How Western Union is responding to rising data protection and digitisation

Company looks to deliver more meaningful, targeted and focused experiences to global customers

Western Union's Nicole Zimmermann is all too aware of the challenges and responsibilities associated with handling massive amounts of customer data.

As head of customer and marketing for the global payment division, Zimmermann is eyeing the latest data privacy measures across the globe with great interest. Western Union operates in 200 markets and has 12,000 employees, 2500 of which are in the global payments section and 60 in marketing.

Two big ones on her radar are the enactment of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, which comes into effect in May, as well as the Revised Payment Service Directive (PSD2), a directive that will change banking as we know it.

“With GDPR, we need to be much more clearer in terms of collecting the permission of our business customers," she tells CMO while visiting Australia. "For example, as it relates to the ‘opt-in’ to make sure they’re giving us permission to message them and to offer them any type of value proposition through respective channels.”

The second regulation, PSD2, which allows third-parties to get access to a customer’s bank account information, is also of obvious significance to Western Union.

Nicole Zimmermann
Nicole Zimmermann

“When you think about handling massive amounts of customer data, it is about taking into consideration how the landscape across the globe is changing and looking at it from a regulatory perspective related to data privacy and the handling of account information,” Zimmermann said.

“For the banking industry, this will be a massive change as consumers can now decide to  actually have third-party providers manage their finances, like the Facebooks or Googles of the world.”

Indeed, Zimmermann has her hands full, analysing the latest regulations and preparing the company for how to respond to an increasingly digital world and improving the customer experience.

And she’s worn a few hats. She’s also the vice-president of WU Way, an initiative from Western Union which aims to drive operational efficiencies through digitisation. The strategy focuses on changing the way employees work, delivering a better customer experience and driving growth for the business.

At the same time, Zimmermann continues to transition out of assignments related to the change management journey, known as WU Way, and back into the business as head of customer and marketing at global payments.

She joined Western Union 11 years ago, working in Vienna, Austria as head of marketing for Europe, Russia and the CIS region.

Australia is one of the biggest markets for the global payments player. Western Union Business Solution's (WUBS) local clients include Boardroom, Deloitte, Defence Bank, Forever New Clothing, Fred Hollows Foundation, Heritage Bank, Professional Golf Australia (PGA), Qudos Bank and University of Sydney.

“We have a long-standing business here. We have been able to collaboratively work with our sales and go-to-market organisation to identify the customer segments that we want to go after in the Australian and New Zealand business and be very specific about the tailoring and the personalisation of our value proposition and our messaging,” Zimmermann said.

Strategic play

Given the global trend towards digitisation, Western Union is looking to deliver more meaningful, targeted and focused value propositions to its business customers across the globe. In March 2017, the consumer money transfer business and global payments were split into two separate business units.  

As marketing head of global payments, Zimmermann's role is to gather customer insights, analyse and manage the data, be focused and targeted, while also securing customer data.  

“The landscape around data and customer information is continuously more regulated and more protected and this protectiveness is driving us to become analytical and focused in terms of how we need to manage information to be able to market to our customers," she continued. 

“The digital channels, obviously, play a critical role because with that it’s relatively easy to gather not only information, but also make sure we have the consent of customers in terms of being able to communicate with them in the future.”  

The digitisation of marketing is going to help Western Union not only gather the information, but also drive and ensure it has the permissions and opt-ins of those customers and be able to manage them moving forward.

Related: How social and digital are helping Western Union's brand mission

“We have paid a lot of attention to  designing programs where the voice of the customer and data management become much more important for marketing," Zimmermann said. "This takes personalisation to the next level, because we can become more tailored as long as we have the permission of customers to communicate with them.”

One example is the digital work the company has done on its 40 business solutions websites across the globe, what Zimmermann called the “face to the world”.

“We have leveraged our digital footprint, including websites to make sure the information we’re presenting - and the interaction and engagement with the customer - finds its way to those websites, and is one tool in terms of our go-to-market approach,” she explained.  

Additionally, the use of the WU Edge digital platform, developed for business customers to manage their global, cross-border, cross currency payments needs, is another approach that’s offering customers a personalised approach. WU Edge was launched by WUBS in Australia in 2016 and enables seamless financial connectivity between buyers and sellers in a self-servicing tool.

Zimmermann is also heavily focused on in-product marketing. "For each and every customer, we can personalise the message. If a customer just opened his account in Edge, his messaging is more about the instruction of how to leverage Edge as a self-service tool to do cross-border, cross currency payments."

On the other hand, if it’s a long-standing customer, marketing can go the next step in understanding the customer’s needs and what they might want in terms of their payments in the future, and then designing its value propositions and messaging around it, Zimmermann said.

“The digitisation of our marketing approach is helping us to not only manage and comply with regulations and laws related to data management and privacy, but also enabling us to become more personalised, more targeted and more tailored.”

VoC insights

In addition, Western Union is using voice-of-customer programs in a bid to pump up customer experience and engagement. To do this, it's collecting VoC information from both internal and external sources. Internal sources include account operations employees interacting with clients on a day-to-day basis, supporting customers with the payments they are managing across the world.

“They are our lifeline into the voice of the customer. We hear what challenges the customers are facing. How our services are working, and where there might be challenges in our services or products that we need to address to make it an even more seamless for customers," Zimmermann said. "We talk to our salespeople internally about our account managers and dealers who are managing the relationships with our business customers. They are a key source of information.”  

The company relies on its customer database and uses analytics to understand customer patterns. “It is not so much individual customer feedback, but more the patterns across customers, and how we can tailor messaging, product development and value proposition definitions to be more focused and tailored.”  

On the external information front, the company is investing a significant amount of its global payments marketing budget in customer events and client advisory boards. The other external source is Net Promoter Score (NPS).

“We have a quarterly satisfaction survey where we are reaching out to our existing customer base and asking them if they would recommend our services," Zimmermann said. "We always have an open-ended question when closing the NPS to understand where we can do better to address customer experience pain points.”

A big challenge for Zimmermann in her global role is staying true to the voice of the customer and making sure there’s a “dedicated customer focus” in everything she does.

“You have to not only internally drive this customer centricity, but have a view of continuous improvement. That’s why we’re using a lean methodology throughout the organisation to drive more effective and efficient operations and marketing execution,” she said. 

And to stay in touch and reach out to customers in every region requires local insight as well as global strategy.

“When you’re in a global role, you have to make sure you travel into the regions and you’re staying close to the customers by listening to your own internal sales or care organisations connected to the customer every day, but also go out to clients meetings and go out on a market tour to understand what the regional flavours are so you drive the right programs and help the regions to drive growth," Zimmermann concluded.  

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu  

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