Build a Program to Re-engage Dead Accounts

By Todd Weiss

Are your customers engaged? It’s a question many in the financial industry are asking themselves lately. More than ever, banks need to reach out to customers to make them feel valued. But the fact is, consumer “unengagement” is growing.

Let’s define what “unengaged” means. It’s the word that describes a customer with active accounts—either checking, savings, or credit card (or any combination of the three)—but for varying reasons, he or she has not made deposits, withdrawals or payments for the past six months.

It’s a growing problem. A recent Forrester study commissioned by Deluxe showed 16 percent of financial consumers among the top 35 financial institutions in the U.S. (by 2017 annual revenue) are unengaged consumers. And with the increasing trend of consumers turning to fintech firms for their financial services, Forrester projects that unengagement will steadily increase to 19 percent of all three types of accounts by 2022.

It sounds a little dire, but there’s good news here, too. Unengaged customers may not be synonymous with dead accounts. Before giving up on these accounts, financial institutions should build a program to bring them back to life, to drive engagement and to create loyalty.

Let’s look at who these consumers are. Forrester found that unengaged financial consumers typically:

  • Are middle aged.About 50 years old, these consumers vary across income and education levels.
  • Have had an established relationship with their financial institution for more than 10 years.While a relationship exists, it has either weakened with time or was weak from the beginning.
  • Are not unengaged because of negative experiences. They’ve got no beef with their banks. This is a clear matter of customers being unattended to by financial institutions.
  • Are key targets for competitors.Better rates from fintech startups and other offers can and will lure these customers away if you don’t give them a reason to stay and engage.

In a way, it’s like any other relationship. If you don’t tend to it, make the person feel valued and appreciated—and even rewarded from time to time—you risk losing them to someone who will.

One powerful way to resurrect those relationships is with an effective engagement program.

Loyalty programs: giving them a reason to engage.

But it’s not just about slapping points on transactions. According to the 2017 COLLOQUY Loyalty Census, Americans aren’t feeling the love for simple points-based programs. These types of programs evoke a feeling of “been there, done that” to such a degree that, while the average household has 29 loyalty memberships, they’re using less than half. And oftentimes they drop out before redeeming anything.

And it’s not because people don’t appreciate free stuff. It’s the loyalty programs themselves. They’re not personalized for the business’s typical consumers. And in this age of big data giving us information about nearly everything, there’s no excuse for that.

Another reason: all too many loyalty programs reward new customers more than existing ones. That’s also a mistake. Banks that, for example, reward new customers for opening accounts risk the “What am I, chopped liver?” factor with their already-loyal customers. And a new customer is not necessarily going to be a loyal customer. That comes with time.

Creating a great engagement program.

A great engagement program comes from a deep understanding of your customers. You need to know what makes them tick and why they make decisions. Here are some things you can do to help figure this out:

  • Start with your customer data, and make sure it’s clean. If you don’t know what that means, head down the hall to IT. This will allow you to speak to your customers where they live and offer rewards that feel like custom solutions. If it looks like you don’t have clue number one about who your customers are, it will erode the very loyalty you’re trying to create.
  • Keep it simple. The more complex your program, the fewer people will engage with it. It can’t seem like a hassle to be rewarded.
  • Digital is key. Make sure customers can upload and track their rewards on their mobile banking app—but they need to be able to engage with it in the branch as well.
  • Engage quickly. Enable people to quickly earn and redeem. By having them redeem sooner, you engage them sooner.


Here are some specific ideas that could make your loyalty program more engaging.

For credit card programs, be sure to construct your rewards program with special offers for existing customers. Examples could include:

  • Extra points for signing up for and receiving paperless statements or email newsletters.
  • Discounts or more points for charging purchases and use of their credit card.

For deposit accounts it looks a little different. The Forrester study found that the primary reasons savings accounts are opened include proximity to a convenient local branch (45 percent) and an existing relationship with the primary financial institution (44 percent). Your primary opportunity is to leverage that relationship and offer better loyalty rewards through a bundled account.

If your bank rewards debit card use for a checking account, that can help motivate additional engagement with the account holder. Help the account holder save more money by offering deep savings on the merchandise and services they use. All these opportunities can drive loyalty and increase the stickiness of these accounts.

Consumers want to be valued for the entire relationship they bring to their financial institution.

The bigger share of wallet you have, the more loyal that customer can become. Re-engage these customers by leveraging their full relationship. Show them the value you give them while letting them know that all their active accounts and engagement behaviors are impacting those rewards. Keep in mind, according to Javelin each inactive account is costing you about $212 per year, so any effort you can make to engage these account holders has an immediate payback.

Todd Weiss is director of product management at Deluxe Financial Services. Download the full Forrester study on re-engaging customers through loyalty programs.