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What can finance brands learn from this simple Japanese principle?

What can finance brands learn from this simple Japanese principle?

By Tsuyoshi Notani, Managing Director, JCB International (Europe) Ltd.

Customer loyalty is the beacon that all businesses aspire to reach. But for finance brands in particular, the stakes are even higher. Customer lifetime for finance brands is typically much longer than that of other retail, grocery, or even tech brands. How many of us are still with the same bank that we opened our first current account with? And as the customer lifecycle continues, they are likely to also stay with the same provider for credit cards, loans, and mortgages. Typically, people are less likely to switch banks as often as they might do with other services like utilities – but we are seeing a shift among younger generations who are willing to shop around if their finance providers are not offering the experience and service they expect.

The opportunity for a customer to have life-long loyalty with a finance brand is still possible – but only if their demands are met and they feel they are a valued customer.

We have seen in recent years the emergence of fintechs and neobanks, placing an emphasis on customer service to encourage such life-long loyalty. And while we can look to these new players as shining examples, there is an older tried and tested method that has been working in Japan for centuries.

At the heart of Japanese hospitality is the principle of ‘Omotenashi’. The word conveys going above what is expected of a host, and beyond any guest’s imagination.

If applied with dedication and an honest conviction, its three core tenets of anticipation, thoughtfulness and authenticity, can create a greater bond alongside more repeat transactions. Through holding genuine moments of appreciation between ‘guest and host’, or ‘customer and brand’, with sincere acts of care taken with immense pride, not only will your customers be loyal to you, but you to them. By implementing these practices and applying Omotenashi’s values to your actions, your brand will be far more customer-centric and foster greater loyalty. This, in turn, brings numerous benefits such as brand advocacy and resilience, as well as richer data, and forecastable revenue and profit. These perks are a good indication of why businesses are forecast to spend an extra 30% a year on loyalty and retention marketing this year.

Omotenashi reinforces the fundamentals behind good business and employee engagement many businesses are practicing already. Implementation of its three core tenets to your brand should take aim at the following:

Anticipation. Predict needs – instead of trying to sell the product the business wants to sell, offer the customer the product they want to buy before they know they even need it.

Thoughtfulness. Facilitated experience – make every interaction with your brand as seamless and friction-free as possible.

Authenticity.  Engage and incentivise employees – by doing so your staff will deliver on your commitments and values knowing your support will not waiver.

Following the principles laid out above, finance brands can drive true customer loyalty to their services and products. Neobanks, for example, pioneered seamless in-app banking, offering niche functions such as ‘money pots’, and integrated live chats – features that are now mainstays among most banks. These brands predicted the needs of customers and facilitated their user experience and consequently saw tremendous results. One of these, Monzo Bank Ltd, was rewarded for their efforts when in 2019 a YouGov poll found that it had the strongest advocates of any brand[1] in the UK.

Brand advocacy and resilience, forecastable revenues and rich data are why your finance brand should always be focusing on building loyalty. Embracing Omotenashi could just be the most meaningful way to go about it.

[1] Monzo customers are 2019’s keenest brand advocates. 19.09.19


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