28th November 2020

“Why you need to listen to unhappy customers” In conversation with Jason Chapman, MD of Willis Owen

In our quest to discover what makes a brand loved, Laura spoke to some of the financial brands we love and admire the most. First up is Jason Chapman, MD of Willis Owen, a business that’s on a  mission to help people get to grips with investing.

Tell me about your brand and why people love it.

“When I came across the business in 2012, I had a group of customers that were already part of the Willis Owen family. They didn’t really hear from us very often, but it was an asset that I really wanted to nurture. At the same time, I wanted to reach a younger generation by building a digital platform. We started on a journey to recreate Willis Owen. The one great thing about Willis Owen is its longevity – that builds trust which is important because we’re not selling books on Amazon, we are helping customers take care of their financial future.”

What 3 words best describe your brand?

“Dependable, trusted and exciting”

How do you think you can evidence that a brand is loved?

“The first obvious one is that customers tell you. And the fact that sometimes customers tell you they’re not happy, means that they still love you. Otherwise they just walk. I get a lot of feedback from the people I work with and from the customers. One of the things I love about Apple was that I had a problem once and I rang them and they sorted it. Almost immediately, I got sent three questions that said, ‘how did we do?. We adopted that in Willis Owen – we get real instant responses to how customers feel about their experience. And that’s one of the great things about us. We listen and we change.”

What has helped your brand grow?

“I was given time by the owner and investor to build a brand. So I could think about what I was doing in that space. It helped us because we talked to existing customers directly. And we also talked to people who weren’t our customers. We wanted to understand why people think there is this big gap between what financial advisors used to do and how we can replicate some of that in a digital space. We really wanted to understand how we could help with that and grow as a business.”

How will you grow your brand in the future?

“We need to stand out and be different in a world where underneath all of the first layer, we’re all really similar. Willis Owen is a brand that has been around a while but it’s quite small. How do we jump up and down and make enough noise? I think I’ve always felt this in my career, that we don’t talk to customers well in financial services. We overcomplicate, we’re a little arrogant, we tend to think we can do better. And I think we need to change our language. And that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

“If you can listen to customers and change the things that matter, they will follow you.”

What would you tell yourself if you were starting the business today?

“Knowing what I know now, I think I could have done some things a lot quicker than I ended up doing them. We learned some tough lessons, but I think anybody that runs an organisation has to go through those. Could I have learnt those tough lessons in a week rather than a month? Yeah, absolutely.”

How can we make financial service brands more well-loved!?

“I think we could definitely simplify. I think that we are seen as being overly complicated. I think that’s the big problem with both digital and our product, is that we have a complicated entry-in journey and we have a complicated end product. I think you put those two things together and on a Sunday evening, would you rather have a glass of red wine and a bowl of spaghetti, or get down and sort your financial future out? I know which one I’d like to do.”

What’s your favourite app or tech right now?

“What’s making my life easier is things like Teams and an app I came across, which is Microsoft To Do List. That sounds really sad, but given the amount of time I spend working, if I can be more effective, it gives me more time to do the things I really like to do.”

What’s your best business book/podcast recommendation?

“I read, many years ago, Good to Great by Jim Collins. And it really struck a chord about everybody being on the same bus. And I’m reading a book called Subscribed at the moment, which is by Tien Tzuo. Because I think in financial services, that’s a model that could really work if done well.”

If you enjoyed reading this, download our new guide, 7 Ways to Make your Marketing Unstoppable, and discover more fascinating insights, direct from some of our best-loved brands. To get a hard copy just send us your details here.