Keeping the Spark Alive

By Heather Ren

Let’s be honest—relationships can be tricky.

With constantly changing expectations and a myriad of personal preferences, banks may feel increasing pressure to meet the various needs and wants of their customers.

Recent discussions on ABA’s Bank Marketing Network reflected the importance of making a good first impression as well as planning to maintain long-lasting relationships. Various attempts to connect with customers revealed that often times, small acts make a meaningful difference.

Here are simple ways to connect with your customers now while strategizing the perfect formula for pleasing them over the long-term.

Increase face time.

Sure, everyone might love their latest piece of fancy technology, but Siri can’t compete with the warmth that stems from authentic and organic face-to-face interactions. With the prominence of digital devices in today’s culture, it can be challenging to establish genuine relationships with customers who barely make eye contact at the counter. However, an honest desire to know and serve the needs of your customers will manifest in your approach. Good intentions—and a willingness to go the extra mile to help the customer—speak loudly about the culture and character of your bank, even if not explicitly stated.

Sometimes, the approach calls for a little finesse. According to J.R. Hock, commercial banking officer and marketing coordinator at Grundy Bank in Morris, Ill., having bankers “meet clients in the lobby and ask what they can help them with has not gone well.” She’s quick to add, though, that “it goes over fine when a teller is behind the line, or someone at a new account desk sees them walk in and says hello, asking them if they can help. But having someone physically standing right at the door hasn’t been well received.”

Katherine Jaeger, communications officer at Minnesota-based Americana Community Bank shares that opting for a more subtle yet personal exchange proves successful. “We have a rule that everyone walking in should be greeted, but it’s a less formal ‘hello, customer name’ from the teller line or the banker desks. Customers express pleasure at being greeted by name.”

Make it more than an errand.

Who doesn’t like receiving free gifts? Lynn Viesti Berube, VP at Connecticut-based The Milford Bank, says that her bank will “always have something going on whether it be a contest or a giveaway. People tend to open up right when you offer them free stuff.”

For summertime items, Jeanne Slaughter, marketing manager at Maryland-based Arundel Federal Savings Bank, suggests “beach balls, Frisbees which also work as fans on hot days, sunglasses, koozies and sunscreen.” Year-round items include: “reusable straws, chip clips, first aid kits (very popular), reusable grocery bags, water bottles, keychains and reusable drinking cups.”

Additionally, having a coffee or cookie station may turn a burdensome bank visit into a sweet stop in the day.

Follow up.

Lastly, remember that you can’t buy love. Relationships may require continuous effort, but forming genuine friendships with your customers could save your bank from losing them in the long run. When individuals feel personally known and cared for, it taps into the humanness of staff-customer relations, inevitably creating a deeper attachment to certain financial institutions. Initially, people may be drawn to a particular product. But it’s by receiving helpful and authentic service that individuals develop a deeper sense of loyalty.

Rather than assuming your customers are satisfied, keep in touch with them to show your willingness to hear their thoughts. You might discover their potential concerns, or feel encouraged by their celebratory reactions. Either way, getting to the root of their emotions will not only serve your bank by providing insight on how to improve, but will satisfy your customers desire for proper care.

Mary Coleman, graduate of the ABA Bank Marketing School, said, “We utilize customer experience surveys as part of our onboarding progression. It actually makes the account opening experience much more positive when you can follow up with each customer multiple times throughout the year via phone call, email, mail and feedback surveys.”

Quick methods of attracting customers are fleeting—instead, work towards creating trusted relationships that they will not forget.

Heather Ren is a communications intern with the American Bankers Association. Email: [email protected].