Five ways financial institutions can turn traffic into customers

Generating leads and driving traffic to your website or app is the easy part. But what happens to those leads once they arrive? Do they turn into accounts—or disappear into the digital ether? For many financial institutions, the answer remains an ongoing headache. And they’re not the only ones getting frustrated.

Imagine that you’re a consumer who has received an invitation for a checking account promotion. You visit the website—only to see a plethora of different options and no clear way to understand which features would be right for you. The small print at the bottom of the page offers no help at all. You initially felt interested, eager and almost ready to sign up for what seemed like a great deal; now you’re confused and annoyed, and you just want to get on with your day.

Facing rising competition from consumer-friendly, digitally savvy fintechs, financial institutions can’t afford to let their leads go to waste. Practice these five principles of digital engagement to build consumer trust and confidence—and turn your traffic into leads.

1. Make it easy for customers to help themselves

In our self-service economy, consumers want the ability to do things on their own. Financial institutions fall short of that expectation. According to Accenture, 70 percent of consumers expect a self-service option—but Northridge reports that 69 percent of customers have difficulty navigating the automated systems of their financial institutions. This shortcoming is all the more striking when compared with the digital experiences consumers access in other areas of their lives. While 80 percent of consumers rate shopping on a mobile device as easy, half of consumers have abandoned online applications for financial services. And that’s true even among the most technologically sophisticated customers; 43 percent of millennials have abandoned mobile banking activities because the process took too long or was too complicated.

This is a critical area of focus. For financial institutions to remain relevant and compete effectively against fintechs—especially among younger consumers—they have to make their self-service digital journey as successful and satisfying as possible. 

2. Go more than skin-deep

You wouldn’t invest in a high-end branch renovation and then staff the location with unhelpful, uninformative personnel. And yet many financial institutions rely on design and imagery to create a more modern impression without paying nearly as much attention to the actual digital experience they’re providing. While an engaging, easy-to-use app or website is important, account acquisition really depends on providing customers with the substantive expertise and relevant guidance they need to make banking decisions.

Don’t be dazzled by slick wireframes and happy-customer photography. Your customers won’t be.

3. Don’t kid yourself about your call center

You could have the brightest minds in town on hand to answer customer questions—but that won’t matter if people don’t call. Here’s a disturbing statistic: 39 percent of consumers would rather clean a toilet than call a financial institution for help. And even when they do, 75 percent say that it takes too long to reach a live agent. Be honest: is this how you’d want to spend your free time?

For help to be effective, it has to be provided in a way that people are willing to receive it. They’ve already decided against calling in—so it’s time to try something else.

4. Understand what help really means

Some financial institutions already know they need to empower consumers online—but then respond with quantity rather than quality. They provide a bounty of options for assistance: live chat, FAQs, email, call center phone number, closest branch location. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with these channels, but they all put the onus on the customer to figure out the right questions to ask, or which products to compare, or which terms to ask to be defined. It’s a lot easier to simply abandon the process altogether.

What customers really want is an online experience that avoids confusion in the first place.

5. Anticipate and Guide

The best help is the kind you don’t have to ask for. Instead of waiting for customers to reach out, anticipate their needs by recognizing when they’re running into difficulty. Analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) make it possible to identify key hesitation points within digital channels based on specific behaviors or past customer interactions. Is a customer toggling between the pages of your account opening form? Do you get a large number of calls about a particular field in that form? Use that insight to proactively give customers what they need to move forward—things like an account picking tool, guidance on that tricky form field, definitions, how-to guides, links to relevant articles on how to make key decisions. They’ll feel supported, their satisfaction will rise—and they’ll be more likely to reach the finish line.

A proactive approach to customer guidance can be a true win-win. Customers get a better experience and end up with the right products for their needs—and financial institutions can convert online traffic more effectively to reach their account acquisition goals.

Tara Sporrer is a customer operations and marketing professional with more than 15 years of experience in the enterprise software industry. As goMoxie’s senior vice president of marketing, Sporrer is responsible for delivering corporate communications and marketing programs that drive the company’s market presence, revenue and profitability.

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