4 Ways to Keep Customers Loyal

By Hillary Kelbick

Keeping customers happy, loyal and committed is a lot less expensive than replacing them with new ones. So investing wisely in and focusing on continually improving customer experience will have a positive ROI and long-term brand benefits to your bank!

The good news is you don’t necessarily have to allocate big budget dollars. Here are four strategies you can start implementing right away to increase customer loyalty.

1. Take a closer look at your onboarding process—even if you don’t think you need to.

“You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Hard to argue with that, isn’t it?  Which is why the new account opening process is such a cornerstone of most customer experience strategies.

The interesting thing is, there seems to be a major disconnect between customers and banks on how well our industry is doing with onboarding. If you ask bank executives, many will tell you they’re doing pretty well. But according to a recent study by Greenwich Associates, which provides market analytics for the banking industry, only 31% of customers nationwide felt that their representative had completely identified their financial needs at account opening.

So basically, two customers out of three think you can do better!

Most likely, your customers are simply expecting more than you think. The standards of customer experience are now being set by the likes of Apple and Amazon. Customers see how easy it is to work with leading innovators like these, and they expect the same intuitive ease and convenience from all the companies they do business with. What was acceptable five years ago just doesn’t cut it today. The bar is higher.

So take a fresh look at your process from a customer’s point of view. How can you streamline the paperwork and make account opening less tedious, whether online or in person? What cross-sell strategies are you missing? Who follows up with new customers, and how soon? What kind of accountability and metrics are in place to assure proper follow-up within the first 90 days–a critical window for new customers? Remember, banking can be viewed as a zero-sum game, so when you lose a customer, it’s another bank’s gain.

2. Extend the customer experience philosophy throughout your entire organization

When you start to strategize about enhancing your customers’ experience, you naturally target your customer-facing employees and processes. Makes sense, right? They’re the front line, the ones who make the magic happen. But limiting your audience in that way is missing a big opportunity. You’ve got to make this clear to your entire company: When it comes to customer experience management, we’re all in this together.

Don’t just focus on your branch and call center staff. The fact is, your back-office staff have as much to do with improving the customer experience as your tellers and branch staff. But they may not think that way. So it’s your job to convince them and reward them for it.

Include your back-office staff in training sessions whenever it’s appropriate. Make sure they are included in your internal communications and progress reports. Reward outstanding examples of back-office staff going the extra mile on a customer’s behalf. Make them feel included, and you will reap the rewards.

Compliance staff should be part of this effort too. Take it from a marketing agency, there’s no quicker way to improve your business-as-usual communications than a compliance team who finds ways to accommodate a more positive customer experience!

3. Make problem resolution less of a problem.

Fixing customer issues and complaints is another hot-button issue. And it’s an important one. But once again, a deeper dive makes a difference.

It’s all well and good to sensitize your representatives to customer dissatisfactions, and to encourage them to take ownership of problem resolution whenever possible. These are smart first steps. But do you also have a feedback loop in place, so your representatives can communicate back to the area where the problems originated? How good is your bank at making sure these problems don’t happen consistently?

Keep in mind that one solution does not fit all. You may need to tailor your problem resolution strategies for different segments to make sure your response is appropriate for each group.

Remember, the only thing better than fixing a mistake promptly is never making it in the first place. A company-wide approach to customer experience management gives you tools to make that happen.

4. Improve your end of the conversation.

What’s the end result of all this effort? A more personal, one-on-one relationship with your customers, who feel their needs are being heard and met. So when a customer picks up the phone, visits a branch, or starts on online chat, make sure your staff has the tools on hand to respond personally. For example, if you send a letter describing a price change, make sure everyone in the call center and the branch has a copy of the communications along with key talking points about the change. If you’re sending customized messaging that’s adjusted to different customer segments (which earns you a silver star, by the way!) make sure your staff can quickly locate the text of the letter sent to each customer. The last thing you want is for your rep to ask, “What does your letter say, exactly?”

None of these steps are hard, or particularly expensive. But together, they can make a big difference in your customer loyalty and commitment levels—and ultimately, your bank’s earnings. Done properly, well-conceived and executed customer experience management programs always have a positive ROI. It’s one of the smartest, most cost-effective ways to build customer loyalty and open new revenue opportunities.

Hillary Kelbick is president of MKP communications inc., a New York based agency specializing in financial services marketing and merger communications. Email: [email protected].