5 Takeaways on Hyperpersonalization in a Pandemic

Aug 10, 2020

Our president Steve Gillin recently spoke with John Thomas, EVP Global Innovation at TD Bank on how the need for personalization grew exponentially in the first half of 2020, and how they used Relay to quickly develop a program to deliver the effective messaging using a Customer Feed.

Click here to watch the full exchange.


TD’s Approach to Personalization

“Know me, understand me, treat me individually.”

John Thomas

We're keeping it pretty simple when it comes to our personalization strategy. We're really aiming to have a single view in all types of interactions that people have with our brand; regardless of channel, and regardless of the nature of the interaction. So, whether it's marketing or service, or digital, or ATM, we're really trying to manage all those interactions at a segment-of-one, not just marketing interactions.

The hope is by doing that, the experience we provide consistently across channels and the interaction types is relevant and contextual. And that's really at the end of the day, what the folks are looking for—know me, understand me, treat me individually—and our hope is that that's how we will deliver the legendary or great experiences to our customers every day.

“We’re emulating person-to-person interaction, in a person-to-brand setting. And whether it’s marketing, or service, or digital; that's what we think it looks like. Maybe even more importantly, that's what we think it feels like.”



John Thomas

We at TD are really trying to emulate that concept of how we interact as individuals, like how we think about that other person's mood and personality, and we're trying to insert our brand there. And whether it's marketing, or service, or digital; that's what we think it looks like. Maybe even more importantly, that's what we think it feels like. That's the North star.


How We Built This

“What we didn’t do is create a massive data lake or big Hadoop cluster.”

John Thomas

The first thing we did, we took a whole bunch of our different core systems of record (our core operating platforms, our core product platforms) and we took everything we could get out of those platforms in terms of information. We also added in third-party information. We put it all into this architecture that is the Consumer Insight Engine.

John Thomas

So, the data architecture we use for hardcore analytics or business intelligence or highly governing compliance processes, financial reporting, risk analytics… that's our big data architecture. The Consumer Insight Engine is our fast data architecture. It is a separate architecture built specifically for interaction management.

When we took all that information in from our core systems, we took it in whatever way and with whatever frequency those core systems could do it. And then we have a series of decision layers in there. We've integrated that decision layer into more than two dozen different channels and endpoints at TD. We didn't want to replace our channel architecture. We put our insights into each individual channel… and left the core systems, the channel architecture, alone.

When we struck up our partnership with Relay, we were used to an integration pattern where we were adding endpoints or new channels into our personalization ecosystem, and we really looked at Relay as another one of those and found the integration to be quite easy. It took us roughly 90 days from the start… but we've been on this journey for a couple of years at TD. But if we were still in a place where we were on a channel-level decision, I would say it would have been pretty easy to stand up the Relay capability in that case as well. So that's how we did it, and that's how we do it on a daily basis.


How the Pandemic Changed Financial Services

“With the challenges and the branch closures, it really created forced digital transformation.”

Steve Gillin

Our banking clients, with the emergence of COVID, your communication and your ability to educate the consumers became a priority number one. But with the challenges and the branch closures, it really created forced digital transformation. Everybody’s digital strategy had to get accelerated, from two to three years (depending on where you were) to really weeks, months.

Banks needed to be able to reach these customers very quickly and effectively. So the existing come-and-get-it channels were really not enough to work. Being able to proactively push and engage those customers became very important.

They also saw the call centers starting to explode. And in other challenges, many of our clients used offshore customer service centers, all of which had to close because this was a global pandemic, not just affecting the U.S. There was so much variability depending on the region where you lived, really requiring the banks to reinvent their workflows on the spot. And that’s very difficult and challenging when you’re in a highly regulated industry.

John Thomas

Yeah we really did see the same thing. We had this forced digital migration or acceleration. We had massive disruption in our service and sales channels, store, etc., but we also had massive disruption in our tech teams right through this period of time. So as we thought about how we're going to deal with this, low-tech involvement/solutions were at a premium.

“We came up with a new playbook and created the ability for every colleague that works in our branch system to send tailored messages directly to that customer in-the-moment to their cell phone.”



John Thomas

We created pre-packaged content, we ran it through our personalization engine, and then our tellers and platform people could literally push an SMS message to that customer as they were leaving the drive-thru. And we did that almost overnight. We had to train 11-12,000 people as part of that effort. But that was the one thing that really changed for us in the pandemic in terms of how we were using this technology.

Steve Gillin

The power of CX Builder, which is Relay’s business facing tool, allows our clients to create, test and deploy these experiences without any technical resource, any release schedules, etc. Enabling your colleagues in your stores is so powerful because it’s the primary goal of many businesses to find a way to seamlessly convert personal interaction to a digital experience in real time, and really use what we’re very focused on at Relay, which is guided service. Guide that consumer through a digital experience to where they need to be and where you want to take them. Add on top of that your personalization engine, and it delivers a very powerful customer experience and colleague experience as well.


Personalized Feeds for Real-Time Updates

“Relay opens a new channel on the phone, giving us the ability to surgically go into our portfolio and get messages to exactly the right people to relieve pressure on our other channels but, just as importantly, to prevent customers from waiting in a phone queue. This has been super critical.”

John Thomas

It's really easy to create new content on the platform, so we were able to do that very quickly. The act of approving the content inside of a bank was considerably longer than creating the content. We had massive unemployment and income changes happening in the portfolio through this period, and we had a number of assistance programs for our customers, and it was really important to us to be able to proactively talk to the right customers about some of those options.

If we had sent something about assistance of a certain type to a mass affluent or private client, that probably wasn't going to be very well received. This is where the personalization engine really kicked in during the pandemic. We were very surgical about who saw the assistance options content.

John Thomas

And there's a lot of other examples that we put in place in the pandemic and we did it very quickly: massive changes to branch hours, open rates, the methodology of how you could access the branch and store services. So, there were times where we had to talk to millions of people, because there was a massive change in our channel. And then there were times we had to talk to 5-10,000 about this, and 20,000 about that. The platform allowed us to do both of those things.


What’s Next?

“The optimization piece that comes with our relationship with TD and their personalization engine has a ton of data that we’re able to look at and continuously get better.”

Steve Gillin

Relay is a platform that can grow with you as you expand and grow your technological sophistication. And we do have standard packages for Salesforce, Adobe, and general platforms. But, ultimately the way we’ve designed the platform is to make it easy, not only for users to use, but for our clients to stand up. TD has a Relay Client Success Manager that meets bi-weekly with them and we’re constantly optimizing the performance of the program; taking the data we’re getting and benchmarking against what we’re seeing elsewhere in the industry, which is one of the benefits you get from the Relay platform. So that was really helpful.

John Thomas

There is a lot of collaboration happening in personalization at TD across multiple channels. We see variability by messaging. What we do is go back and explore whether it’s our targeting mechanism that’s creating that variability or if we just don’t have the message right. Then we’ll go back to our typical testing/control methodologies. The beauty of CX Builder is that we can do that really really quickly. It doesn’t take weeks. It takes hours to setup and then a couple of things to read and tweak. You can probably go through two or three cycles within a week. We’re calibrating both our targeting and our messaging.


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