As many community financial institution executives know, communication is a crucial aspect of building long-standing relationships with customers and driving meaningful branch interactions. Regional FIs need to use each channel and communication touchpoint, both in and out of the branch, effectively to convey important messages or educate their customers about new products and services. These communications can even offer tailored services to specific groups of customers related to their financial wellness, age or preferences.
In order to build better relationships through customer communications, community financial institutions should attempt to strike the right balance between overcommunication and radio silence. Many times, consumers today are overwhelmed with information and dislike another source of “spam;” yet, regular check-ins show that your financial institution cares about each individual customer. When communicating with customers, keep in mind some general best practices.
Consistency across channels
One issue that community financial institutions face today is having an inconsistent voice and brand across channels. By cultivating a uniform, branded experience across all channels, digital, print and in-person, financial institutions present themselves as professional and trustworthy. Customers also value the means to access their financial institutions through multiple channels, and each time customers reach out, their experience should reflect the financial institution’s brand and values.
This is particularly true with in-person interactions since customers are often driven to visit their local branches through digital or print communication. Financial institutions need to ensure that their frontline staff are aware of recent promotional campaigns, such as a campaign on holiday loans, and can answer any questions about the customer service terms and requirements. Even beyond financial institution-wide promotional events, frontline staff should be mindful to observe whether their CRM records offer any tailored outreach to specific customers as they enter the branch. If a teller takes the time to ask whether a customer had questions about a recent car loan offer or how to enroll for digital statements, that can easily turn into an opportunity to deepen that customer’s relationship with the financial institution while offering a valued service.
As community financial institutions communicate with their customers regularly, whether federally required communications or otherwise, each of these touchpoints or conversations offer these FIs an opportunity to educate their customers about products and services. Financial institutions can take the time to introduce new offers in standard communications, such as adding targeting messaging directly on the mailed statement or during a routine interaction at a branch. They should also ensure that these new offers are included on the website, such as on a banner or popup.
Each point of communication about a new product or service should help the customer. In this age of one-to-one marketing, community financial institutions have the opportunity to use customer data to offer them the products and services that would be most helpful and meaningful to their individual needs. However, while communications should be relevant, large scale communications about new services are still valuable, as customers’ circumstances can often change quickly.
Community financial institutions need to seek the communications sweet spot by keeping customers happy and informed, without becoming a nuisance. Digital statement enrollment can help enable regular interactions with important information about accounts, which also gives FIs the chance to place targeted marketing on customers’ statements. Branch staff could be aware of recent communications to customers and trained to remind them of any special promotions, such as a holiday loan or a recent reduction in rates.
Through digital channels, financial institutions can use landing pages and calls to action unobtrusively, offering customers an easy way to find out more, or ignore promotions that they do not find interesting. Because of this digital experience, FIs can avoid sending too many promotions through the mail, which can be both overwhelming for customers, and expensive for the financial institution. Print can still be valuable, however, since some customers respond to paper communications better.
Keeping the Branch in Focus
Many financial institutions of any size find branch strategy a challenging topic. The industry knows that branches can be expensive to maintain and that many of the largest financial institutions are reducing their footprints. For regional financial institutions, having a community presence is very important to build relationships with customers and potential customers. To make the best use of their branches, community financial institutions should look to find ways for digital communications to drive customers to their local branches, for strategic interactions. These higher-level interactions can include communications about wealth management or mortgage services and should focus on creating a personal relationship instead of a one-off transaction, such as depositing a check.
Customers provide real time data about their daily lives, specifically regarding digital payments such as debit or credit card activity. Each piece of information from these payments can drive marketing opportunities to serve customers. In particular, community financial institutions can carefully use this data to help customers become more financially responsible, by grouping transactions in a meaningful way. Customers may notice that their coffee habit has gotten out of control if they see how much each latte adds up to over a month.
Showcasing data to customers in meaningful, intuitive ways is an important aspect of communication. These trends can help them realize their lack of savings or bad spending habits, and inspire them to focus on financial wellness. Print or digital communications can even prompt customers to swing by their local branch for workshops on financial wellness, or a one-on-one consultation with a customer service specialist who can offer advice on wealth management tools.
By communicating regularly about tools that promote financial wellness, such as savings and money market accounts, regional financial institutions help their customers become more financially stable over time. As customers create expendable income, these tools can enable them to save for retirement or long-term goals. This data helps financial institutions market the right products to each individual customer, instead of creating depth of wallet for its own sake.
Financial institutions have a wealth of opportunities to communicate with their customers, whether sending monthly account statements online or at the branch. In our fast-paced world, customers are constantly flooded with information, so the right communication techniques are more important than ever. By being mindful of these best practices, community financial institutions can create deeper relationships with their customers, by timely, data-driven, meaningful communications that are consistent across all channels.
Griffin McGahey is president at HC3. Formerly High Cotton, HC3 is a data-driven technology company delivering customer communications. For more information please visit, HC3.IO