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Building a Foundation for Meeting Customer Needs in Loyalty

RBC Bank, in partnership with Kobie Marketing, has tailored its loyalty program to handle new shifts in customer needs and business goals .

Digital disruption and changing consumer lifestyles are driving constant shifts in customers’ needs in banking, making it difficult for banks to find ways to meet those ever-changing needs. One such area is card loyalty programs, where RBC Bank, in partnership with Kobie Marketing, has built a new foundation for meeting the changing needs of the customer as well as some big shifts in the bank’s own business goals, says Jason Dolat, director of U.S. card products for RBC Bank.

RBC Bank’s partnership with Kobie began in late 2008 when the bank saw a need to redesign its card loyalty program to address the growing demand from customers to be rewarded for having multiple relationships with an institution. “We wanted to reward customers for having various relationships [with the bank] and bundling different products,” Dolat shares. “As a product manager, I wanted the visibility across the bank to see all of the customers’ relationships, and then build dashboards and portals that could help me measure engagement across the board.”

[For More On the Changes Shaking Up Loyalty and Rewards Programs: The Unstoppable Evolution of Loyalty]

The bank also wanted to add new features to its rewards program that would differentiate it from the competition. “We wanted to introduce some new innovative components, recognizing that we had a cookie-cutter program at that point,” Dolat adds.

Working with Kobie, the bank redesigned its customer experience for tracking and redeeming loyalty points, and leaned heavily on customer segmentation and analytics to measure engagement. To get the single-view of the customer across the enterprise that would be required to see customer relationships and interactions, Kobie worked with the bank to tie multiple disparate systems into Kobie’s Alchemy loyalty platform. The platform offers real-time analytics and a marketing campaign manager that helps personalize customer communications says Michael Hemsey, president of Kobie Marketing. The initial implementation process took six months, Hemsey adds.

With the single-view of the customer enabled by Kobie’s platform, the bank was able to measure engagements and redemption levels to refine their loyalty strategy. And the new platform also allowed the bank to introduce some new capabilities for customers, like the ability to pool rewards points among different family members, RBC’s Dolat notes.

Between the implementation with Kobie’s platform in late 2008 and late 2011, RBC Bank saw the number of customers enrolled in their loyalty program, as well as their redemption levels, double. Then in late 2011 everything changed when the bank sold its U.S. card units to PNC. The bank was re-branded as RBC Bank of Georgia and its entire marketing strategy had to change to suit a new customer profile: RBC customers from Canada who were visiting the States.

“Our value proposition changed. Now we had this niche population that we’re serving, so we had to go back to Kobie and rework our value proposition,” Dolat recalls. “We had been using loyalty as a customer acquisition leader for our sales team. Now we had to change that focus.”

So RBC Bank reworked its program to make it more attractive to travelers from Canada, many of whom were coming for seasonal work. The bank tossed out some of the old features of its program and introduced new ones, like the ability to transfer rewards points back to RBC’s Canadian loyalty program, and the ability to redeem points for Canadian gift cards.

With years of experience now on Kobie’s Alchemy platform and working with Kobie’s team, Dolat says the bank has the capabilities to address new changes in customer needs, and handle the needs of new customer segments. “We know this is a marathon, not a sprint. We know our clients’ needs will evolve… things change, but what I’m solving for and how to track it doesn’t change. We have the foundation now to set and monitor goals with metrics, and look at calls and train sales people to improve interactions. That mindset hasn’t changed.”

And more changes to customers’ needs are likely coming as the payments industry gets upended by new technologies like mobile that are changing the card experience, adds Kobie’s Hemsey. “The relevance of the card in customer experience is changing, so there are lots of opportunities to align with that. The example I give is the Starbucks app. You can walk in and walk out with a cup of coffee without ever taking your card out of your wallet. So RBC and others need to find ways to keep the card relevant in that environment.”

Jonathan Camhi has been an associate editor with Bank Systems & Technology since 2012. He previously worked as a freelance journalist in New York City covering politics, health and immigration, and has a master's degree from the City University of New York's Graduate School ... View Full Bio

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