“Personalization is all about knowing your clients, understanding their needs, and providing the right solutions and services at the right time, based on behavior,” stated Millie Gillon, Global Head of Client Experience at Standard Chartered Bank. Millie recently agreed to share her personalization expertise with us in an interview.

With over twenty years of experience providing best-in-class service for customers across investment, insurance, digital payment, and airlines for North America, Asia, Africa and European markets, Millie’s confidence in her knowledge is instantly apparent.

Personalization is not a new topic

For Millie, personalization is not a new topic. In fact, according to Millie, the concept and practices of personalization have been used for at least 20 years by American Express agents to provide better client experiences and build relationships. For instance, when agents spoke with their clients, they would always note pertinent information and personal details. Agents remembered these details and used them to provide personalized experiences like booking a restaurant for a client’s wedding anniversary, or offering a holiday event based on their personal preference. At the time, data was collected manually. Personalized services were delivered by an individual agent.

With the development of technology, companies with a large amount of client information started to segment clients and provide solutions based on their behavior. American Airlines was one of the earliest companies to use clients’ data and provide tailored services. By analyzing clients’ travel routines, American Airlines was able to send special messages to travelers who flew to Asia frequently, and encouraged them to collect miles while traveling. These miles were redeemed for hotel stays or local shopping at the places where clients liked to visit.

Technology enables better personalization

In the last ten years, internet and smart phones have become accessible to most. Digital companies now collect huge amounts of data and know their clients better than ever through digital platforms.

Millie told us that technology will provide better personalized solutions. One of the examples is a digital concierge solution from the hospitality industry. Hyatt Hotels has been using Twitter as a customer service tool, allowing its guests to send requests 24 hours a day. Intercontinental Hotels has been using video starring individual hotel concierges that can be viewed on social media. Marriott International Renaissance Hotels have launched a platform called Navigator, which offers suggestions for drinks, shopping, and sightseeing that can be accessed from the hotel’s webpage and iPhone app. Just a few clicks away, personalized services are not a privilege for just VIP guests anymore.

Help clients to get their work done

Earlier client experiences focused on removing clients’ pain points. Millie noted that it is the time to go further and move from solving clients’ pain points to foreseeing their needs and providing solutions.

“Get their work done” Millie said, by providing convenience and efficiency through personalized solutions. She referenced Emirates Airlines, who knew about her and her family members even before they boarded the aircraft. They were able to optimally serve them with transport to the airlines, childcare, and Millie stated, “They know me well, just like a close friend.”

Win clients from experience but not price

Millie believes that personalization is all about experience, but not price. Price can attract clients at the beginning, but without experience, clients will easily slip away. According to market study, most clients are willing to pay more for experience. This will be even more critical in the future, as Gen Z seeks experiences more than any earlier generation.

Working to deliver excellent client experiences for the past 22 years, Millie shared that most of the stories she heard from clients about personalized services came from the hotel industry. The stories were all about excellent, but not necessarily inexpensive, experiences. Packing and unpacking luggage for customers, special slippers for children, small surprises for special events, even service recovery when something went wrong, were all important.  Personalized services and unique experiences create great memories.

Continuous improvement

Delivering personalized solutions and personalized services is not a one off solution. It is continuous improvement, achieved by utilizing technology and understanding your clients. The financial industry has not been a leader in this area. As Millie summed it up, she always encourages leaders to look outside, and to learn from best-in-class examples in other industries.

Millie Gillon is a native New Yorker and Singapore transplant who has a wealth of knowledge about innovation and strategy, and combines this with the use of data and design thinking to reshape the client experience.

Millie is currently the Global Head of Client Experience at Standard Chartered Bank. Prior to joining Standard Chartered, she led co-innovation for Citi and American Airlines at Mastercard. Millie has held senior product and innovation roles at Prudential Financial, JPMorgan Chase and American Express, where she concurrently earned her Masters in Communications and Leadership Studies and her Six Sigma Black Belt.