"When we create great experiences and remarkable experiences, the word remarkable is intentional because it means literally worthy of remark, worthy of talking about.”  -Dan Gingiss

Did you know two-thirds of all customers can’t remember the last time a brand exceeded their expectations? Particularly in the pandemic era, people are feeling disconnected from even their favorite brands.

For financial brands, it’s time for a new approach that takes the customer experience from ordinary to extraordinary. That's why Dan Gingiss, a much sought-after keynote speaker, storyteller, coach, and author of The Experience Maker: How to Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait to Share. He’s also the Chief Experience Officer at The Experience Maker, LLC, recently joined the Banking on Digital Growth Podcast

Satisfaction, Storytelling, and a Systematic Approach

If you need evidence that Dan is a customer experience guru, consider this fact:

During his 10-year tenure at Discover, he led the company’s design, development, and customer experience initiatives and earned the J.D. Power Award for customer satisfaction in credit card companies.

Take a moment to digest that.

Dan won an award for customer satisfaction in the credit card industry, where customer satisfaction is notoriously low and extremely challenging to improve.

Everyone loves to hate on their credit card company! But Dan helped Discover find new ways to delight its customers and push customer service ratings sky-high.

Dan credits his success to a knack for storytelling plus his development of a systematic approach to reshaping the way companies approach customer service. His WISE approach will be discussed in more detail below.

Creating Remarkable Experiences

The word “remarkable” is important to keep in mind for financial executives working to improve their company’s customer satisfaction. You don’t just want it to be “good” or even “great.” You want their experience with your company to be remarkable in that it’s worthy of discussing and remarking upon.

Ample research shows that others’ opinions heavily influence how people view brands and services. It’s the same effect that comes with pulling your phone out of your pocket and recording something. There’s an urge to remember and share the experience.

Every customer interaction is an opportunity to share experiences - from a single employee-customer interaction to a spectacular event or performance. This includes online experiences, which can quickly reach thousands or even millions of people.

Although there’s a common misconception that people share bad news more often than good news, Dan doesn’t believe this is true. His book includes many examples that show customers are much more willing to spread positive experiences than negative ones. When something is extraordinary, people share it.

The Biggest Mistake? Assumptions About Engagement

Beware of making assumptions about what your customers’ lives and experiences are really like. Don’t assume you know what they feel, what they know, what they want, or how their interactions with your company typically go.

Most of all, don’t assume that they want to engage with you in the first place. Almost nobody wakes up in the morning eager to interact with a financial brand!

Dan uses an example from the early days of Discover’s website, where it was common to use a pop-up ad to upsell current customers. Sure, 5% to 10% of them might click on the popup, but the other 90% to 95% were irritated. It wasn’t worth the cost of harming the customer experience.

Another important lesson can be summed up in three words:

Every second counts.

Discover did research that found their customers hated having to make three or more clicks to find the basic information they needed online. Therefore Dan and his team worked diligently to reduce it to two clicks, then just one.

They also learned that their customers desperately wanted a simple feed on their homepage that showed their 10 most recent transactions. As soon as Discover launched this new feature, they found that tens of thousands of customers logged on to their website, then logged off immediately.

Wait! That’s a good thing, not a bad thing!

People loved the fast, easy-to-use feature and Discover’s satisfaction scores went through the roof. This example shows that when you simply give your customers exactly what they’re requesting, they’ll love you for it - especially when you’re giving them the gift of saving time.

Giving Up the Jargon of the Financial World

The financial industry has an overwhelming number of acronyms and jargon terms that customers find off-putting. Think about APR, APY, ATM, EFT, PIN, and on and on. There’s even a movement in the financial world to know your customer. What do we call it? KYC!

These terms are familiar to people who work for financial brands, but they’re frustrating and overwhelming for our customers. They make customers feel like outsiders when what we really want to do is welcome them with open arms.

Dan advises that we should stop using all of this “bank talk” and start speaking plain English. The subtle differences between certain terms are only important during complex financial transactions, so they shouldn’t bog down our everyday communications. Minimize jargon and acronyms in advertisements, social posts, and customer conversations.

James Robert agrees, sharing a story about a financial brand’s website that mentioned APY on a checking account. Many people thought it meant that the company would charge them 3% to keep a checking account there! They simply confused APY with APR and that ruined the entire marketing campaign

Taking a WISE Approach

It sounds paradoxical, but one of the best ways to eliminate jargon and keep the focus on the customer experience is to remember the acronym WISE. As Dan explains in his book, WISE stands for:

Witty

Immersive

Shareable

Extraordinary.

WISE work leads to customer-company experiences that people want to talk about. When it’s WISE, your brand speaks in a witty and welcoming voice. The experience is immersive and it becomes shareable because it’s so extraordinary.

Best of all, this is a customer-led result. They spread positive news about your brand because they genuinely want to. The experience is so extraordinary that they feel the urge to shout it from the rooftops.

Breaking it Down: W-I-S-E.

Witty.

Dan clarifies that being witty isn’t about being humorous. Brands like Taco Bell and Wendy’s use wildly offbeat humor to connect with their customers on social media. They goof around. That’s humor, not wittiness.

Wittiness is being clever by using professional language, but refuses to be boring. More than humor, wittiness is appropriate for financial brands and comes across as a refreshing change in an industry that’s usually straight-laced and serious.

James Robert mentions a few examples he’s seen, like a door sign that says, “Almost there. Please use the other entrance” or a waiting line sign that says, “You’re up next. Hang tight.” These messages are unexpected and witty, but not over-the-top comical.

Immersive.

This involves building a complete customer journey that makes sense and feels cohesive from start to finish. It’s also about maintaining a connection with the customer and avoiding long breaks in communication.

As an example for financial brands, a customer’s experience with your app or website should feel tied to any in-person experience they have with you, like encountering you at an event or walking into a branch. Your branding should feel melded together on all fronts, creating a single long-lasting memory for the customer.

Being immersive is also about extending the customer bond in ways that feel intimately connected to your brand. For example, if your financial brand is loud and proud about promoting its connection to the Humane Society or other animal causes, you can give away dog biscuits to customers who visit with their pets. It’s a kind and simple gesture that helps immerse people in your brand experience.

Shareability.

This is what’s often called buzz or newsworthiness. What makes your customer experience genuinely share-worthy for your customers?

Dan emphasizes that this isn’t something that happens by accident, but it’s also not something that can be forced. If you outright tell people to use your hashtag and tag you, they’ll naturally resist doing so. Instead, you want to make it so they can’t help themselves - they just feel a burning urge to share it!

One of Dan’s favorite examples happened at a steakhouse with his family. It was his son’s birthday and the maitre d’ handed his son a birthday card signed by the whole staff. His daughter immediately piped up with, “If they gave him a birthday card now, I’ll bet they’ll do something special for dessert.” See how this family is already immersed in the customer experience and anticipating something special?

The steakhouse didn’t disappoint. Instead of bringing out the same old slice of birthday cake every other restaurant offers, the maitre d’ presented a box of four handmade chocolates on a plate with “Happy Birthday” spelled out in a dusting of cocoa powder. Instead of a candle, they lit sparklers. Everyone ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the sparkling spectacle and whipped out their phones to take photos.

This meant the kids shared it on Snapchat, the adults shared it on Facebook, the restaurant shared it on Instagram, and the steakhouse got a shout-out on at least three social media platforms. Most importantly, the birthday boy was thrilled. What a win for the customer experience!

 Extraordinary.

The steakhouse example above shows how a somewhat ordinary experience - having a birthday at a restaurant - can blast away into extraordinary with just a few thoughtful, low-cost touches. It doesn’t have to be miles above the ordinary. It can just be a little something extra special.

Inspiration From Outside the Financial World

Dan says he doesn’t mean to offend anyone with this comment, but it’s time to stop looking within the financial industry for creative inspiration. It’s a fairly old-fashioned industry and while it has lots of good ideas, it’s not usually extraordinary in terms of the customer experience.

Instead, look at companies like Starbucks, Apple, Amazon, and Disney. How does Disney World delight and thrill people - not just on their amusement park rides, but in their restaurants, shops, and hotels? What are all the little touches that make the experience magical?

Universal Studios Florida, for example, has completely revamped the experience of waiting in line. Their Harry Potter World attraction makes waiting in line fun because it winds through Hogwarts Castle with character interactions, cartoons, and skits that immerse people in the Harry Potter experience. It’s so popular, people now wait in line without even going on the ride at the end!

If your brain explodes thinking about how this concept could possibly connect to a financial brand, take a deep breath and focus on the issue of waiting. People hate waiting. How does your brand make customers wait?

Do they wait on the phone? Do they wait for a secure email to start their loan approval process? Do you make them wait for a credit decision or a new credit card after theirs was stolen? These are all opportunities to make their experience extraordinary instead of ordinary, and that’s what being WISE is all about.