You know the feeling… You call customer service, but before you are allowed to speak with anyone, you must first run through the automated system gauntlet: “Please enter your 10-digit phone number.” Then your billing zip code, date of birth, and last four digits of your social security number.
You get frustrated, but accept this as the price we must all pay for the convenience of technology. But then… the live rep asks you to repeat the information so they can pull up your account.
“Unfortunately, the information you already entered does not transfer to our internal system,” they explain.
In other words, “We heard you, but we weren’t really listening.”
That could be the same message you are conveying to your own customers, and in many different ways:
- They provide email product preferences which you don’t reference when sending them direct mail offers.
- You may have declined them for an equity loan, but they can still see equity line offers heavily promoted on your website’s home page.
- They are offered the same cross-sell product every time they talk to a teller.
- You send them an offer to open a 529 account and they don’t have any children.
In this day of real time communication, overnight system updates just won’t cut it. When a customer comes to your website and chats online with a customer representative, they expect that information will be accessible if they call back again five minutes later. Unreasonable? Maybe. But since the these are the people who pay your salary, we better listen… and listen better.
Here are three (not so easy) steps to improving your financial institution’s “listening” skills in ways that directly lead to higher retention rates and product usage.
Step 1: Learn More About Your Customers
By doing this you are more likely to provide them with relevant offers and, as a result, you are less likely to present them with irrelevant offers. Before you start, decide what information indicates customer insight that helps you make better decisions to meet your customers’ needs. If you determine that certain information isn’t useful, then don’t waste time and resources on it.
How do you get more information? Simply ask.
Explain why you are asking so that your customer sees the benefit of sharing it with you. Always consider what’s in it for them. Think about all the interaction that you have with your customers: from branch bankers, to click-to-chat, to tellers, to website activity, and during customer service calls. In addition to information forms used during the sales process, you can learn more from a free financial check-up or from web-based tools. Do you have a mortgage calculator on your website or a tool which estimates what mortgage range someone can afford?
A second easy way to get more information is to append it to your customer base from third-party sources.
Demographics such as age, marital status, home ownership, estimated income, investable assets and children’s ages should be appended to at least your more profitable customers, if not all of them. There are definitely customers who have the potential to do more business with you – looking at their product behavior alone won’t necessarily tell you that.
Step 2: Connect the Dots
Collecting all this information is useless if you cannot tie it together and back to the individual customer in a timely manner. Make customer service issues your highest priority—It is the primary reason people switch banks. Look at the touch points in step one to ensure that there is a way to transfer any service failures to a system that is readily accessible. Flag those customers so that every employee and system, both online and offline knows to check the most recent customer concerns.
You’ve heard this before: “Break down any internal silos by line of business or channel.” There should be a central repository of what messages have been sent to customers plus all the relevant details. This should integrate with the information you have about your customers so that you have the inbound and outbound communications connected. If a customer was recently turned down for a student loan, don’t remarket to them simply because they visited a related webpage on your site.
Use a household approach to customer information Individual financial decisions normally affect the entire household. If a customer, for example, asks you to stop mailing him offers, think twice before mailing an offer to his spouse who also has an account with you. While your policies might dictate all customers set up their own online banking login, many couples share login information. So, your messages may not be going to or from exactly who you expect. With a household approach, you will at least maintain a consistent message.
Step 3: Recognize Your Customers
In the good old days this was much easier. Most interactions took place in the branch. Now the problem is that there are multiple points of contact, so you may not know that you are even talking to a customer, much less which one. Through programmatic buying, for example, you could be inadvertently talking to customers like prospects. A customer using click-to-chat might not log into your website before doing so.
While there is no perfect solution, there are ways to improve your ability to know your customers. For example, if a customer calls in from a known phone number asking for product info, flag that for potential cross-sell (of course, you would not want to put this in a customer service call log since it might not be the correct person).
When a customer comes to your website, are you recognizing them as such? A data management platform (DMP) can not only help with this, but also in your broader messaging through online display advertising. If a customer searches for your website, do you take them directly to your login page? Are you listening on social media for potential customer concerns and responding accordingly?
Just like any personal communication, you are more likely to build a better relationship when you listen to that person.
Bottom Line: If consumers take the time to give you information, use it.