I don't want it to be easy to interact with my business; I want it to be the easiest!
That’s the bold declaration from Noel Butwell, CEO Advisor Platforms at insurance giant Standard Life Aberdeen. The firm attracted a lot of attention earlier this year when it announced it was shedding its current brand, which can be dated back nearly two centuries, in favor of calling itself Abrdn. The change was justified by Chief Executive Stephen Bird when he said:
Our new brand Abrdn builds on our heritage and is modern, dynamic and, most importantly, engaging for all of our client and customer channels. It is a highly-differentiated brand that will create unity across the business, replacing five different brand names that have been each been operating independently. Our new name reflects the clarity of focus that the leadership team are bringing to the business as we seek to deliver sustainable growth.
It also divided the nation, with the firm also ending up on the BBC's flaghip satire show Have I Got News For You as the subject of some mockery. But as Butwell points out, brand changes can take some getting used to and at the end of the day, the really important thing to bear in mind is the customer experience. Speaking at Salesforce Live last week, Butwell explained the firm regards itself as being on an important journey:
Ultimately, we're looking to completely change the way in which we compete and differentiate in the market, shifting away from products and propositions and looking to compete more on the quality of the content and the experience that advisors and customers have with us. So we're effectively re-wiring the business from top to bottom, not just the technology that we that we use and advisors use, but also that our colleagues use, so that they can deliver for clients and customers and actually enjoy doing it as well, which is really important.
He made an interesting comparison when articulating the firm’s experiential ambitions:
I think the key thing for all of us, irrespective of what sector we're in, is that we are now being compared to the likes of Netflix and Amazon, very much focused on experience and content. That's pretty much what I use in my businesses - content, experience, which means that we have to have really deep insight of what clients and customers want and what they need from us. That's the biggest challenge really for us - how do we move the dial away much more to an experience-based relationship with a client customer?
The critical weapon in this is data, one of the few things that the firm actually owns, given that it is purely the custodian of other people’s money. Butwell said there are a numbers of areas that are a real focus around data.
The first is what we call our Digital First campaign. That's where the client service teams are analyzing data. What is the sort of call traffic we get and on what subjects and is there a digital solution for that? Then, how do we actually train people to use the digital capabilities we've got rather than picking up the phone all the time? Data informs that.
I'm hugely passionate about the experience we deliver. We developed an Advisor Experience Scorecard. I'm a great believer in what gets measured, gets done. You get what you inspect, not what you expect, so we’ve developed some experience principles. And we've got some metrics ascribed to those and we track the data against those.
The third area of data focus is around client segmentation, he said:
Every client is different, but if we can segment clients in terms of some of their behaviors, but also their needs and requirements from us, obviously we can deliver a much more tailored proposition and service to them. We've got the launch of Salesforce Service Cloud this month. I'm really looking forward to seeing how that plays a huge part in us delivering that experience I mentioned before and how that differentiates us in our market and means that we're more competitive than our competitors.
There are some basic motivators underpinning all of this, first and foremost being how to grow the business according to what clients need and mapping digital transformation efforts against that. Butwell explained:
The technology we use, how we use data, etc, if that improves the client customer experience, then that helps me grow the business. That's my focus really. I don't want it to be easy to interact with my business; I want it to be the easiest! When I look into my market, it is a competitive market. How can you differentiate and on what basis? Very much my mantra is, we will be the easiest business to do business with. That basis, I believe, gives me competitive edge.
Moving forward, there are some key objectives, he added:
We've made some commitments as part of an Advisor Experience Program for all of our clients, so the key focus over the next few months is delivering on those, working with our external technology partners really hard, Salesforce amongst a number of other resource partners that we have, to deliver the commitments that we've made to clients. A big part of that is because obviously then we can demonstrate that we are responsive to their needs and we are listening to them.
And then there’s that re-branding, of which Butwell said:
Ultimately brands need to have an emotional connection. I think it's fair to say the new brand has divided opinions. There's people that love it and people that hate it. We've had a lot of feedback. It even appeared on Have I Got News for You on a Friday evening, much to my CEO’s delight. You should prompt a response which is an emotional one, but what that really is all about, as with any brand, is creating brand equity. Over the next few months and years to come, we'll be investing heavily into the brand, because ultimately that's a demonstration of the trust that exists between us and customers.
I'm a great believer that brands and companies should matter to people. We shouldn't market to people, we should matter to people. That's a huge focus for us and obviously the analysis of data, how we actually interact with clients and customers, we will track all that through and respond. We've had the previous brand for almost 200 years, it's been around for a little while, so the new one's going to take a little bit of time.