Running Scared

Killer-Bunny--monty-python-and-the-holy-grail-590929_1008_566Are you running off your customers?  You may not be doing it on purpose, but it’s happening in just about every industry.  The demand we put on customers to use new technology compounded by the lack of face-to-face/human-to-human service is causing people to look for other ways to conduct their business.

Unfortunately community banks are no different.  In addition to the two previously mentioned issues, banks are also trying to find ways to cover cost by reviewing fee structures.  But community banks should learn a lesson from the mistake Bank of America (BoA) made back in 2011.  BoA dropped the ball a couple of years ago when they tried to apply a debit card fee to customers.  By trying to quietly pass the fee through, it sparked a national outrage that caused BoA to stop the new fee.  To this day, people still remember that mistake and are quick to take any bank to task if they try to sneak in a new fee.

So how can a community bank keep the peace will trying to stay in business?  It boils down to adding value and communication.  Whether you are creating a new product or instituting a new fee structure, you need to make sure it adds value and that everyone is on the same page.

Adding Value

What do you and your team take into account when launching a new product or service?  Do you just look at how it will make your company profitable or do you go outside your company walls to see how it will benefit your customer?  Worse yet, you are giving the bank away by downplaying a product or service and giving it out for free?

Example: Remote Deposit Capture

A few years ago, I had the privilege of diving into the Cash Management side of banking and helped create a Remote Deposit Capture service for a bank.  We put a team together, researched pricing, interviewed vendors, created a marketing strategy and came up with a solid plan.  When the dust settled, I started selling the service to current customers alongside the bank’s commercial lenders.  The hardest people to sale the service to wasn’t the customers, it was a couple of lenders who believed we should give the service away for free.  They were shocked that the service started out at $50 a month and could reach $100 if the customer leased the scanner through the bank.  It wasn’t until the lenders saw how much value customers saw in the service (convenience, saving time, reduced spending), that they were finally comfortable with the pricing.

Communication

Effective communication must be done both internally to staff and externally to customers.

Keep your staff up to date

Before launching a new service or restructuring any process that will affect your customers, start communicating with your staff.  After all, your staff will be the ones who receive the most feedback from your customers, and you want to make sure they are well educated to handle any incoming questions or complaints.

  1. Communicate early: Let your staff know what changes are coming in enough time so they will be prepared.  This also allows for time to make sure your systems are ready for any change and that the change is compliant.
  2. Explain why changes are being made: If you do not tell your staff why changes are being made, then you are leaving it up to them to find out why.  This will result in everyone having a different answer, which leads to confusion and unnecessary stress to both staff and customers.
  3. Distribute tools to help communicate to customers: Provide a list of talking points or provide a list of possible Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) along with a list of answers.

Three simple steps, that when executed efficiently, pay off in dividends.

Keep customers in the communication loop

Sounds easy, right?  Sadly not all banks think about updating communication outlets, nor do they proactively communicate and listen.

  1. Update your website: How often do you update your site?  At the very least, update it whenever a new service has been launched.
  2. Communicate in different ways: Direct mail, email, statements, traditional advertising and online outlets are just options out there to use.
  3. Keep listening: When customers come in to talk about changes, be sure you and your team listens.  You may not like everything you hear, but you will learn ore about your customers and how the changes impacted their experience with your bank.

Change isn’t easy, but it’s needed for survival.  For a business to survive, you need to change without scaring your customers so bad they leave you and run right to your competitor.  In other words don’t let your customers feel like this…

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About Jeremy M. Price
For twelve years, I had the pleasure of working in community banking. Starting in customer service, I worked my way up to a senior level marketing and human resources director. It was great leading teams that improved strategic initiatives including, but not limited to brand awareness, digital communication, employee development and product development. This experience has now led to an exciting role with CRS Data. As the Product Marketing Analyst, I am currently reviewing the company's banker suite product. This product is able to help community banks reach their fullest potential in real estate lending. I am extremely fortunate to share time with my son while enjoying life in East Tennessee. The two of us enjoy the views of the Smokey Mountains, eating good food and having fun. During my free time, I enjoy running races, traveling and listening to great live music.

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