If you work in mobile, the discussion around the future of money is hardly new. Sometimes though the conversation becomes so caught up in technical requirements or expansion in emerging markets, that opportunities with existing customers are overlooked. This, in part, is one of the reasons I thought J.P. Morgan Chase’s My New Home App was so interesting. And then why I was so disappointed by what I found. Below are some thoughts on how to make Chase’s mortgage app better. And how to do some good for the environment along the way.
Apps designed for homebuyers are have been around for years. They typically provide a survey of what is on the market, allowing users to quickly ascertain a property’s asking price, broker contact information, comps for similar properties in the area, with various filters that allow one to quickly narrow the search. They often also include photos and the ability to take and save personal snapshots. Simultaneously mortgage rate comparison apps were being built, offering similar search resources to those already found online. It was only a matter of time before these functionalities merged.
When you look at it chronologically, Chase is late to the game. In some ways, My New Home’s value is even less than that of competitor apps in the space. Most apps offer options like affordability calculators, payment estimator, educational videos and various resources. The competitors also offer a search for multiple bank rates, whereas Chase will simply connect you to their residential mortgage office. That said, no other bank of similar size and scale has issued a home mortgage app. From that perspective, Chase looks like a forerunner. Which when you really think about it, is a sad commentary on the state of innovation within the big banks. But I digress.
Here’s the crux of it: By simply emulating what was already on the market as part of a novel effort to attract new customers, Chase missed out on a huge opportunity. We are now in an experience economy, and a company’s competitive advantage is based on the intensity of customer experience. The key is building a relationship that deepens over time, offering a sense of personalized care and value. The My New Home app situates itself at the beginning of a potential relationship, but does not guarantee one, since users of the app have no obligation to purchase a Chase mortgage. The relationship ends before it gets started (assuming the customer does not use Chase for their mortgage) or, in the case of a successful conversion, after the close.
The real opportunity for engagement and value delivery to the customer, however, is after the sale of the new mortgage, once the new homeowners have passed the gauntlet that is the mortgage process, and while they are settling in to the new realities of home ownership and the financial pressures that accompany it. An app that supports customers after the close of the mortgage sale (or even in lieu of) targets the same population, while offering exponential opportunities for cross-selling, data gathering, a deepened customer relationship and terrific brand equity. Opportunities abound to deliver personalized customer value.
From the customer’s perspective, these range from time saving options, to price comparisons, to discounts on services needed during and after the move, to the most basic need: a central resource through which the many necessary activities can be planned, reviewed and managed.
From the bank’s perspective, a post-mortgage services app provides a longer period of customer interaction (increasing customer levels of familiarity and trust), cross sell opportunities that feel helpful rather than “salesy,” and opportunities to establish a more vibrant customer relationship with increasing levels of personalized service.
Here are just a few ideas on how a “new home checklist” could be leveraged to deepen customer relationships and deliver tangible value:
- Utilities Set-Up: Required Information could be pre-populated for a “select your level of service” and “submit” scenario. No phone calls with long hold periods or filling out multiple forms requesting same information again and again.
- Convert to Online Bill Pay: Complimentary bi-weekly auto-mortgage pay. As a follow up to those setting up utilities, “click here” scenarios to automate bill pay.
- Credit Card Cross-sell: Offering timed discounts or other incentives for items typically needed by new homeowners (e.g., hardware, furnishings, re-stocked fridge, etc.)
- Insurance Cross-sell: Referrals to valued partners, with discounts and value incentives to the customer
- Planning Tools: For buyers of “fixer uppers,” tools for planning various “save/spend” scenarios over time, with purchase incentives highlighted during the spend phases
- Customized Resources and New Homeowner Guides: Resource materials offered as a timesaving courtesy, acquired through data aggregation and API calls. Examples include top recommended movers, the best takeout restaurants in your new neighborhood, water reports for your municipality, typical snow/rainfall amounts, etc. Perhaps even an automated “Change of Address” form for USPS. And note, these items might not deliver a material revenue stream, but what they do deliver is an intense customer experience that reinforces the app (and hence the bank’s) central role in meeting the customer’s financial needs. The relationship begins with the purchase of a new home, expanding and deepening over time. It’s also worth noting that it is these types of customizable services that produce vocal evangelists and attract the attention of news outlets.
That all sounds great, you might be thinking, but how does this help the planet? This is how.
A bank with an engaged mobile user is able to alert customers when their energy bills exceed the average for homes of a similar size in their area. Based on existing customer services, a bank is able to ascertain both the square footage of customer’s home and their average monthly energy bill, offering benchmark data for owners with similarly sized homes in the area, information often available through municipal open data programs.
With a touch of a button, banks can offer customers the ability to schedule a free energy audit, compliments of the local municipality or electric company. An energy audit identifies methods for reducing energy consumption and thereby costs, exemplifying a bank’s responsibility to protect and preserve customers’ wealth.
For the customer, it’s an easy, no-hassle way to take advantage of municipal offerings, reducing monthly electric bills while feeling good about helping the environment.
For the consumer bank, it strengthens the relationship and reinforces a message of good corporate citizen
For the electric company, it offers a new communication channel to raise awareness and help reduce the strain on the electric grid
For the corporate bank, it represents an opportunity to strengthen and deepen relationships with participating municipalities
For the environment, it is only the beginning of exponential savings based on reduced energy consumption, and a new level of user engagement and awareness that could potentially extend to other areas of the customer’s daily life.
Offering customers data about the spend and use habits of others in a similar demographic is not new. Leveraging this data to enable one-touch action plans for users, helping them to achieve personal goals, on the other hand, is. It’s an opportunity to elevate customer experience and engagement to new, unmatched levels. Oe that allows consumer banks to begin rehabilitating their still-suffering brand reputations.
The opportunity is now and available for the taking.
And before you object, stating that not all cell phone users are smart phone users, allow me to point out that smart phone penetration in the US market surpassed 50% this year, 80% among 25-34 year olds.
And for those who would claim our focus must be on international markets, I would like to add that the US ranked only #13 among countries with the greatest smartphone penetration.