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Banks Editor's Choice Europe

Relay Network: High Touch, Tech Touch, and the Customer Engagement Fallacy

Customer loyalty is the most important factor in a successful bank, but achieving this has become a challenge with the rise of neobanks and other contemporary competitors. Customer engagement is the best way to ensure loyalty as it makes the customer feel valued by the institution, and this was typically done through ‘low touch’ and ‘high touch’ engagements. As we enter the digital era where these physical face to face engagements are becoming extinct, a new form of communication must be developed. Cue the ‘tech touch’. 

Matt Gillin is the CEO of Relay Network, a customer experience channel built to deliver outsized outcomes by radically transforming the way customers engage, learn, and take action. With a variety of accolades including being named, one of the Philadelphia region’s most influential executives under the age of 40 in 2004; CEO of the Year by the Eastern Technology Council in 2006, and in 2007, he was awarded the Walter M. Aikman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Gillin has a wealth of experience in CX.

Gillin looks to the future in the ever digitising world and how traditional banks can adapt to the new norm, and provide a new type of engagement to retain customers:

Matt Gillin, CEO, Relay Network
Matt Gillin, CEO, Relay Network

The word ‘relationship’ is ineradicably linked to the world of banking. It’s what makes your bank, your bank, right? Having a good relationship with your customers means everything, especially nowadays where most engagement is digital. The customer accustomed to going to their local bank branch or credit union to engage with their favourite tellers or bankers is becoming extinct. That’s why “How can we drive a better relationship with our customers?” is a recurring board-level question.

So, how can financial institutions evolve beyond the least common denominators of engagement and differentiate from their contemporaries and neobank competitors? What can they offer to drive a greater frequency of more meaningful engagement?

To start, let’s first get back to basics: not all engagement is created equal. In the physical world, we have transactional ‘low touch’ engagement, like a teller processing a deposit at a branch, and ‘high touch’ engagement where a customer is greeted and guided through their branch visit by a relationship manager with whom they are familiar. In the digital realm, most customer engagement is transactional.

Tech Touch – Building a new type of engagement 

When analyst firm Gartner called out this trend, it identified a new approach coined as ‘tech touch’ as a means of rekindling the high touch philosophy in the digital realm. The intent of tech touch is to establish a deeper relationship with a customer where technology takes the place of what until now could only be accomplished by human interaction – done correctly it builds trust. I think it’s important to note here that ‘tech touch’ isn’t a synonym for chatbots or portal personalisation, while personalisation is an important piece of digital transformation, neither of the aforementioned come even close to forging a relationship with the customer. With a tech touch approach, the core mission of digital customer engagement stays the same as the human analogue high-touch engagement: enhancing customers’ lives with the understanding that doing so directly enhances customer lifetime value. I think of it as the customer engagement implementation of Gary Vaynerchuk’s Jab Jab Jab Right Hook idea — if every engagement is an ask, you’re doing it wrong.

At Relay, this tech touch approach is offered through a dedicated 1:1 feed. Why a feed? Because feeds are how we naturally engage with our digital lives, from news, to our families, social lives, careers, even dating. A properly executed tech touch feed encapsulates and catalyses customers to engage with high-value, mutually beneficial experiences exactly when they are relevant, prompts to suggest new features, provides educational product and service tutorials and builds affinity and trust by showing the customer that they are known, heard, and appreciated by their financial institution. A tech touch strategy is only effective if the digital outreach is personalised, and arrives at the right moment to address a specific need or prompt the next best action. Experiences should be proactively and automatically delivered to users via digital outreach-based customer data insights that inform their current trajectory (where they are in the lifecycle), and their near-term and long-term needs.

A tech touch strategy is only effective if the digital outreach is personal and serves a specific need or prompts the next best action. I recommend using a data-driven approach that leads the customer to renew, expand and advocate at their own pace on their own feed. In fact, in a tech touch model, leveraging data is even more critical than in a high touch model where humans can capture the sentiment of an account, because mistakes could drive opt-outs — one strike could be game over. Engagement should be meaningful, low effort, and continuous, meaning customer choices and metadata should be utilised in a way that demonstrates understanding throughout your brand’s role in the customers’ lives and makes it easy for them to engage with what matters and not be annoyed by the interaction. By deeply understanding the customer and applying personal data to that understanding it is possible to create high touch digital experiences that foster trust and build confidence — this is the kind of tech touch that drives what I call ‘true engagement’.

True Engagement 

True engagement isn’t tethered exclusively to revenue and cost savings. In fact, education and relationship-building engagements were the only measurable outcome is deepening the customer’s relationship with the brand via value enhancement have incremental value  — possibly exponential. Increasing customers’ positive feelings through relationship building and education tech touches increases the value they derive from their financial service provider. When you successfully enhance customers’ perceived value of your products and services, they reward you with loyalty. Of course, there’s research to back that up — a recent Gartner survey found that customers who felt they were receiving value enhancement from their banks were 82 per cent less likely to churn, while 86 per cent more likely to uptake new products and services.

But really, research aside, let’s do a gut check: Doesn’t it just make sense that meaningfully engaged customers are significantly more likely to sustain their business with your institution, advocate on your behalf and adopt new products or services? I think you now have a good answer for how you can drive a better relationship with your customers — give each of them a personal 1:1 feed.



  • Matt Gillin is the CEO and co-founder of Relay Network, the customer engagement platform built to help enterprises create customers for life in the digital age by delivering personal 1:1 experiences at scale.

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