What Do You Get Out of the Wells Fargo Scandal?

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“Schadenfreude” is the German word for pleasure derived by someone else’s misfortune. Is that what you are experiencing when you look at the Wells Fargo scandal? Maybe not, but most banks and credit unions should be identifying ways to take advantage of their plight.

Wells Fargo, the megabank that — not that long ago — had the best reputation in retail banking, all of a sudden finds itself in a fight for its life. They fraudulently opened over two million fake checking and credit card accounts, created from a systemic culture of cheating to achieve aggressive sales goals and resulting in the termination of 5,300 employees and a Congressional witch hunt.

Most banks and credit unions compete with Wells Fargo on some level. But what have you done do to capitalize on this situation? Some Wells Fargo customers will forgive-and-forget and choose to stay with the bank. Others will take action and leave. In a case like this, community-based institutions have two options: (1) open your doors every morning, cross your fingers and hope you get more than your fair share, or (2) do something proactive and strategic to claim more than your fair share.

Here’s how to succeed with your checking account acquisition efforts — anytime, not just when one of your competitors drives off a cliff.

Your checking product lineup should be simple. Key to any successful sales culture is the right product. Strong growth does not mean cross-selling widgets or meeting product sales quotas. It means having a focus on organic growth, where a core part of your strategic vision is built around becoming people’s Primary Financial Institution (PFI) — having your customers’ core checking relationship. If you want to know whether your checking lineup is right for customers and easy to sell, just ask your frontline staff. They are the ones who have to sell it, so they know if your product is good or not.

Streamline the experience. Financial institutions operate in a heavily regulated industry, and that certainly adds hurdles on the process and procedures side. Yes, you must be in compliance, but also be sure to review your policies from their point of view!

Give your frontline staff a simple sales tool. Most of your sales team want a simple process that helps them get customers into the right product. Don’t forget: there is a lot of fresh new faces hitting the front line who are new to their roles. They look for guidance in the sales process — something simple that they can follow and create a routine.

Train, train, and train again. To make sure your frontline staff are best equipped to serve your customers, be sure to arm them with training regularly. Understandably not all training can be in person, so take advantage of online resources and recorded sessions, especially for new team members.

Keep your name in front of your prospective customers. Marketing is the key to driving traffic, and financial institutions that market consistently fare much better than those that try to hop on the bandwagon when something like the Wells Fargo incident happens. Reactionary marketing will not get anywhere near the same results as marketing that is continuously executed as an ongoing strategic initiative.

Target the right audience. Data analytics are extremely important. No matter what channel — traditional or digital — there’s no excuse to take the “spray and pray” approach. Augment your rich internal data sources with external big data streams to identify the most likely prospects to bank with you. Integrate new channels and new analytics. You must know who your best prospects are and target them with the right message.

Ask for the referrals and thank them for giving them to you. If you provide great service, your current customers should be your biggest advocates. Channel them in the traditional and online world.

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Metrics, measurements and ROI. To be successful, you must set goals, measure results, and hold your people accountable. That does not mean setting unrealistic, unfair or unattainable goals, nor subjecting your people to immense pressure achieve results… like Wells Fargo. It means being realistic with benchmarks, and ensuring that employees understand that you reward for doing the right thing for customers and not just for hitting goals. It is absolutely critical that employees believe in “why” and “what” they are doing, and this comes from the understanding that customers always come first.

Successful customer acquisition is not a single quarterly campaign or a one-off promotion. It is strategy, where hard work pays off. Sometimes circumstances like Wells Fargo’s mistakes or a bank’s acquisition in your market can make acquisition a bit easier, but you can only take full advantage of it if you were ready before it happens.

Big banks will make more mistakes, to be sure. There will be more mergers and acquisitions on the horizon. And others will implement bad policies that alienate consumers in the future. Just make sure you’re ready the next time it happens.

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