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EP #24: Mark Bantigue on Building Personalized Customer Experiences at Scale

EP #24: Mark Bantigue on Building Personalized Customer Experiences at Scale

About this Podcast

COVID-19 has had a far-reaching domino effect on the global economy. That’s just the harsh reality. The best way for brands to counter this is to adopt a digital-led recovery.

We caught up with Mark Bantigue, Head of Digital and Conversational Channels & VP at BDO Unibank, Philippines to get his thoughts on the same.

A noted opinion leader in the nascent demand-driven tech niche in Southeast Asia, Mark Bantigue, works where technology can improve daily lives. He has previously worked at Security Bank, Globe Telecom’s mobile platform startups, and various regional mobile-first startups.

Mark shares valuable insights on:

  • How COVID-19 has become the biggest driver for digital transformation for both brands and consumers
  • The shifting paradigm of how brands communicate with their customers across various stages of their individual lifecycles
  •  How personalization is the key for brands to reshape their strategies and focus on regrowth
  • The need for organizational C-Suite to adapt to new cultural shifts in order to drive rapid digital transformation

Tune in to learn from a leading regional leader about the power of personalized marketing and CX; particularly in the BFSI sector.

Episode Transcripts

Miguel Lojo (Host): All right! So good evening and welcome to another session with ‘Netcore’ podcasts. Today, I’m joined by a very special guest Banko de Oro right from the banking industry. I’m handing it over to Mr. ‘Mark Bantigue’.

Mark: Hi! Hello. Thanks for having me over here. And yeah, I’m happy to join you guys and talk about what’s currently relevant and hot in the digital world today. 

Miguel: Yeah, definitely. I mean it’s been crazy roughly about eight weeks already here in the Philippines with regards to the lockdown and a lot of people have been trying to adjust. A lot of people have been sort of figuring out how they should go about work, to be honest.

Mark: It’s been eight weeks. I think almost everyone has lost count but they kind of melted.

Miguel: Yeah! I totally agree. It felt almost like a year, to be honest for some people.

Mark: long! It feels very long. It’s just new adjustments.

Miguel: Exactly. So, starting off with our podcast, I think the first thing I’d really want to sort of find out is “how have you been marked, and how has your team been throughout these past couple of weeks”?

Mark: Well, I think everyone in the world is adjusting, at many different levels. Personally, their families, their friends, they’re working environments. So all of this is new and you know, people are creatures of habit. So adjusting to new ways of doing things is tough. It has a mental aspect to it. It has an emotional aspect to it, in the fact that we’re social creatures will definitely have a major impact on how we conduct our daily lives. Not only with our workmates, but with our friends, family, and everyone we interface with.

Miguel: Agreed! Agreed. Now that you’ve mentioned impact and now that you’ve mentioned how the lockdown has essentially spread its effect throughout all different Industries. “How do you think work from home will affect companies here in the Philippines”? 

Mark: Okay. Well, that’s a very loaded question. That’s very serious and there’s a big way to answer that question. But the running joke amongst my friends in many different Industries is that covid-19 has been the most effective digital transformation agent ever. I mean, even if you hire the best digital transformation executives anywhere in the world, they cannot compare to the speed and veracity that covid-19 had on work and life. So basically first of all it covid-19 the pandemic itself has had a wide array of effects and they’re both good and bad. So let’s focus first on the good, I think companies realize that things aren’t falling apart. Even if they’re people working from home. That was the common fear that working from home, things will fall into anarchy, productivity will drop and everything will fall apart. But you know, like you said eight weeks in and things seem to be running. Most of the services that are still left running right now are running and they’ve adjusted and you know, not only from internally meaning how the people who work in the organizations but also the people who patronize these organizations have adjusted accordingly. So, the first thing is things have been falling apart despite the fears. So that’s a big realization. The second one I think in my head is it opens the doors to hiring new kinds of talent. Basically, the companies realize that how these assistants didn’t fall apart and productivity is remaining somewhat at the same par level. We’re not they’re not limited to hiring people that are within the vicinity. So now it opens the doors to hiring people that are farther as maybe or local companies for Manila Bay City Metro Manila-based companies. They can now hire talent in the Visayas and Mindanao which opens up a whole new different range of talent and the way we interact with people. It also opens up wider geography. Why stop there? You can actually work with people who are not in the country. Yeah, the people have been complaining for a long time that the Philippines has suffered from a brain drain and I have left the country and gone abroad for better learning for better opportunities. But if they have spare time, we all know that our fellow Filipinos in other countries are very industrious. Sometimes they’re working two-three jobs. So why not. They can keep a day job and if they still need the extra income they can take on work for companies here in the Philippines during the flip hours or the time difference hours and you’ll be getting top-notch talent from elsewhere. So those are two of the immediate, say it’s difficult to forecast yet the long-term effects.

Miguel: Yes. For sure.

Mark: The immediate effects would be that. Now, of course, with anything, there’s also bad. It’s not all one size fits all. Now, here’s what we’ve been seeing: my friends, people in different Industries have been seeing that different people have different connectivity. We all know that connectivity in the Philippines is not as far as our Asian are Southeast Asian counterparts. They are neighbors, right? So it really depends on what you can afford. You can afford a better quality internet than your productivity won’t suffer. If you are only working on entry-level connectivity, then you will feel that because you cannot handle video conferencing or even audio sometimes and most of the time people are sharing their multiple people in the house using the same connection. So that’s another thing. So those are just some industry and corporate wishing things that we’ve been seeing from various sectors that produce, there’s an increase in productivity, but there’s also a balancing Factor where connectivity is the most important factor in keeping productivity.

Miguel: Definitely! Otherwise, you know, that whole running joke of us like losing everything. I think that’s going to come true.

Mark: Right!

Miguel: So, one thing I did sort of want to Circle back to what you mentioned earlier with ‘talent attracting talent’ like gaining new Talent from other regions or even from other countries with regards to the industry. And I kind of wanted to get your opinion. “Do you think because of the experience of the covid-19 or because of the lockdown that everyone’s been experiencing, do you believe there’s a shift in talent for there’s a particular kind of talent that we need to look for as business owners or as Leaders when it comes to adding new people into our team’s post this lockdown”?

Mark: Absolutely. I think you’re hitting a very critical point there. When we talked about the new normal, that’s the buzzword right now ‘New Normal’, that doesn’t just apply to how we do things that apply to the talent that we source. 

Miguel: Yes.

Mark: The talent that we need to source, for moving forward needs to be people that are self-starters, they can manage themselves. You don’t need to micromanage them. It’s not the best case because he’s kind of difficult to micromanage when you are remote. So, they basically need to be able to manage themselves, keep on track. So, being a self-starter, it’s a key trait, the second one is being able to work with teams that you don’t necessarily see personally. It’s different when you’re seeing them from a video screen because there’s a difference between touch and that’s the distance of that video. So being able to work with various teams with their different talents and different personalities that key, so interpersonal skills, this is another one, of course, being able to work with technology is another one, but I think the top one. That number one the number one trait that will be in demand will be the ability to constantly learn, continuously upgrade your skill sets because before covid-19 of Solace and straighter the speed at which new information and new technologies and new ways of doing things for us already fast. How much more now we’re, we have no choice but to work with technology. So the ability to learn new things and the culture or the trait that constantly learning and upgrading one skill set is probably the most in-demand skill moving forward looking for talent.

Miguel: Definitely, because I think one of the bigger learning moments are learning points throughout this whole experience is that technology has really embedded in the cell itself in our lives, some whether we do it for work or even for personal stuff. So, being able to sort of adapt it and you know being able to learn quickly on it will not just help your career, but I think your overall productivity in that situation.

Mark: Right! I mean people are realizing today that they’re even new grads, people who graduated maybe only two or three years ago are realizing what they learned in college. It’s already obsolete. So learning and upgrading your skill is the key.

Miguel: That’s funny. You should mention that because like back when I was in college, there was no such thing as ‘Uber’ or ‘Grab’ yet, like learning other things was still like a very key thing for me.

Mark: Or even commuting today! I mean, I think there’s an app called ‘Sakai’.

Miguel: Oh yeah! Sakai.

Mark: Where you can know the routes of buses. So even that right now has made it easier, but you should be able to know how to navigate that for efficiency as well.

Miguel: Agreed, and you know, it’s such an amazing thing that it’s very accessible, isn’t it? Especially when you boil it down. It’s really your willingness to learn all these new things because of the accessibility and the learnability to be honest. I mean, I think it’s what I call dumb proofed in a certain way. I mean most technology is especially when it comes to Consumer types of technology. So being able to Learn.

Mark: To be able to be intuitive, but at some point, there are Technologies and platforms that are consumer-friendly which are pretty intuitive. There are very minimal learning curves, but there are technologies that you use for work or for your professional work and a lot of them are intuitive, but there is a learning curve so the ability to adapt quickly and to learn new platforms, especially for professional uses and not just consumer uses. That’s it. That’s the key skill.

Miguel: Yes! Agreed. Now I kind of wants to ask another loaded question. If you don’t mind Mark. It’s one of those bigger questions that you know, a lot of people are asking their bosses, are asking their leaders essentially because throughout this time a lot of uncertainty has happened. Lots of people are losing their jobs not just here but across the world and you know job security for companies is just very scary right now. So in your opinion, what do you think is the most important thing Business Leaders need to communicate to their customers and not just customers per se but also to their employees.

Mark: Okay. Yes, big loaded question, but I think if it’s a change going back and tying it back to the new normal. The term New Normal implies a cultural shift, it implies a change in Paradigm. So employers or corporations are doing their best to do their part. The news we’ve seen in our news feeds, big corporations are cutting their fees to make Services more accessible during this pandemic. They’re giving their employees. They’re continuing their employee salaries despite the pandemic, so there is going to be a that big cost to that. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. So sooner or later. There has to be also, you know, I know you said we should speak mostly English here, but there is a Filipino term called “malasakit”, where if the corporations have paid it forward to their customers, I think and their employees as well there needs to be malasakit as well or Russian translation would be ‘Doing your part as well’ and employees need to realize that they also need to do their part in what has been afforded to them by their employers. Now, this can come in many different forms. For example, and I will tie this back to your first question. Now what a lot of employed people who are working from home are realizing is that working from home implies longer working hours. Why? Because you don’t have that one our morning commute and two-hour commute going home. You don’t have those walking to meetings or the long Learners. If you look at  8 to 9 working hours, I would say fairly only about five hours of that is productive work. The rest is lost in bathroom breaks, food breaks, dip talking to your colleagues, meeting things like that but now those are all gone and you have nothing but your computer in front of you, your cell phone and your zoom, and your other meeting needing platforms. Longer hours, a lot of people are complaining but hey, ‘ I am doing a lot more work. Now of the actual outputs a lot more, I deserve more but realize that this is part of malasakit, that comes along with it. Maybe, later on, there will be an adjustment when this has gone on long enough and then each one has had that ability to work, to measure actual output in front of the in realize that hey we get we can lack on certain things, We can write new policies, but for now, I think people just need to realize that this new normal will take time to actually truly normalize. So that’s one thing that has longer hours, there’s a productivity gain, there’s going to be probably Porter work-life balance because, how can you really determine when work starts in life and Life starts, those lines are blurred. At the same time that productivity will be hampered by home life, you know kids crying, needing to be changed, said things like that you don’t normally deal with until you get back home. That’s it everything so There’s a lot so flexibility options continue in all of these things will still be a very steep learning curve in the months to come.

Miguel: Definitely. So, I like to summarize I think you actually summarize the malasakit part quite well or to be able to do our part, especially during these uncertain times. I think we’ll definitely not just help the company, but you know, Help everyone sort of bringing each other up when this whole thing happens.

Mark: It’ll be all trickle-down. I believe we’re all in the job of rebuilding the country.

Miguel: Exactly. And you know in the wider mind, to rebuild the world, to be honest.

Mark: Absolutely!

Miguel: Yeah, so to sort of segue I wanted to sort of segue into another topic but kind of continued on the communication angle. Based on experience with this covid I think people are experiencing new ways and different ways of communicating with each other. So people are using Zoom, of course, people are getting used to MS. Teams and a bunch of other platforms, but through the grace of the banking industry are with Commerce in general. “Do you think people will have a different way of trying to do Commerce in the future or do Commerce today in the country”?

Mark: Well, yes. Absolutely yes, because if we take it, if we connect it to working from home, if you boil it down, it’s essentially a communication ecosystem. It is a new means of communicating between you and your workmates and your bosses and your team’s so if you take one ecosystem, which is working from home, which is nothing but a new means of communicating. Then obviously that also extends to how Commerce is it’s going to be done. Commerce before there’s an exchange of goods and services for money, there is a communication person you cannot make that exchange without communicating what you will exchange. So with the lack of personal or in-person communication and mostly moving the digital then the communication paradigms are the communication ecosystems to enable Commerce to continue will definitely have to change and I’m already speaking in hindsight because that has changed already today. Overnight stores both neighborhood stores at the Mom and Pop level, all the way to be Keynes had to in a span of one to two weeks change theirs predominantly in-person retail-based Commerce to a digital form of Commerce. Either that or they closed the shop. So, Commerce is going to be affected for Evermore moving forward in this new normal, and the Commerce part as I said earlier the actual exchange of goods and services for money. Well, that’s my own school. That’s been there already that is in the form of either a payment Gateway, a shopping cart, or any form of digital transaction. But again before you can even make that sale you have to be in front of the customer, you have to be at the Top of Mind of the customer, you have the customer must be able to research the goods or the services they are considering to procure from you. So actually the Commerce or the exchange of greatest is the last mile. That is the last part of the entire chain of events that need to happen and 99% of what happens before the Commerce are is the communication part, so I believe that there’s going to be a communication Revolution and a change in the paradigms and ecosystems of how companies will communicate with Buyers.

Miguel: Yes. I definitely agree with that Revolution part. I mean, I think we saw a sort of like Embers of it way back in the 90s when the internet was sort of just gaining ground here in the country, but today, I mean 20 actually 30 years later, I mean, I think one of the hotter topics are buzzwords rather when it comes to communication today is personalization. Now from what we’ve understood with regards to personalization, It’s the sort of bringing relevant content to your users, to your customer at the right time and the right moment and the right context but a lot of people have been sort of still debating on personalization as a whole, to be honest. Like is it a good thing? Is it really that effective and it kind of wants to pick your brain on that view because do you think personalization itself will even make a sort of dent in the next? I don’t know. Let’s say 12 months or 1 year.

Mark: Okay, good question. Before I answer that let’s take a step back. So this pandemic has come on strong and hard and forced sellers and buyers to go online. Case in point seniors like my father is a senior citizen that refuses to do online banking that has refused to put his credit card online because he still has a Classic fear of his information being stolen. I think three days ago, we celebrated that he finally made his first e-commerce purchase on his own because he had no choice. Before he would ask me to make his purchases for him online, but me being very busy with work from home responsibility, he has no choice but to do it himself. So what the pandemic has done is has forced people who are even not Dumb bear Market, not the market or e-commerce to go online. So now you have a very large and diverse customer base and each of them has their own communication Styles or preferences, their own colloquial language, there are their own tastes and preferences and just like one-size-fits-all clothes, once I sit on clothes are the ugliest clothes I’ve ever seen okay because they never if one-size-fits-all then chances are it what happens is it doesn’t fit anyone because if you try to make the same clothes fit everyone, it just looks ugly on everyone rather the best clothes are the ones that are bespoken, the ones that are fitted out to the person who was wearing there. That is the exact same thing with communication. Let’s not even talk about personalization yet. Imagine brands today not using the vernacular or the wording or the image model or the colors, everything that has to do with branding that connects with their target segment or their target Persona, it would be a nightmare. It would be a marketing failure. So why would it be any different if any different 14 Commerce or not even e-commerce to any business that is now being forced to go online big or small? So in short, since everyone is going online buyers and sellers. Everyone is being forced and being trained to use online, there’s a diverse base and this diverse base needs to be communicated within their own way. So That in itself will answer your question that personalization is a must, however, personalization is a very mature marketing initiative. So if I may call it that. There are many companies today big and small are not at the maturity level to take on personalization. Okay, it takes a certain level of Savvy to be able to execute personalization well but I believe that there are solutions out there that make it easier for companies who are starting to dabble are starting to consider personalization because it is not and if it’s a ‘when’ they will Implement personalization that will help them cross that bridge.

Miguel: Very good point. I mean, I like your comment if it’s not and if it’s a when and when you miss that train or you miss that opportunity, I think you’re going to I think it’s going to be very hard to bounce back to that with that kind of thinking.

Mark: Covid has shown that. Covid has made it latently clear. People who have been putting off the corporations that have been putting off their digital transformation are the ones hit Worst by this pandemic and what covid did in fact is it didn’t introduce something new, It just sped it up. So if that there was a Runway if you can use that analogy. Most companies have this Runway right that they have this amount of time that they can by themselves to be able to transform digitally and before covid. They had a long Runway. They can say okay we can do the digital transformation in next year or maybe in 2022  and maybe it’s covid didn’t hit that would still be feasible, but the only thing covid did in terms of digital transformation was to hasten that to cut the runway and say you don’t have that much time anymore, that has been brought sooner, that Day of Reckoning has been brought sooner and that’s exactly the same case with personalization right now. There is a Runway but that Runway is getting shorter and shorter because personalization is a must.

Miguel: Definitely! To be honest, if you’re not even aware of what personalization is. I think that’s going to set you back even more.

Mark: Just like what I said earlier, it takes a certain level of maturity marketing or digital maturity to even be aware of that idea of personalization. You have to maybe have crossed the bridge of learning. Your cost per acquisition first or maybe learning how to setting up your segmentation, setting up your learning, your return on assets that are returning, return on ad spend or learning even a simple as attribution being able to attribute every peso spent to a sale and trace that every return to of marketing spend it’s not like the old days where you can see this a brand lift or recognition. It has to be every peso I spent. This is what I get back in terms of customer acquisition. So if you haven’t, if you haven’t even Broach those Milestones then the idea of personalization may not even cross your past yet. There’s a natural progression to it. By the time you’ve exhausted those of Milestones that you cross those Milestones already then, you’re going to be itching for what’s next. How can I take this to the next level? And the only answer I think all roads lead to is personalization.

Miguel: Yes. So to anyone who’s listening to our podcast, please do take note personalization is not a question of ‘if, it’s a question of when’, and with conquer guard, I think that would be a wonderful way to sort of end our podcast. So Mark before I sign off. Do you have any final thoughts that you’d like to share?

Mark: Everything we’ve discussed so far, I think the new normal will require a lot of emotional mental spiritual strength from everyone to be able to adjust this. We’re going to get through this together. I wish everyone good health. I wish everyone all the success and I am tying this back to communication. I think the best communication whether personalized or targeted is the honest kind of communication. I think that’s what we need right now to get through this together.

Miguel: Definitely and with that note I’d like to officially thank Mark. Thank you for joining us today in our session.

Mark: Thanks for having me.

Miguel: Thank you so much. You’ve been a wonderful speaker today, so to the wider audience listening, thank you so much for joining us and I hope you all stay safe.

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