2019, now we're looking 65% in the face.

Debbie: You know, that's an interesting point. Because we talked to a lot of companies, and they're saying that customer experience and digital experience has really been their focus. So, it makes you wonder why the trend is going downward? Is it perhaps a matter of speed at which these companies can change their customer experience versus what the consumers are thinking, just something to think about?

Matt: Yeah. I think you're right. We're hearing from many companies that their focus is on improving experiences. Now, what I would say is, we're seeing a few companies really excelling in customer experience and really focusing on removing or reducing friction. And I think that that could play a big role when you have some companies leapfrogging the rest of the field. Then you're turning around and seeing how other companies are working and they leave you wanting more.

Debbie: Definitely. I think we all have that one example of the best customer experience, and then we sort of judge as consumers what other companies are doing. And so, I think we're seeing that in some markets are moving faster than others.

Matt: There's a huge carrot here to right that the companies that have great experiences are rewarded. We had the data point that 77% of customers said that they would spend more money with the company that provided a good customer experience.

Debbie: Yeah, it's kind of like stating the obvious, right? I mean, we often forget that customer experience is everything from the products companies offered to how you're treated as a customer. So, if you think about where you shop, or the restaurant you frequent, or, who you bank or invest with, it's probably one of those companies that has the customer experience figured out, because otherwise, you wouldn't still be with them as a consumer.

Matt: And when we talk about customer experience, it's inclusive of customer service and call center, and in-person interactions and otherwise. But communications that the company send are actually pretty important whether it's informational, or marketing, or transactional, or regulatory. So, I think about the points that you were just making, and we ask specifically which types of companies are providing the best customer experience. And consumers were saying they were most likely to cite their banks followed by credit card providers. Meanwhile, insurance companies, mortgage and loan providers, and retirement services companies had the most work to do in the consumers eyes.

Debbie: Yeah. And, at the same time, you look at the banks and credit cards who are doing well as providers, and yet the data would kind of suggest that there's maybe still a little bit of room for improvement, even at the top tier.

Matt: Exactly. So, an example of continuing to improve in the banking space is what I often consider one of the weaker links. And Debbie, I know that we've talked about those before, it’s that statement ready notification.

Debbie: Oh, yeah, the plain text notification, your documents available online.

Matt: Click here, no additional context.

Debbie: No graphics.

Matt: No graphic, might be all caps. Doesn't look like the brand. And it requires the consumer to do all the work, right, the recipient, the customer whoever it is, the account holder in a sense.

Debbie: What's my username, what's my password? Oh, gosh, I have to log on. How much do I owe? Or how much money do I have just tell me?

Matt: Exactly. And we asked about that in the research, so we brought this up in the webinar as well. But that point about two-thirds of consumers say that they would rather receive an interactive summary of key bill or statement information directly by email rather than being redirected to log in before getting any information. And to build on that, only 10% of consumers actually preferred the current state of the email with a link, and not really sure who those people are, but they probably just didn't like having the content of their accounts displayed directly within their email.

Debbie: Normally, I would say it was my father-in-law who doesn't like the change. But even he doesn't want to have that email.

Yeah, so it's interesting, you know, people aren't going to get the adoption they want if they have best standard like they'll ready that we just talked about not liking or statement ready. What we found really is that better digital experiences are driving other results, right? So, if we think of business outcomes like increasing paperless rates that's a nice thing. But it's not just about paperless, right? It's also about that engagement of the experience. And that's what we talk about with customer experiences as opposed to a cost play where you're simply just focused on turning off paper. But, at that point, you still look at paperless as a key objective. If 77% said they would go paperless if the company created a better and more engaging digital experience, that's pretty significant. Think about it, 77% that is really a transformation item if I've ever heard of one.

Matt: Yeah. And that's exactly where the next wave of paperless is going to come from, right? Think about the baseline. In aggregate, across vertical markets, we saw that 45% of consumers preferred digital-only bills and statements. Then another 33%, a third of them, wanted digital access, but would prefer to continue receiving the paper. So those that can access digitally are holding on to the paper, because the experience isn't good enough is basically what we're hearing through that data.

Debbie: Right. So, is it really a matter of embracing the double-dippers to some degree? Because if you think about it some of the past research pointed to personalization being a cornerstone for creating those engaging experiences, so it would imply that companies just need to be a little bit smarter maybe about the data that they have already, and how they plan to use it, and leveraging kind of different technologies, and also probably the messaging, right? Because does the consumer really want to hear about paperless or do, they want to hear about something that's better for them that's going to bring them either back to the website, the app, or just a happier customer.

Matt: There is one stat, and we didn't share at the webinar, I'm racking my brain on it. But I won't say the actual percentage because I'll get it wrong. But there was a data point on the percent of consumers that said, "Please, just stop asking me to go paperless. I like getting paper or I don't want you to ask anymore." And I think that level of intelligence in the marketing, in the push to drive desired approach to communications is really important. You can personalize the communications. You can use the data and leverage that data to drive desired behavior. But also, you should be using the data to understand when to, maybe, move off of a topic, and focus on doing something else and then revisiting that topic.

Debbie: Yeah. I mean, Matt, I don't know about you, but when I see something like that go paperless, and I'm like why? I mean, first question as a consumer, why? I mean, I'm in the space, and I ask that question. Because that's not something to advertise for me, it's not a mover, right, it's not a driver that's going to motivate me to change my consumer behavior.

Matt: Yeah. One of the data points from a consumer perspective was that about three quarters, I think, it was 74% of consumers wanted companies to customize their experiences based on what they know about them. So, there's personalization, there's customization. And then 63% of respondents said that they would be more likely to engage and respond to interactive personalized messaging. And then, on top of that, many consumers said they'd be willing to give up personal information for better customer experience. Gen Z, 49% of them, Millennials 55%. Then you have Gen X at 38%, and Boomers at 23% so it does drop off. But the younger generations, in particular, are more comfortable giving additional personal information for a better customer experience.

Debbie: And I bet that doesn't really surprise people, right? We always expect the younger generations to adapt technology or experiences. But I bet many people are surprised to hear that even almost a quarter of the boomers are willing to give up their personal information for a better customer experience. Think about it. Those are people that generally speaking people of always thought don't want to make change. So Matt, remind us, what type of communication experiences consumers are interested in, and I'd be curious to know do the experiences vary by the generations?

Matt: Yeah, there were a couple things there. We talked about the technologies and capabilities that consumers said they were interested in terms of how to improve experiences and we talked about that on the webinar as well. There were things like digital interactive documents, predictive analytics to anticipate when to send communications, AI in customer service to help with simple questions immediately, QR codes, we talked about those a lot as a bridge from print to digital. Personalized videos, as we discussed in the last episode. And Debbie, to your point, there were generational differences. There were some big gaps from Gen Z to Baby Boomers relative to interest in these technologies. I had called out a huge Gen Z and Millennial interest in personalized video in our last podcast. Let's look at QR codes as an example.

We had 78% of Gen Z respondents that are interested in QR codes as that bridge to digital, while just 32% of Baby Boomers are showing interest. And before turning it back to you to react to that, I would also say, to your point, you can flip it and say, "Yeah," but a third of Baby Boomers are saying that they want to use their mobile phone to engage with the QR code to go digital. So, there is a bit of a, younger generation more interested, older generation less interested component to this. But there's also the storyline that there is interest across generations and companies should be taking that to heart as their defining their communication strategies.

Debbie: Who would have thunk that a third of Baby Boomers would want to use a QR code? I think we've all seen this, and we talk about it with customers a lot, because we can all relate. The QR codes have experienced, a huge uptick in popularity, and, primarily, driven by the pandemic. I mean, we look at the restaurant menus as a driver, I kind of think of QR codes have almost because of that become like the next best app in a way. And that is, we hear interest from the companies, they're thinking about adding QR codes to their communications, certainly marketing communications have done quite a bit in that area. We haven't seen it as much on regulatory and transactional communications in a sense of a statement of bill, a letter, a notice. It kind of tells me that maybe the research data indicates, now is the time for customers and other companies to take action, put the QR codes on a take advantage. A third of the Boomers, two-thirds or more three-quarters of Gen Z, that's pretty significant.

Matt: Exactly, and if we look at some of the other technologies and capabilities that I had listed, for instance, digital interactive documents, first of all, who wouldn't want interactivity in their digital documents. I don't get it. But the point being that almost 80% of Gen Z and Millennial respondents showed interest in that. We had 62% of Gen X, 43% of Baby Boomers. Again, I think that interest tends to be tied to people that are more likely to engage digitally. So, I think that some of the Baby Boomer respondents that aren't interested not interactivity, it's probably because they're more likely to still be print-based or somebody else is managing their digital lives for them.

Debbie: Yeah. I think it's not surprising to see, you know, always that trend that you saw on the data that the younger generation adapts to newer technologies, and newer technologies often adapt, or lend themselves to the newer customer experiences, right? Logically that makes sense, I don't think any of us would be surprised, but, you know, the question then becomes, are the company's going to implement the interactive documents? Are they going to have predictive analytics? In some cases, that's a pretty big transformation change on the way they execute, right, the delivery of communications. We've even had few customers say, you know, its always batch, right, batch, a big job just comes in and you print and mail, you send digital, you send emails. You know, you do these things. Well, it's got to be more than that, and so we have companies, really looking how do they send maybe real-time communications, right? Maybe, it's not some big mainframe, or data processing job on the backend, and it's, "Hey, now's the time to communicate something to Matt. Here's what's going on with your account with us right now."

Matt: You actually made me think of a client discussion from this week where the client said that their struggle internally was deciding if they wanted to make incremental improvements to their communications experience or throw that out the window and fully transform it. And if they were to ask the customer, the customer would say, "Fully transform it." And I think that's where they need to go, but culturally and internally, it's a harder decision for them to make, because they have so far to come. And so, what we try to do is show them the baby step approach to get to that road map for the future, but at the same time, get their buy-in and that's really where they want to go, and that's where they should go.

Debbie: Yeah. And you're definitely going to need an executive sponsor, right, that's behind that kind of change. But, I think, it's a decision or a question I should say that every company should be asking right now. The data certainly shows that consumers want change.

Matt: Exactly. So, Debbie, last question, based on the insights from this year's research, does this change your thoughts on where the communications market is headed in the coming years? Because I know that I've asked you this now three times, but I'd be really curious to hear what your thoughts are based on the latest research insights.

Debbie: Well, fortunately, I probably don't remember what I said the last time we talked. But I think conceptually it doesn't change it fundamentally, but I think it does change, maybe, I'll say a little bit of urgency in a way we do things. And I'll start off by saying this Matt, we know customers, they're happier if they're treated well, they have a personalization, a better experience. They want to be special, right? Not just a number. And we know that personalized communications are a mix of the leveraging the data, the technology, understanding better customer experiences, like how to pull them together is really part of a challenge, but it's also the opportunity. And we look at right now what we're doing with some of our wealth management and insurance companies and the focus is around aggregating data together to create new types of communications that will represent a consumer's entire account relationship with the company, as well as including like, maybe, their agent or advisor depending on the market in this case I'm talking wealth and insurance, right?

And that's a different way to communicate with someone than just sending out an individual communication for each transaction or event that occurs. I look at it like this Matt, bottom line. Thanks to consumer research that you do annually. Thank you for that. We do see the consumers across all the generations, right? You have the data that says they're welcoming the use of data and technology for a better customer experience. And that leads a lot of opportunity for companies to re-imagine the way they create and deliver communications.

Matt: Well said. Well, Debbie, thank you so much for participating in yet another "Reimagining Communications" podcast.

Debbie: Thanks, Matt, for having me. I always love to talk to you.

Matt: I'm Matt Swain, you've been listening to the "Reimagining Communications" podcast. If you like this episode and think someone else would too, please share it, leave a review, and don't forget to subscribe. And if you're ready to reimagine your customer experiences, consider the Broadridge Communications Cloud, an end-to-end platform for creating, delivering, and managing omnichannel communications and customer engagement. To learn more about Broadridge, our insights in our innovations, visit broadridge.com or find us on Twitter and LinkedIn.