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Harland Clarke | Acquisition and Retention Marketing

A Simple Competitive Recon Tactic in Retail Banking

Here’s the hypothetical: a potential new customer has moved to your area and is seeking basic information to help them select their new bank. How would you stack up against six of your competitors?


Pick six competitors. You should consider using a mix of banks and credit unions. Call each of them with this request: “I’m new to the area and am looking for a bank. Can you please send me some information about your checking accounts?” You can have someone in your marketing department do this Service Channel audit, or an administrative assistant, or even use an intern.


Repeat the exercise sending your request for information via email.


Now repeat the exercise, but this time, call and email your own financial institution.

Codigo | Branch Transformation Report


While conducting this exercise, pay special attention to the following dimensions:

  • Mechanics – How hard is it to find their website? Their phone number? An email address you can use? How long do it take to reach someone who can respond to your request? How many steps or handoffs are required? If you have to wait (on hold, for instance) how long is the delay?
  • Personality – Are they wagging their tails? Or bearing their teeth? Do they welcome you to the area? Are they friendly and outgoing? Do they ask questions like, “Where did you move from?” or “What brought you to the area?” Are they engaged? Or do they seem detached or hurried?
  • Sales – You inquired specifically about a checking account, so do they ask about any of your checking needs — debit card, interest-bearing, etc.? Do they ask where you are doing your banking currently? Do they ask if you have any other financial needs? Do they attempt any cross-sell at this juncture, and if so, how well do they succeed? Do they provide any literature or information on any of their other products — home loans, auto loans, investments, other deposit products?
  • Experience – Pay special attention to the discrepancies between your expectations and the actual experience. Do they deliver what you expect? Do they exceed your expectations in any way? Do they send a personalized message or handwritten note? A gift, perhaps, welcoming you to the neighborhood? Do they seem to know what they are talking about, or do they need to get a clue?
  • Follow Through – What do they send? How much do they send? And how do they send it? Do they offer to send something in the mail? How long did it take them to fulfill your request(s)? Do they suggest that you visit their website? Do they offer to email you anything?
  • Follow Up – Do they offer to have someone call you? Do they suggest the branch locations nearest you? Do they provide any contact information should you have any additional questions? Do they give you someone’s personal, direct contact information? Do they request your permission to follow up? Do they make any subsequent effort to contact you? What options do they give you next? How actively does the financial institution look after you once you’ve bought?

This is a good way to glean the methods and techniques other banks’ use to respond to customer inquiries. Not only will you find out how you fare compared to your peers, you’ll likely glean quite a few insights about what you could be doing better or differently.

Hat Tip: To Rob Findlay, Customer Experience & Innovation Manager at NAB Direct, and author of the excellent customer service blog, The Bank Channel, for contributing his input and insights to this article.

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