Engaged Staff Vital to Linking Banking Experience to Brand Message

For all its pluses, technology makes a personal connection to a financial institution trickier than ever with so many options available to consumers. Banks and credit unions that encourage and empower employees to live and breathe the institutions' brand story can help forge a strong connection between brand and customer experience.

People choose banking providers differently now. In the past they made their selection based on who had the most convenient branch or which bank or credit union their family used.

Now, consumers have what must seem like an infinite number of banking options online. Because the services banks and credit unions offer don’t feel drastically different, people look at other qualities like convenience, service, and personality, all of which are now defining elements that can make one institution stand out from the rest.

For this reason, a personal connection to a banking provider’s brand story is no longer just an added bonus. Without a cohesive identity and message, consumers don’t have the chance to develop trust and familiarity with financial institutions and their brands.

Everyone Should Know What the Brand Stands For

Advancements in technology, however, have made it tough for banks and credit unions to make personal connections with customers. Sitting down and talking through mortgage options or giving personal advice about savings happens less and less often now. Because of this, interactions are more transactional than tailored. It’s true that advances in technology have enabled personalization digitally, yet that hasn’t replaced the need at times for a human connection.

Banking institutions need to find ways to share who they are and why they’re special in this new, sometimes tricky era. When consumers hear a bank’s name, what do they think and feel? What words come to mind? Everyone in the organization should have clear answers to these questions themselves and be ready to play a part in shaping the consumers’ perception.

But to make this happen, banks and credit unions have to fully equip their team members to live and breathe their brand story. It’s never been more important to empower workers to represent brands in a way that portrays an understanding of the brand story and a passion for it. This is especially true for those directly in touch with consumers in person — by chat, email, phone or video, but it’s also true for everyone supporting them.

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TD Bank Overcomes Barriers to Become a Standout Brand

Your brand story has to be more than just a set of values or a list of adjectives. Instead, it has to be a lived experience that comes through your employees first.

Keep in mind that even if your story is strong, achieving widespread acceptance of it internally is necessary to keep it that way. You can’t train employees on messaging like you can on a new piece of software or corporate program. You have to plant and cultivate it naturally in every level of your organization.

Take TD Bank. It crafted its service story around the tagline “America’s Most Convenient Bank.” This was a big promise to fulfill, but TD set about it in small, doable ways, like extending branch hours to suit customers with longer workdays. It claimed its story by manifesting it in tangible ways that all employees could feasibly represent. There is substance around the TD brand and its promise to customers. Maybe even more importantly, it was easy for front-line teams to understand the role they played in delivering on that promise.

4 Steps to Help Employees Share Your Brand Story

Too many banks and credit unions take a “check the box” approach when it comes to connecting their employees to their brand. Financial institutions have to say goodbye to superficial messages and start empowering their employees to back up the brand story. Here are four ways to help you make that happen:

1. Clearly define your desired brand experience. TD Bank brings people closer to its brand by having a clear understanding of how it wants to be perceived. The goal is short and sweet: It wants customers to think of it as convenient. This approach works because the bank links the experience it delivers to the simple message it advertises.

Most marketing departments understand what customers want but haven’t shared that insight with front-line employees in a way that they can digest and put into action. It isn’t enough to just show other employees the ads you’re running. You have to help them understand how the brand story applies to their roles so they can connect with it before trying to help customers do the same.

2. Learn from your employees. Most banking providers do customer research but might sometimes forget to ask their own employees what they think of their own company. If you want to see workers take the lead in consistently representing your brand, work to find internal alignment first.

The only way to make that happen is by asking your workers what they think of your brand and taking to heart what they tell you. Be careful to look for gaps between the way they see your institution and the way you hope to be seen. If you find holes, don’t panic. It’s an opportunity to get to work and refine your message before you share it.

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3. Don’t train — activate. People want to listen to stories when the storytellers truly love what they’re sharing — this is no different when it comes to brand messaging. When employees truly love the brand they represent, it’s noticeable. While you can’t train employees to love something, you can give them experiences that nurture their respect for and loyalty to your institution.

Set up peer-to-peer brand discussions. Host message boards for employees to share how they are “living” the brand in their work. Reward small behaviors that reinforce the brand. Engage employees internally, and they’ll start telling the best story of your brand to the outside world because they truly believe in it.

4. Make it fun! Find creative and innovative ways for your employees to share your story, and they’ll be more motivated to do so. Consider holding an internal contest for the best new tagline or having small celebrations when a great customer testimonial comes in. If employees feel good about what happens behind the scenes, they’ll give that impression to customers when telling your story.

These four steps will empower your employees to share a story that they believe in and that you want the world to hear. Banking has long impacted people’s lives, families, homes, and dreams, which means you should proudly share the way your institution does that in its own unique way. If employees feel connected to that brand promise, they will do a much better job of helping establish the personal connections customers still crave deeply.

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