How Regal Helps Consumer Lenders Achieve Growth in Tough Times
Our Co-founder & CTO, Rebecca Greene, spoke with journalist Tony Zerucha at the recent Fintech Nexus USA 2023 event about how consumer lenders are using personalized phone and SMS sales outreach to obtain growth despite high inflation and rising interest rates.
Q: It’s been an interesting few months in the financial and lending markets. Can you share some background on these trends and what your clients in this space are experiencing?
Well just yesterday (Wednesday, May 10, 2023) we saw the Consumer Price Index (CPI) come down again which is good news, but inflation is still more than double the Fed target of 2% so our expectation is that rates will stay where they are. This is the new normal.
That creates a tough environment for the lending companies we serve because fewer customers can afford a new car or home, and even fewer will be looking for refinancing opportunities.
As a result, lending companies are looking for ways to differentiate and grow. When rates are persistently low and there’s a growing pie of customers, it’s easy for lenders to grow, but when rates are rising and the pie is shrinking, they need to find other ways to compete. Lenders are now looking to compete on service and by building trust with customers. Budgets are also shifting, from a sole focus on top-of-the-funnel to efforts that increase conversion and retention.
Q: Over the past two days here at Fintech Nexus, we’ve seen lots of buzz in sessions and on the show floor about digital transformation. Getting beyond that buzz, can you share some ways you see digital enhancements improving results?
When I think of digital transformation I broadly think of using technology to better understand your customers and move away from a product-centric model toward a customer-centric model.
It starts with being where your customers are; having a website and a mobile presence is crucial. The emphasis is increasingly on mobile – we see 70% of sessions starting on mobile versus desktop.
But the ease and speed of online transactions still vary wildly among lenders.
We mostly serve neobanks whose starting point was online, but there’s been a rush among traditional banks to move online, too.
Traditional banks still face a lot of challenges when it comes to their online workflows, however, because they are burdened with disparate legacy systems on the back end.
Q: Can you share an example?
Take a look at the recent Silicon Valley Bank failure: There was a rush to move deposits to other banks, but instead of most of the money going to J.P. Morgan and other too-big-to-fail banks in a flight to safety, online banks like Mercury and Rho took way more than their fair share because of their agility. Customers were able to set up and fund accounts with those lenders in hours – versus days or weeks at the big banks.
Q: How are lenders working to become more customer-centric?
The key is knowing your customers really well. When companies, like neobanks, don’t have an in-person relationship, data collection and access become really important. Banks are increasingly adopting Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) to track all online customer behavior and centralize that data into a single source of truth. CDPs enable that data to be used in every piece of software across the customer experience. How lenders activate that data throughout their organization is also crucial. We help consumer lenders use data to drive proactive and personalized marketing and sales outreach, leading to double-digit improvements in loan application starts, loan completion rates, and loan conversion rates.
Lenders are also applying that data to speed up decision making, identify fraud, and tap into new customer segments through new data sources.
Q: There’s also been lots of discussion about the use of alternative data in identifying new customer segments, but you see strong results by drilling deep into first-party data to help existing customers too. Can you share how?
What we enable brands to do is connect their Customer Data Platform (CDP), such as Segment or mParticle, to Regal and share real-time first-party behavioral data for all prospects. That means every email a prospect opens or clicks, every article they view on a brand’s help center or content pages, and every action they take in the account-creation process. Brands can use that data to determine who is high-intent, who is taking longer than average to complete a step, who is facing a repeated error, etc. These data points trigger proactive calls and texts at those critical moments where a revenue opportunity exists. That’s what we call our journeys product.
We find that customers are already sitting on a goldmine of first-party data — they just need help activating it in a smart and automated way. Regal enables them to run A/B tests on when and to whom they should reach out, and on what channel with which script or message. By doing this, our customers increase their revenue by 25% or greater at 5-20x ROI. That’s across lending categories, as well as banking, insurance, etc.
Q: Can lenders also use that first-party data to offer greater personalization?
One of the features we’re currently working on (it will be released later this quarter) will allow us to help brands unlock additional value from another first-party data asset: phone conversations.
Our forthcoming transcription functionality will allow lenders to use what is said during calls with prospects in journeys to determine and personalize what next action to take – whether that’s a text, email, follow-up call, or no action.
So, for example, if a SoFi agent is talking to a customer and learns they are considering Chime as an alternative and the customer shares that hidden fees are one of their hesitations about Sofi, the next outreach that particular customer gets should directly address that topic. SoFi could send an email, for instance, showing how it compares to Chime, clarifying their fees in a way that demystifies the prospect’s concern.
Q: In the rush to digital, some neglect the importance of human interaction, especially at key touchpoints. Can you share some examples of where that human touch can make a big difference, especially in high-value and complex interactions?
Here is a salient banking stat that brings this to life: when people used to walk into a bank branch to open a bank account, more than 90% would fund the account. Online, only 30% of accounts created are funded. So, moving online increased distribution for banks, but banks only make money when accounts are funded so they face a real challenge today.
We’re seeing a similar trend in lending: loan-completion rates for student loans and auto loans are significantly lower online.
Q: Why do you think that happens?
These high-consideration purchases are important decisions. It almost trivializes their significance to think that the one-click checkout approach for buying toilet paper and books should be applied to decisions about your wealth, your home, or your future.
So, in this category, it’s not enough to just attract that customer to your site. Consumers are online checking out several competitors at once; they’re scrolling on their phone, talking to their spouse, etc. Brands have very limited time and real estate to capture their attention.
Q: Given that divided attention, is there one channel that’s best for capturing prospects?
That’s the big question! Onsite chat widgets are annoying on mobile; email has 2% response rates and isn’t great for conversations. So is it SMS? An AI bot?
Our perspective, based on experiments our customers have run, is that phone calls are most effective for capturing a customer’s attention once they’re off your site. Phone calls also help to build trust and support in making an informed decision with a live agent. We see 10% response rates on SMS versus more than 30% answer rates for phone outreach.
I’m not talking about a random phone call, however. These are highly personalized calls, based on the behavioral data of the customer. Regal users know exactly when to reach out to prospects. We also brand the calls so the customer sees a call coming from, say, Sofi or BMG Money, on their mobile device.
The moments where the human touch is most valuable in the consumer-lending funnel, in particular, are the moments of decision friction during the application process. This could be when the prospect faces a documentation step or an integration step like connecting accounts.
Q: Can you give some specific examples of Regal solutions helping companies?
One of our customers is SoFi, a large neobank that started out in student-loan refinancing, but now offers a full suite of financial products.
SoFi’s student lending and personal lending teams use Regal to target and call prospects who start an application, but don’t complete it. Since implementing Regal, SoFi now reaches 60% more prospects, has obtained an 8% lift in loan-conversion rates, and a double-digit increase in loan face value.
Another one of our customers in the space is Valon, a company that offers mortgage servicing, insurance, and lending services. By using our journey builder product to centralize decision making and programmatically reach out or follow-up with prospects through the funnel, Valon is now able to engage and convert other segments of prospects that previously would have been neglected. We also help them ensure that loan officers are not cherry-picking prospects.
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