ING Direct’s Emotional Connection With Customers

I have believed for some time now that financial services firms had to earn customer loyalty by making emotional connections (just like we do with our own personal relationships). In a Forrester report I wrote in September 2004, I said:

To earn the loyalty of customers, banks must do more than offer the best rates and fees — they need to connect emotionally with customers…by demonstrating customer advocacy in service and sales interactions.”

Since then, I’ve encountered many skeptical financial services execs. They don’t believe that a checking account can engender the same kind of emotional involvement that an iPod, a car, or clothing can.

They might be wrong. This morning, I came across this post from Justin, a 24-year old blogger from Asheville, NC:

I can’t believe it! I am so stoked it’s not even funny. It’s finally here!

I have been a loyal ING Direct customer since January 26th, 2005. I have never had a problem and have always enjoyed fair interest rates and great customer service. My local bank, on the other hand, has been nothing but problems. In fact I have been saying for weeks that I was going to have to switch banks because I just kept getting so upset every time I had to go to the local branch to fix this or fix that. Well not anymore! Introducing Electric Orange from ING Direct! A checking account from ING Direct!

I probably just opened (like 15 minutes ago) one of the first ING Direct checking accounts ever and I am thrilled! It comes with free online bill pay, a MasterCard Debit card, $250 overdraft protection (pay interest not fees), direct-deposit capability, and some “electric check” feature where I can send electronic checks to other people’s accounts via email. Weird but it sounds cool.

I have to tell you, over the past couple of months I have looked into quite a few online checking accounts and just never found anything that was convincing enough to uproot my setup here with my local bank. But just the fact that ING Direct is the name behind the checking account was reason enough this time. I’ll be getting my debit card within a week and I am going to be calling my payroll folks at work to setup my direct deposit tomorrow.

Is this just the ranting of a lone lunatic? Does his uncle work at ING Direct? Maybe. But maybe not. Marketers at the big banks have to take notice of this. Granted, the 24-year-old Justins of today don’t need sophisticated financial advice, 529 plans, or mortgages. But they will — and soon. In fact, most of today’s Gen Yers are already thinking about saving for retirement.

Justin’s post says a lot about who’s going to win these customers when they are in the market for more financial products — as well as saying a lot about the future of the branch.

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