Retaining customers in the long term is what fundamentally differentiates successful businesses from those that ultimately fail, says Michael Kent, CEO of digital money transfer company Azimo. So when it comes to building customer loyalty, Kent reveals the marketing power of customer referrals, why a seamless user experience is essential, and how Azimo celebrates those people transferring money to their loved ones as heroes.
Having been in the sector for a decade and talked to thousands of customers over that period, it’s clear to me that there’s a big market opportunity for new money transfer companies.
There’s no doubt that incumbent brands like Western Union and MoneyGram are the most well-known, but talk to people about their experience with these brands and you’re quickly met with anger about the eye-watering charges to send cash to their loved ones.
Now my customers aren’t stupid. They’re usually the brightest of their generation – ambitious people who live and work thousands of miles from home to improve their families’ lives – and they know they’ve been ripped off by guys like these.
What’s more, while the digital money transfer space is reasonably competitive, it’s not a saturated market.
This naturally presents a great opportunity for new entrants to create a money transfer experience that will deliver value and actually make their customers’ lives better.
On average, an Azimo customer sends money 20 times a year. Keeping them as customers over the long term is what fundamentally differentiates us from less successful businesses.
But this is a tough goal to meet in the money transfer market – there’s nothing keeping people tied into this type of service, apart from the customer experience and the affinity they have for the brand.
This is why creating loyalty is so important – it’s what we live and die by at Azimo – and our success is dependent on three things:
1. Delivering a money transfer product that is 10 times better than the existing customer experience (or else they won’t switch)
There is currently a lot of focus on Europe when it comes to money transfers. It’s the biggest market globally, but equally charges the most expensive prices.
Remittance users are badly served here because the big incumbents not only charge too much, but also fail to offer a good enough service to non-English customers.
To be fair, localisation in Europe can be difficult. It’s not a homogeneous market and requires different experiences in different countries.
At Azimo we spend a lot of time and money ensuring that our product makes sense in different languages and consistently run tests to understand how customers in each country like to be spoken to.
2. Constantly responding to customer feedback
The hardest hurdle for new entrants is persuading people to use your service for the first time, which is why it’s been so important for Azimo to build a product that is easy for new customers to understand the first time around.
We achieved this by doing a lot of customer research. And not only to do we invite customers into our offices every Friday, we fly our teams out into our big markets to run research days to find out what customers like and dislike about our service.
We also use the Net Promoter Score as a way to keep track of whether our customers are having the best possible experience with our service. It asks the question: “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend?”, with respondents also required to score their experience from 0 to 10. It’s a very clear measure of how much people like your product.
3. Push advocates to tell other people about our money transfer service
When Azimo started out we had an awareness problem. People simply didn’t know they could use their mobile phone to send money.
And good SEO or Google couldn’t help us at that point – people weren’t going to search for something they didn’t know about! So we decided to run highly targeted outdoor marketing campaigns.
We looked in detail at where the large migrant populations were based in the UK, Germany and other countries, and ran ‘street corner’ advertising, often in the language of the migrant community. Once we got that right, people started using the product and telling others about it.
Nowadays, the most important acquisition channel for Azimo is personal referral. Both the referrer and the referee get paid.
40% of our customers are now referred by other customers and we’ve found they’re especially loyal – they send more money, more frequently. It’s a model that works and it’s significantly cheaper than other forms of marketing.
We all know that money is an emotive subject. And the money transfer market often sits at the interface between money and family – an even more emotive subject.
It’s often not an easy thing to talk about. The person sending the money can feel like a cash machine, while the individual receiving it on the other end can feel dependent.
You’ll see complaints from recipients that the money isn’t coming fast enough, or that there’s never enough. Often the person receiving it doesn’t recognise the huge sacrifice being made by the sender.
This means that marketing a money transfer service can’t all be upbeat and light.
At Azimo we try to celebrate the person sending money as a hero. We recognise that it’s a sacrifice and sometimes a very hard thing to do.
People feel under enormous pressure to provide for their families, and the money they send is often for really critical things, whether it’s healthcare, paying for education or keeping up with the mortgage.
So being sensitive about how and what we talk to our loyal customers about is always going to be of the utmost importance.
Michael Kent is a serial entrepreneur, who has spent the last decade building businesses in consumer financial services. He founded Small World Financial Services Group in 2004, growing the multi billion-dollar company to become Europe’s largest offline money transfer provider and a top ten player globally.
Recognising the impact mobile and social technology could have on the international money transfer market, Michael started Azimo to challenge high-transfer costs and drastically speed-up the way consumers send money abroad.
Backed by over $30m in funding, the platform now enables anyone to send cash, bank transfers and mobile money to over 190 countries, in 70+ different currencies and over social media platforms such as Facebook.