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Technology: The Key to Customer Relationships

By Maxwell Chalkin, Chief Digital Officer and Senior Project Manager

As a consumer of financial products, what makes for a good experience? Twenty-five years ago, the answer would likely have had something to do with excellent service proffered by a friendly banker at your local branch who knows your name. How things have changed.

In today’s digital world, a good customer experience starts with a user-friendly online account opening process. The application should be mobile optimized. It should only take five minutes from start to finish. It should be hard to abandon and easy to resume. It should be simple to provide electronic consent and acknowledge receipt of disclosures, a piece of cake to fund your account, and a breeze to enroll in online banking.

Just like that, the customer is “in.” What’s next? Online banking makes the first impression. It should be clean and easy to use and it should offer more than just the basics. Bill pay and internal, external, and person-to-person transfers are table stakes. The online banking experience should go beyond that. Can the customer link up his or her external accounts including credit cards, investment accounts, and loans for an overall financial picture visualizing the customer’s assets and liabilities from the global to the transactional levels? Are there built-in budgeting tools? Personalized offers? If the answers to these questions is no, it may be hard to win share of wallet, especially from younger, technology-savvy customers. In 2020, banks need to prove themselves first and grow relationships second, not the other way around.

Moreover, the customer should gently land into an onboarding campaign. The first three months after an account is opened is a critical window. It’s the best time to promote usage of “sticky services,” the features that deepen relationships and drive transactions. Think mobile banking, bill pay, electronic statements, and cross-sell. 

Not only do financial institutions today have access to technology and product features that make the turn of the 21st century look like the dark ages, but they also have data about their customers. The banks of the past were largely reactionary. They put marketing out into the world and waited until the customer walked through the doors to shop. They communicated with their customers as necessary for the accounts those customers owned. The financial institutions of the future will use data to personalize every aspect of the banking experience. In the past, a million identical envelopes went into the mail. Now, no two customers will receive the same communications. In the past, banks relied on their bankers to deliver that personal touch; now, they’ll rely on technology. Specifically, solutions architecture, application development and all associated user metrics, transaction data, predictive analytics, and marketing intelligence… all in an agile feedback loop.

If you’re a bank marketer shaking your head, thinking where do I start, never fear! It’s a poorly kept secret that the financial industry falls into the sweet spot of we’ve-always-done-it-this-way culture and justifiable risk aversion. For once, use that fact to your advantage. Start small. Build a few automated email journeys. Explore some financial analysis tools or a robo-advisor along with your investment services division. Bring on a new online account opening system. Take a step towards single sign on, making all your customers’ accounts available through a single system. The most important thing is fomenting a culture of innovation and constant improvement. If your current customers aren’t clamoring for it, they will soon. As for your future customers, well, they will insist on it.

MKP communications inc. is a New York City-based communications company that delivers spot-on strategy, smart, fresh creative, and flawless execution, exclusively for financial services clients.