Bank with stay or go signs

How to Get Customers to Stay After a Merger

By Melissa Chefec, Business Development Manager

For some people it has never happened. For others, it’s happened once, twice or even more. = And for others, it’s happening right now. What is “it”? Your bank getting bought out by another financial institution, of course!

There are many reasons banks acquire one another: sometimes it is to increase physical presence in a desired market, sometimes it’s to expand the customer base and sometimes it’s to move into a new vertical or acquire new technology or talent. Regardless of the reason, a merger can be tough on customers, injecting doubt into how they can access their money and raising questions about what will be different with the new bank, where their closest branch and ATM will be located and whether their favorite banker will still be around.

When an acquisition is announced, banks typically work hard to communicate the overarching objectives of the transaction and allay concerns and fears from customers before they become problematic. Bankers, likewise, strive to provide important, timely and accurate information about the acquisition and how it will impact their individual customers.

With that said, what is it that makes customers stay at a bank that is no longer the one they originally selected? What are the considerations that customers face in making a decision to stay or to go?

Of course, each customer ultimately does his or her own calculation about whether it makes sense for them to stay with the new bank. Some customers stay simply because it’s easier to stay than to move and, if they move, they have to change all their accounts. As MKP’s Chief Content Officer frequently says, “Inertia is a bank’s best friend!” Others stay because they liked their old bank, including its location, services and staff, and they hope the new bank will be the same as or similar to the new bank. Some customers respond positively to communications they receive about changes and what those changes mean to them. This group stays because they have been properly primed and transparently informed about changes. As a result, the change is “no big deal.” Lastly, some see change as an opportunity. They conclude that their new bank may actually offer them more opportunity for financial growth, more products, better technology  and more conveniences.

Given the considerations customers deliberate, what can and should bank marketers do to make more customers want to stay with their new bank? We offer the following tips:

  • Thoroughly and thoughtfully set the stage up front about what will change and when, thereby managing customer expectations proactively.
  • Present a positive, but realistic picture of the reasons for change and the potential impacts to customers.
  • Make the process as easy as possible for customers so that they do not have to take unnecessary actions or make superfluous changes to their accounts.
  • Communicate about upcoming changes early, clearly and at pivotal points along the way.
  • Make the transition to the new bank as easy as possible for the customer.
  • Make sure that call centers are available and prepared to respond to questions.

Keep these tips top of mind and you’ll enjoy higher customer retention and satisfaction. You can take it to the bank.

MKP communications inc., is a New-York based marketing communications agency specializing in merger/change communications for the financial services industry.