How Banks Are Bringing Back the Love

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

It’s no fun being a banker these days. Competition is fierce, new customers scarce and the financial crisis remains a reason for some people to distrust their bank even six years after the crisis ended.

Banks are working hard to cultivate loyalty just to keep pace in an ultra-competitive market. They’re using technology to make easy transactions fast, and beefing up their branch expertise to make difficult transactions less painful. More importantly, they’re gathering regular feedback, listening closely to their customers and making the changes that create a memorable customer experience.

These efforts couldn’t come at a better time. My colleagues at Bain & Company surveyed banking customers in developed countries and found that fewer than 1% of respondents were new to banking. With new customers so scarce, most banks will seek to expand their market share by poaching customers from rival banks. That means service and products count more than ever, especially among tech-savvy consumers who prefer to use smartphones to manage their money.

Industry leaders are doing many things right:

They’re letting customers choose how they want to do business. Young people love to make deposits on their phones to save time. Older people value the experience of visiting branches. Many people use a combination of digital and physical banking, depending on the complexity or convenience of the transaction. Each bank needs to find its own balance of digital and physical—a “Digical” approach—that offers the best of online and in-person experiences.

They’re making the important moments count. Making routine transactions convenient and easy is table stakes for a financial services company, but what really builds loyalty for any company is delighting customers when customers need them most. For banks, that might mean making it easier for customers to apply for a first mortgage or a quick bridge loan for a real-estate transaction. Vanguard, the mutual fund company, focuses heavily on trying to master these “moments of truth.” The firm systematically identifies the life events that prompt the most important contacts with clients, such as the birth of a child or the death of a spouse, and equips and trains employees to handle these moments with competence and compassion.

They’re offering the products their customers want. Too many companies try to be all things to all people. But a bank, like any business, has to decide which customers it most wants to appeal to. It has to listen closely to what those customers want and what they value, and then design its products and services accordingly.

They’re giving customers something to talk about. Loyalty leaders provide such great experiences that people tell their friends and families. For a bank, the “pop” might come from an exceptionally welcoming atmosphere, a dynamite new mobile app or just consistently easy procedures in routine tasks. TD Bank, for example, has “Penny Arcade” machines that allow customers to bring in coins for sorting and deposit. Among other things, that’s a great way, in an industry short of new customers, to introduce children to banking.

These lessons apply to all companies. When companies learn to build loyalty, they are far more likely to keep their regular customers—even when competitors try to steal them. Banks are a great test case—and since nearly all of us rely on their services, I think we can look forward to better and better banking experiences in the future.

For a closer look at TD Bank's approach to customer loyalty, check out this video.


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