A few years ago while traveling through the Atlanta airport, I stopped in the washroom. Upon exiting, I noticed something that changed how I view requesting feedback — a simple kiosk that asked only one question and allowed only two basic responses, denoted with emojis: “Happy” or “Sad.” The Atlanta airport knows that if you want to get incredible feedback, and lots of it, you’ve got to keep it simple.
Understanding the sentiment of account holders is critical to good strategic decision-making in banking. However, many institutions operate without getting the pulse of account holders.
Several years ago Professors Dholakia and Morwitz, from Rice and Columbia, studied the customer base of a large financial services company to see how requesting feedback impacted the relationship with consumers. The researchers found that soliciting their views led to new account openings, fewer defections, and higher profitability, compared to those who hadn’t been surveyed.
The conclusion is clear: If you want people to buy more products from you, want your consumers to be loyal and want more profitable relationships, then find ways to listen to your account holders.
How Most Financial Institutions Seek Feedback Now
Banks and credit unions typically use some combination of the following to take the pulse of their account holders:
- Surveys: These can be excellent sources of feedback, but asking people to respond to ten questions once a month can be extremely cumbersome.
- Call Centers: Reviewing issues coming into the call center helps to understand account holders’ major problems. I regularly consulted our “top ten” as an executive at a financial institution.
- Reviews: Institutions should be checking comments left on social media platforms.
While the feedback from these methods can help, each has drawbacks. First, the number of people that actually respond to surveys sent via e-mail is so low that it’s difficult to get an accurate feel. Second, the call center takes calls from people already struggling with something, and checking their pulse at a time like that will certainly bias the data. Finally, consumers typically leave reviews when they are furious or on cloud nine. That makes them a bad source for understanding the true pulse of your overall membership.
Understanding the limitations of traditional solutions, what other steps can be taken?
1. Keep Your Sentiment Gathering Simple
Asking an account holder to take a 50-question survey has little to no chance of succeeding. In fact, even a request to “Press one to stay on the line and answer a few short questions about your experience today” can be iffy.
Thinking back to the example of the kiosk in the airport, financial institutions could place one or two of them in each branch with a simple question, such as “Did we meet your expectations for our service today?” When they tap the happy face, thank them! When they tap the sad face, ask them how you could improve.
I’d have a monitor in my headquarters that shows an aggregate view of all that feedback. I’d set benchmarks and targets for my branch staff, based on that feedback. I’d also have a business analyst combing through the feedback to identify trends in responses that would help us improve our service.
Digital channels account for more transactions than ever, so don’t stop at the branches. The happy/sad approach can be used digitally too. Almost every great consumer app occasionally asks their customer how they’re doing. Consumers have grown used to this, and they will respond.
In addition to simple kiosks, and digital feedback, be sure to survey your account holder base on a regular — but not too regular — basis. At one financial institution I worked with we found out that the membership base had not been surveyed in a while. When we did, responses poured in. Many people were grateful we’d asked for their views.
2. Use the Data You Already Have
Soon after I began working with one financial institution, I realized I could dig into the trove of data banks and credit unions generate. I called on a team member to set up an SQL (a simple querying language, supported by many core databases) and asked her to spend a few days sifting transaction data, looking for interesting trends.
She started by looking for transactions related to fintechs. In short order, we found some astounding trends. Usage of one fintech by our account holder base had been doubling annually for about four years — and was showing no sign of slowing. We quickly assembled data on a few other popular fintechs for comparison and showed our findings to the executive team and board. They were impressed, and we reached out to the fintech in order to see if there might be a partnership opportunity.
“If you want to know how your account holders are feeling about fintechs, track adoption trends of those fintechs over time with your own data.”
— Jordan Wright, fintech executive
If you want to know how your account holders are feeling about many of the fintechs out there, I submit that you already have much of the data you need. Track trends of adoption of those fintechs over time with your own data.
A quick note about call centers. There’s a treasure trove of data in your call center logs and reports. As mentioned earlier, however, just remember that people call you with problems. So you need to balance that data with the many other data points in order to get a complete picture.
- Banking Execs Must Get Hands Dirty to Dig Up Data-Driven ‘Gold’
- Turning Data Into Dollars at TD Ameritrade, USAA
- Growing Privacy Fears Threaten Financial Marketers’ Use of Data
3. Don’t Fear Negative Feedback — Embrace It
Lastly, be vulnerable with your account holders. You don’t always have to have the answers, and you don’t have to be perfect.
If you put yourself out there and try to listen to account holders, you’re bound to see issues with how you’re running things. Financial institutions have to embrace mechanisms of inviting feedback, tracking that feedback, and measuring account holder sentiment if they want to push their business forward.
Once the channel of communication with your account holders has truly been opened, your business will be better equipped to improve, and you will also be able to deliver targeted messaging to your account holders.
With a new feedback mechanism in place, consider the value of being able to provide targeted questions to your customers? You could ask “Have you heard about our new 2.2% high yield savings account?” with the potential answers “Yes” and “No.” Just like that, you’ll see how good your messaging is, but also let everyone that engages with the question know about your new rates.
As you consider implementing feedback, you’ll likely confront some self doubt and it will be difficult to pull all of this together.
What if the feedback hurts? What if you’re not where you thought you were in terms of account holder sentiment?
If you’re having thoughts like these, consider the words of Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Brown wrote that, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose… vulnerability is the path.”
I believe that inviting feedback from account holders, employees, and stake holders will lead financial organizations toward deep long-lasting positive change. Inviting account holders to give unfiltered feedback — in simple ways — will lead banks and credit unions to be more creative and provide greater empathy, accountability, and authenticity.
Jordan Wright is a fintech entrepreneur who spent some time as an executive at a financial institution between startups so he could see things from both sides of the fence. To learn more about Jordan, checkout his website.