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Virgin Money UK is not a traditional bank. Their mission to disrupt the status quo with bigger, bolder banking experiences is helping to set them apart from UK high street banks. Customers expect them to do things differently and by listening closely to customers and adapting quickly, they’re able to stay one step ahead of their competition. 

The bank is currently undergoing a period of massive change following its recent acquisition by Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group in 2018. Merging these three major brands while continuing to provide best-in-class customer experiences would be challenging on a good day, but Virgin Money UK is undergoing this process during one of the toughest times in recent history. The current global COVID-19 pandemic has created added pressure from customers for agile innovation to adapt services to customers' needs—and continue to revisit them on an ongoing basis as those needs evolve. 

Fortunately, for almost a decade, Virgin Money UK has been using a digital insight community to infuse quick customer feedback into business decisions. The community empowers the organization with instant access to customer feedback to make informed decisions.

Why an Insight Community?

The insight community provides an opportunity for the bank to strengthen engagement with their existing customers, giving them more input into how the bank operates. This helps increase brand affinity and loyalty with the community members. It also gives a reliable, agile source of insight for a multitude of internal stakeholders looking to make informed decisions based on immediate feedback from real customers. 

The Insight team is able to produce insights and recommendations with cost effectiveness and agility. The insight community helps the research budget go a lot further compared to traditional research methods. Being able to support all areas of the business with actionable customer insights has been pivotal in their ability to continue to innovate and adapt around their customers.

“No matter what the question is that needs to be addressed by the business, we have a pool of customers we can reach out to for input on those.”

—Laura Wasson, Brand Insight Manager

Through the insight community, customers have helped Virgin Money UK with a multitude of decisions from rewriting their terms and conditions to helping select their new logo. The possibilities are limitless. It helps them solve real problems and adapt to unforeseen circumstances that arise which force them to quickly adapt. 

Pandemic Pressure on Virgin Money Customers

The global pandemic took the world by storm, creating immense unease and change for companies and consumers. As new routines were formed, banking preferences changed more rapidly than ever. In-person experiences were quickly replaced with digital alternatives, and Virgin Money UK needed a way to stay on top of changing trends and behaviours while empowering the entire organization with actionable insights.

The Insight team began producing weekly insight reports. Members across the team collaborated on the insights in their own areas to generate ideas for key messages based on real feedback from customers. They used all of the data sources within the organization to determine what topics were top of mind for customers. By connecting the dots between transactional data, Customer Experience feedback, and customer community insights, they were able to predict trends and changes in buyer behaviour that they could share back to all relevant stakeholders in the business, but they wanted to take it a step further.

The team met on Thursdays to determine the topic for the weekly report. They then put out targeted questions to their community over the weekend exploring the theme further. On Monday when they got back to the office, they had hundreds of responses right at their finger tips. With this feedback, they were able to validate their conclusions and bring an emotional connection to the data from other areas of the business. Not only does the rich feedback help develop new case studies, but it humanizes the data and brings the report to life, strengthening the message by attaching feedback to a name and face of a real customer. 

As COVID-19 progresses, Virgin Money continues to learn a lot about their customers and how their lives have been impacted.

“People have different perspectives and mindsets and we’re considering that in our research. One size doesn’t fit all.”

— Kerry Byrne, Insights Enablement Manager

“We have many customers saying they are adjusting well to lockdown life and taking it one day at a time. Recently, outlooks have started to change for the better. People are starting new hobbies, gardening, cooking, etc. Spending more time as a family, shopping local and supporting local businesses and tradespeople. People are coming together as communities a lot more.”

— Kerry Byrne, Insights Enablement Manager

The Impact of Customer Feedback

Virgin Money UK wanted to be there for their customers by understanding what’s happening in their lives now and using their resources to anticipate what’s going to happen in the future. Through the insight community, they learned that they need to provide customers with clear, relevant, and empathetic communication. They uncovered gaps in the customer journey brought on by the crisis that they were able to share with relevant stakeholders to fill. The teams were also able to use insights to support the financial needs of their customers at this time, and be proactive in terms of what may lay ahead and be a part of the positive transformation process.

Internal stakeholders are highly appreciative of the insight into customer challenges and changing behaviours with the weekly reports. For the team, the most positive aspect of the program is seeing the business act on the feedback and make changes because of it.

They’ve implemented practical process changes for customers like making the process for requesting payment holidays more straightforward or adopting new digital banking alternatives. 

“We want customers to feel like we’re there to support them during this difficult time. Even if it's just having a sympathetic ear when they call up requesting a payment holiday—which is something we learned from our community.”

— Laura Wasson, Brand Insight Manager

What’s Next?

The insight community helps Virgin Money UK with agile access to customers to deliver timely insights across a broad range of topics. In times like these, their insight community really allows them to be adaptive to the situation and get close to customers to understand how they've been impacted.

They are also able to augment other insight efforts with deeper dives into topics through the insight community that allow them to identify emerging trends or changes in customer behaviours. 

“We like to hear from real customers and put a name and a face to the insight we share back to internal stakeholders.”

— Laura Wasson, Brand Insight Manager

In the immediate future, the organization is focusing on helping customers during the COVID-19 situation, but are planning ahead where they can. The real benefit of their insight community is how agile it has allowed them to be, enabling them to continue to be flexible with their plans over the next few months. 

As they continue to navigate the brand merger and the current global situation, Virgin Money UK is confident that they will continue to find new and innovative ways to disrupt the banking space in partnership with thousands of customers eager to provide feedback. All they need to do is keep listening and making improvements based on their customers’ insights, and in return their customers receive a best-in-class customer experience that continues to surpass competitors.  

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