Accelerating Your Financial Institution’s Onboarding Success

The best way for bank and credit union marketers to assess their account opening and onboarding processes is from the outside in. Armed with a consumer's perspective, several short-term enhancements relating to post-account-opening communications will help increase product usage, retention and profitability.

Most financial marketers know all too well that quicker and friendlier account-opening and onboarding should be a top priority. Not only neobanks but big banks like Capital One are aggressively promoting account opening in five minutes or less.

Even so, a great number banks and credit unions lag in this essential part of digital transformation. Often it’s because there are many moving parts to coordinate — technology, security, regulatory. Or they may be waiting on a tech provider. And so the process drags on for years (way too long) and the consumer experience remains slow and unfriendly.

Change doesn’t have to be all or nothing, however. While it is imperative to comply with regulations and security protocols, there are still facets of account opening and onboarding that bank marketers can control, while longer term projects — like implementing new technologies — rumble forward. One example is the use of automated onboarding messages. In many cases this is something that Marketing can move on quickly.

Experience Account Opening Like a Consumer

Many institutions struggle with what to prioritize and how to approach onboarding when in reality, the starting point should be based on two simple steps:

1. Put on your consumer hat — go on your website (online and mobile) and visit one of your branches and open an account.
While this may seem like a rudimentary exercise, the reality is that most people who work at a financial institution aren’t working on the frontlines and don’t truly understand the customer experience.

“The best way to grasp the seriousness of the onboarding issue is to experience it first-hand.”
— Mary Ellen Georgas-Tellefsen, CPG

For many bank and credit union marketing employees, the best way to grasp the seriousness of the onboarding issue is to experience it first-hand. In many cases, this will turn out to be a shocking exercise containing more “Aha!” moments than you might expect.

To make this really work, document every step of the process, every piece of information required to open an account and the time it takes for each step of the process. Also, include post-account-opening communications in the assessment.

Communications with new customer are a critical and often-forgotten element of onboarding. Unless you have audited the entire process, you are guessing as to what really happens to new customers once they open an account.

2. Identify, prioritize and address what you can control and improve. At most institutions, implementing anything new usually requires collaboration and coordination from multiple departments — and many meetings. However, post-account-opening communication is one piece of the onboarding puzzle that financial marketers can move on more quickly by addressing and improving the account opening elements they support and control today.

The fact is that most banks and credit unions still do not do a great job welcoming new customers and members into the institution and there is work the marketing team needs to do.

For example, in a recent onboarding project we conducted where accounts were opened at seven regional and large national institutions in their bank branches, not one employee thanked the customer for their business. In addition, only one institution sent a thank-you email. A few institutions sent emails regarding account usage, but none of the banks demonstrated a thoughtful, organized approach to onboarding communication.

In a world with so many choices, people now expect to have more communications — not less — with their financial institution.

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Five Steps to Improve Onboarding Communications

Immediately following account opening is the best time to reinforce with your newest customers that they made the right decision to entrust their money with your institution. The great news is that there are now more options than ever for multi-channel marketing automation and communications. Whether you already have an email system or marketing automation, or are considering implementing a solution, there is no better place to begin than with onboarding.

Here are five ways to put these tools to work.

1. Start with “Thank you.” The first thing you need to do is thank the new customer or member for their business. Marketing automation tools make this easy with an automatically generated email and/or snail mail the day after account opening. This simple communication is a great way to get started.

2. Encourage account usage. Following the thank-you message, successful institutions use marketing automation to send a series of messages that encourage account usage and activations of key features such as bill payment. Automation allows you to customize these communications based on what the consumer has activated and used, instead of sending the same message to everyone. This improves product usage, retention and revenue.

3. Personalize the message. With experience, onboarding communications flows can be customized and personalized to the type of account opened and to the person opening the account. New customers, for example, require a different message than existing customers who open another account and will benefit from having their growing relationship reinforced and recognized. Lay out these communications flows and begin creating a library of messages that will help in building others.

4. Test and learn. Onboarding communications provide an excellent environment for test-and-learn protocols. Using them, marketers can quickly see what language, offers, content, visuals, and other variables are working or not working with new customers. These learnings can be used to improve not only onboarding communications but communications and offers aimed at deepening customer and member relationships.

5. Expand the scope. Once the marketing team has mastered using automation for onboarding, it can begin to customize and personalize other communications, programs and offers across all media and channels, including branches and online; email, texts, calls and snail mail.

Once bank and credit union marketers document and understand what customers experience when opening an account, and once they harness the power of marketing automation tools, they can ensure the new customer experience gets off on a positive note. That sows the seeds for long-term, loyal and profitable relationships.

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