In 2014, TD Bank produced a commercial showing off its new concept ATM, also known as an “Automated Thanking Machine.” In the commercial, the ATM technology understands everything about particular customers and offers the customers “thank you” gifts based on their needs and life situations. While large U.S. banks have improved customer service over the last year, TD Bank’s customer service technology concept is not particularly scalable or cost effective industry wide. That being said, this commercial does highlight an important point. Customer service, whether in-person or digital, can be enhanced by developing empathy with customers.
1) Why Banks Need Customer-Centric Messaging
Joe Sullivan, CEO of MarketInsights, makes it plain, "I'm going to target how you feel…because feelings are facts. F-A-C-T-S. So if you tap into that, that's where people buy.”
Recently, banks have employed a customer segmentation strategy designed to better target product messages to specific demographics. In theory, this strategy makes sense: not all products are right for all customers. But in a world filled with up to 5000 push messages per day, this segmented targeting is missing the mark, leaving customers disconnected. Product-centric communications lack empathy and customer understanding. Instead of targeting customer feelings, product-centric messaging targets a potential product want or need.
Banks must pivot from this failed strategy and focus on empathetic customer connection. Banks, more so than any other organization type, have access to the entire financial background of their customers. They know if a customer is in trouble with a mortgage, struggling with mounting debt, or has undertaken a considerable health expense. Instead of pushing products, messaging must let customers know that they are understood. Once an empathetic connection is made and a relationship formed, a more natural pairing of products and services is possible.
2) Bank Branches as a Customer Service Offering
Increasingly, consumers prefer banking digitally to in-person branch banking or even visiting the ATM. We deposit checks via mobile apps and digitally money between our accounts. We’re happy to skip the time and travel hassle associated with in-person banking – until we experience a problem. Bank phone support is notoriously slow and doesn’t always solve customer issues. Companies like Get Human have tried to close the gap between customer phone support solutions, but still fall short of solutions delivered in face-to-face relationships. Large banks have realized that bank branches are a critical customer touch point and provide a strategic advantage for customer problems that cannot be serviced on the phone.
Just last week, J.P. Morgan CEO Barry Sommers announced that J.P. Morgan will redouble its efforts to open bank branches and retail service location. He said, "While there have been tremendous innovations around mobile banking… the branch remains the center of that relationship we have with our customers."
3) Digital Innovation – Mobile, Online, and ATM
According to J.D. Power, mobile banking has a clear impact on overall customer satisfaction. In the past weeks, we have discussed digital retail banking basics, but going above and beyond in the digital space will help banks retain customers who would otherwise transition to fintech service providers.
Take Bank of America. Their recent launch of a Peer to Peer payment system (with accompanying messaging) offers a tool to compete with PayPal and Venmo, while still allowing customers access to a much larger suite of services within the banking relationship.
In addition to bank services, mobile and online deliver in particular can help address customer issues before they become serious problems. Robust FAQ’s, help videos, financial literacy education content, and product education media can all reduce friction between banks and customers, and can help build brand loyalty.
Providing high quality customer service will always be the key for retaining bank customers. Building a strong branch and digital strategy must all fall back to customer-centric messaging. By understanding customers’ feelings, banks will be able to build empathy and relationships that keep customers coming back.