How to Build Relationships with Branch Avoiders

Be honest. If you didn’t work in the financial services industry, how often would you step foot in a branch?

So how can financial institutions build relationships with those who prefer avoiding branches as much as possible? Here’s four ideas to get you started.

Pick up the phone

Many financial institutions use MCIF and other data to trigger automatic direct mail pieces, but Gene suggested that there is no perfect algorithm that can substitute for a human analysis of someone’s financial situation. Gene wondered would happen if you had someone who looked at a person’s financial relationship with the institution, including their last 20-30 transactions. What would you learn? He suggested you’d learn enough in just a few minutes to make it worth picking up the phone for a quick phone call.

Think about it. What impact would it have on you if your bank or credit union called you up and said, “We noticed your average daily balance has exceeded $5,000 for the last six months and we just wanted to let you know that you could be earning X.X% on your money. I could set this up for you today. The change in your account would be automatic and seamless. All your checks and debit cards would be unaffected. Best of all, it’s free. Would you like me to go ahead and take care of that for you?”

For most people, this kind of interaction would have a long-lasting impact on their feelings and loyalty to their financial institution. And it would also be a huge differentiator between you and your competitors. No one does this, probably because they think it’s too expensive to throw real, live human beings at a problem (ironic, considering the problem is one centered around personal relationships). But aided by technology (and maybe a good algorithm or two to get you started) this kind of program could definitely be profitable.

Write a note

Just like the telephone, here’s another World 1.0 technology that can help solve our Web 2.0 problems. It’s called a “pen” (you remember, those quaint writing instruments that preceded texting, IMs and email?).

The power of a handwritten note these days is phenomenal. When was the last time you got one? It may have been months ago, but you probably remember it. If you can’t remember, it’s a good indicator of how big a differentiator this could be for your financial institution.

Just because more people don’t have the time or don’t like going to a branch doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate personal attention. If someone signs-up for a new product through your non-branch channels, you should send them a hand-written thank-you note. In fact, it’s probably even more important to do this with these customers because you don’t have as many chances to showcase your personal touch. Embrace every opportunity to build those relationships with your remote audience. They are rare. Take advantage of them.

Pick the right new media tools

You might assume that people who don’t like going to branches are online omnivores — that they prefer… nay, that they crave all their interactions to occur through sites like Facebook or MySpace. But you’d be wrong. They may like to consolidate their personal relationships at online social media sites, but that does not mean they want to be friends with your financial institution. And blogs will only reach a small fraction of your total audience.

There are other new media tools your branchless patrons might use though. Those are going to be the ones that help them when they have questions, needs or problems. Wachovia’s use of Twitter is an excellent example. There’s also realtime online chat, available 24/7 from fulltime employees at Airforce FCU. If you’ve never seen it in action, go check it out.

Maximize your points of contact

There are only have a handful of ways you can communicate with your branchless users. So how can you best utilize those touchpoints to build relationships with them? What opportunities exist within your online banking experience, your statements and your email marketing? Do these exist merely to fulfill a functional purpose? Are you only using these channels to sell people more stuff? Or are you looking for ways to use these to create a deeper level of engagement and dialogue?

What do you think?

What are some of the ways financial marketers can deepen relationships with people who seldom — if ever — step foot in a branch?

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