Customer engagement is a two-way street. It’s easy for financial institutions to talk about what they want from their side of the relationship—loyalty, bigger wallet share, primary financial status. But it’s harder to execute a strategy that satisfies what customers expect.
While they might not use the word “engagement,” customers have relationship expectations from financial services providers. They want them to be helpful and take care of their needs; to be predictable and protect their personal information. They want to feel valued. They want convenience. They want to be understood and rewarded for their loyalty—and have an outstanding experience every time.
Customer demands continue to grow and change. But satisfying them is not magic. Even in today’s world of tech and instant access, everything starts with good old-fashioned, authentic customer service. To keep up with your customers’ evolving needs, you must continually evolve, too.
Here are three tips to deliver on customer engagement in 2019:
One: Focus on individual account holder needs.
A fine line divides knowing your customers and intruding on their privacy. While customers want to be known, they don’t want to feel you’re spying on them.
So where does service end and intrusion begin? The golden rule is this: Collect and use only the data you need to provide account holders with the products and services they need and expect during their current life stage.
From a customer’s perspective, your ability to suggest the appropriate products and services for their life circumstances equals personalization in action. For example, a consumer who isn’t a homeowner shouldn’t receive a home equity loan offer. This tone-deafness not only irritates customers: It shows a lack of knowledge and understanding of their needs.
How to deliver:
With all the account holder data and business intelligence available, there’s no excuse for offering unneeded products and services to account holders. Use data analytics to its fullest advantage. Take the time to properly define marketing parameters to include only those account holders or prospects who need the product—using external resources to capture their needs.
For example, it’s fairly simple to identify when an account holder is shopping for a loan. Armed with this knowledge, a financial institution can immediately offer a credit-screened, preselected loan prior to purchase. This makes a customer feel known.
Also strive to understand non-financial product purchases that indicate a desire for a financial product or service. For example, consumers shopping for a new home will likely need a mortgage in the near future. Getting your name in front of them during their home search propels your brand’s awareness.
Two: Optimize personal interactions.
Even the decline of in-branch visits doesn’t mean consumers value personal interaction any less. Branches still matter. According to J.D. Power, 71 percent of bank customers visited a branch 14 times on average in the last year. And overall satisfaction is higher among customers who visited a branch than those who didn’t. BAI Banking Outlook findings also show that across all age demographics, “most convenient branches” ranks as the number one reason consumers choose their primary financial institution.
Is your financial institution properly positioned for a consumer to find you when searching for the nearest branch? Are hours of operations clearly communicated? A strong online presence is important for customers to view your overall brand as convenient and easy to do business with—even in terms of details such as location services.
Contact centers also play a big role. While account holders like to make digital transactions, they want to talk to a person when they need to solve a problem. Customers who experience a satisfactory contact center interaction are 14 times more likely to be engaged with their bank.
How to deliver:
Personal interaction channels are vitally important to your overall strategy. It’s crucial to know how each channel supports your brand and engages the customer. Step back and evaluate the customer journey at every touchpoint to get a holistic view of your brand delivery.
You can do this by assessing your customer experience: Gather, measure and interpret feedback at every encounter. Start with customer experience surveys or mystery shopping to find out how you do in the eyes of your customer and community and adjust accordingly. Using your own financial institution’s data gives you actionable insight from those who matter most.
Connect marketing with retail so your in-branch and phone follow-up are flawless. And try new avenues to connect in meaningful ways. For example, you can customize check packaging and messaging to engage with check writers, who remain the most valuable account holders.
Three: Be hyper-convenient.
Customers are seeking greater control over their banking experience. According to Accenture, 39 percent cited speed and convenience as their top considerations when it came to banking.
Bank of America Chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan has said, “You have to be able to meet every customer, everywhere they want, and no one channel wins.”
Heeding this call for convenience via a multichannel approach amounts to smart business. Create a holistic strategy to ensure your delivery channels work together and clearly understand how customers use them. It is important to fully understand each delivery channel to meet consumers where they are and capture how they want to do business.
How to deliver:
Fully educate your account holders about the benefits of your delivery channels. Be descriptive about how to use each channel to demystify complexity for new users.
For example, mobile check deposit offers the ideal convergence of speed and convenience for the consumer, efficiency for your institution and added value for your mobile banking product. However, adoption and usage can suffer if customers don’t know the benefits or how to use it.
How are you doing?
The financial services industry is in a period of flux: consolidating in some areas, expanding in others. As a response it may be tempting for institutions to focus inward—certainly important for long-term success.
But it’s just as important to keep your account holders in sight. What do they want from you? What are they going through? What are their concerns, challenges, hopes and dreams?
Their lives, after all, provide the context for which they need your products and services. The better you engage them—understand them, cater to them and make them feel valued—the more they’ll reward you in the long run together down that two-way street.
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Carrie Stapp is senior vice president of product management at Harland Clarke.