• Jim Sohigian
  • Chris Allen
Apr 2, 2018

First impressions account: How to create positive impression when signing up customers

“First impressions count” not only applies to retail banking but also in the growing popularity of digital experiences elsewhere.

But you would never know it when you look at bank account openings in 2018. A far cry from years past, the process has become operationally more complex and time consuming for banks, mostly due to new regulatory and internal control demands.

Contrast that with what consumers experience in digital offerings such as online commerce, ride-sharing services or even P2P payment and online lending. Opening or registering a new account with these services is generally much faster and smoother.

And as digital natives, millennials expect more from these digital experiences. So on the face of it, banks could likely do much to improve the account opening experience.

To determine how consumers feel about their account opening experience with banks—and what can banks do to improve that experience—we at Deloitte surveyed over 3,000 consumers.

What were the most interesting findings?

Many consumers think the account opening process at banks is better than in some other industries. For example, more than half the survey respondents agreed that “opening an account at a bank is easier than signing up for new cable service on the phone.”

Awareness of regulations related to account opening is quite high. In fact, nearly two-thirds of consumers surveyed believe the regulations that require banks to collect information and documentation in fact benefit them.

But, perhaps the most important finding is that even though many customers across the spectrum are satisfied with the account opening process at banks, they still feel the experience could improve.

The desire for improvement is strongest among millennials, mobile banking users and existing bank customers acquired within a one-to-five year time period (who predictably tend to also be younger customers).

A better account opening experience can reap lasting benefits. Based on first impressions, customers are more likely to show loyalty and more willing to expand the banking relationship. Also, customers who want (but lack) a better account opening experience are less likely to recommend the bank to their family and friends.

In practical terms, though, what does a “better account opening experience” mean?

Speed. Our findings strongly suggest that speed ranks as an important determinant. For example, a deposit account opened in 45–60 minutes was more than five times likely to draw a demand for improvement compared to accounts opened in less than 15 minutes. This positive association between time taken and the need for improvement also applies to consumer loan and wealth management accounts.

Clarity. Another key factor is communications clarity. Our study showed that lack of clarity in communicating what is expected during the account opening process can pose a real problem. Consumers who expected a better account opening experience believed that the bank’s information requirements were not particularly clear. So communicating these expectations upfront in an easy-to-understand, consistent manner can go a long way.

Assistance. Interestingly, consumers expect banks to use the information collected during the account opening process to help them with other relevant products. This suggests that banks have the permission to assist consumers with how to improve their financial lives, as long as consumers can easily appreciate such messaging.

Follow-up. This is very important because the more consumers are forced to follow up with the bank on their own, the more likely they are to seek improvement. Also, when banks proactively contact customers after the account opening process, it can improve satisfaction and help the relationship in a meaningful way.

Intuitive or self-evident as these findings might seem, they clearly illustrate how consumers feel that banks do not fully meet some of their most basic customer service expectations.

Banks can take a number of steps to improve the account opening process. Two points stand out:

Offer a quick, smooth account opening process. Given the trend towards digital interactions in various consumer domains, facilitating a fluid account opening through the mobile channel, in particular, will be critical. Many banks have already started down this path, but a more focused effort should pay dividends—and prove especially effective with customers who have lacked interaction with the bank in the past.

Use data and analytics in account opening. This includes cognitive technologies, which can help provide a faster and tailored experience. Banks that leverage these technologies in creating a strong, positive first impression will win in the long run. That is, smooth account opening for consumers amounts to big doors opening for banks.

Jim Sohigian, a principal with Deloitte Consulting. Chris Allen, a managing director with Deloitte Consulting.

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