By Marilyn Kennedy MeliaAt its core, marketing’s aim is to attract and retain clients. Even with banking now firmly entrenched in the digital age, that thrust hasn’t changed. It does, however, require new thinking and practices.
That’s why Fidelity Bank, a $1 billion community bank based in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, sought out a new way to integrate its digital and in-person customer experience, to move customers through the sales funnel while serving their banking needs. Says Joann Marsili, Fidelity’s SVP of marketing and sales: “It makes a lot of sense, that as marketing builds digital initiatives that drive online leads, that those leads have a dedicated place for follow-up.”
That dedicated place—the bank’s “customer care center”—was already in existence, but in mid-2019, it moved under the direction of marketing.
Shall marketing inherit the call center?
Clearly, developing a brand message is in marketing’s wheelhouse. But executing the promise of that message? That calls for teamwork.
Because it’s so important for messaging to “align across the board—both internally and externally—marketing and retail must work together to align customer expectations with team member execution,” says Shelly Loftin, ABA SVP of retail banking, lending and payments.
She says that many banks are already initiating a structure to comprehensively view customer experience. “More and more banks are starting to align marketing, retail, digital and customer call centers in one place, whether that be under marketing, retail—or a chief operations officer or administrative officer.”
Still, she adds, “this is a monumental task, and in so many banks, we see the call center left out.”
But like Marsili, Loftin believes the call center is a key player. Without it, she says, “the in-branch or online experience might be strong and consistent, but [customers]get a totally different experience using the call center.”
Having the call center in the loop more easily allows for identification of training or operational issues, “as well as gaps in product development and opportunities ripe for innovation,” Loftin adds.
“I needed a place that I could direct, that I could manage to make sure [online]leads did not just languish in someone’s cue in the branches,” Marsili explains. She considers the care center to be the “digital branch”—meaning the place where clients can still access the human touch, if not the human face.
Marsili hopes to network with other bank marketers who are enhancing the digital customer experience through re-imagined customer care. But, she says, “it has been difficult to find banks that were exactly in the same place in the customer experience journey as we are.”
To gather like-minded bankers for networking, Marsili started a LinkedIn group, Next Generation Customer Care Center. There, she shares Fidelity’s journey as they bank works toward uniting its customer experience, both digitally and in the physical world.
A natural evolution
Before its move to marketing, Fidelity’s Care Center was under retail’s wing, where it was (and still is) housed on a single floor of one Fidelity office. There, its ten bankers handle phone calls, email and chat queries from customers.
Even before moving over to marketing’s purview, the center has long functioned as “a hybrid sales and service center,” says Marsili. “All our bankers are trained to be full-service bankers.” As such, care center staffers handle more than complaints. They help with online account opening and direct customers on who to see when they have questions relating to broader financial issues, like how to consolidate debt.
“We want customer care to be all about client opportunities,” Marsili says.
With its upcoming merger with the $450 million Merchants Bank of Bangor, Fidelity Bank will expand from 13 offices to 21 in the northeastern and eastern Pennsylvania area. Post-merger, the customer care center structure will remain the same, but may add more bankers. In the wake of the merger, some care center bankers will be designated to help former Merchants Bank customers.
It’s all connected to marketing’s core. “What is marketing but creating revenue enhancement opportunities? Too often bankers see this as acquisition, but keeping our eyes on retention,” Marsili says, “is just as important.”
Personality plus effective methods
Fidelity doesn’t require specific customer service or banking experience for its care center hires. “We look for people who like to help people, have a good speaking voice and are not shy about asking questions,” she says.
Amiable staffers are only part of the equation. Care managers train staffers in effective methods to assist a client, no matter the need. “The only thing they can’t do is cash a check,” says Marsili. A primary goal is provide comprehensive help that doesn’t leave clients hanging. “We have begun to measure ‘first call resolution,’” she relates. Benchmarks suggest that 75 percent of customer issues should be resolved by the banker initially contacted—Fidelity now maintains a 77 percent share.
Prompt solutions, of course, can’t be accomplished without customer care bankers who are empowered to do what needs to be done, says Marsili, whether it’s a fee refunded or an account adjusted.
But problem resolution stats alone don’t capture the impressions a banker leaves on customers. Fidelity uses mystery shoppers, Marsili says, “and the series of questions are identical whether it’s a physical or virtual, digital experience.”
A former Fidelity call center manager went beyond concentrating on the performance of the bankers there—he instituted efforts like categorizing the types of calls received, says Marsili.
With that categorization, Fidelity gained insights into what the bank needed to improve. For instance, were many calls simple queries on bank hours? Or did a high number of calls concern problems opening an online account?
Of course, many of these issues involve other functional areas.
Already wearing many hats—with marketing analysis, corporate communications and marketing communications among others—Marsili relies on close collaboration with other Fidelity units in managing the care center.
“Some people think of marketing as an ad in the paper,” she says. “I think of it as revenue enhancements.”
Marilyn Kennedy Melia is a banking and personal finance writer based in Chicago. Email: [email protected].