Category Archives : Blog

Mystery Shopping Banks. How Do You Stack Up?   Recently updated !

MYSTERY SHOP! Ah, two words that strike fear into the heart of customer-facing professionals everywhere. For those unfamiliar, mystery shopping is a tool used externally by market research companies, watchdog organizations, or internally by companies themselves to measure quality of service, or compliance with regulation, or to gather specific information about products and services. Basically, it’s a sneak attack to see what everyone is up to in action, not just on paper.

Recently, a very interesting white paper hit my desk. This white paper, from Econiq, explored the results of their three year- long Mystery Shopping initiative in US banks. Econiq is a Massachusetts based company that helps their clients improve the quality of the conversations they have with their clients. So, it makes total sense that Econiq would super interested in how front line bank personnel engage the folks that walk in their door.

We’re very interested in these conversations as well. As financial marketers, we tend to really focus on the internet. Of course we do, I feel silly just having typed that. What choice do we have? Everything is done online today, and we simply must allocate most of our budget and attention to this area to remain competitive. However, as I read through this paper, it became obvious to me the being so web obsessed has really affected the amount of attention given to branch efforts. Front line employees are not being effectively trained in how to deal with a customer who is a prime candidate for a cross-sell.

The mystery shopper Econiq sent in was the “type of customer you really want to have a good conversation with”. He was a mid-50’s, college educated, technically savvy small business owner who is willing to pay fees for appropriate service and convenience. Jackpot! He dropped sales clues throughout his conversation with the teller about opening a new checking account – he mentioned relocating to the area (Meet our mortgage guy!) and hoping to retire within 5 years (You should talk to our Financial Advisor!), etc. The results are kind of, well, staggering — 86% did not refer him to an associate, 8% suggested speaking to an associate, 4% provided the contact details of the associate and finally, only 2% asked the customer for their details. YIKES!

As someone who works with front line employees frequently, I really need to stand up for them after throwing them under the bus up there. Typically, they are awesome customer service professionals. This seems to me like more of an organizational issue. The study drew the conclusion that “the staff at the front line lack the confidence, support and guidance to have meaningful and valuable conversations. In their defense, front line staff are courteous, friendly and approachable but fall short of having conversations that will provide value both to the Customer and to the bank”.

Sales opportunities are being missed left and right, every day. So how do we solve this apparently country wide issue? Is it plausible that a community bank, say, 10 branches; has the resources to maintain a competitive web presence while also providing their front line staff with the training, support and confidence required to enable profitable interactions?

At this point, you probably see where I’m headed – I am a business woman after all (read: shameless self- promotion to follow). If you’re not familiar with what we do here, I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version.  The Truebridge system is a multi-channel lead generation tool that increases share of wallet through more effective cross-selling by leveraging branch and digital channels.

Front line employees of our clients would have an enormous leg up in this mystery shop. With proper training, our content is the perfect talking point – shifting the front liner from a sales role back to a customer service role. Imagine the dream customer from the study walks in, and they drop the clue about retiring in 5 years. The front liner simply has to jump on their Truebridge Employee Dashboard and quickly print out their customized retirement planning white paper, customized to the bank and personalized to the appropriate bank representative. The dashboard also includes a feature to instantly capture the customer’s information and deliver it to the representative. Easy!

If any of this sounds interesting, I highly recommend taking a look at the white paper. I really only scratched the surface. Likewise, if you are interested in learning more about how Truebridge can help teach your front liners how to be confident and successful in their interactions, feel free to get in touch!


Sarah Smith | Manager of Client Services

TEL | 617.956.5020  EMAIL |

Engagement: The Smart Way to Drive Sales

shutterstock_145835411_smallHow do customers “feel” about your business? The answer to that question could affect your sales. Research shows, taking the customer relationship from remote and transaction-based to personal, warm, and engaged drives profits. Engaged customers do more than purchase (although they do that more, too). They sing the praises of your company, choose your brand above all others, and turn to your company time and again as a valued part of their lives.

Although the decision to spend, save, or invest money and assets might appear rational and cerebral, the truth is that customers don’t make financial choices with their heads alone. Behavioral economics experts say that price, ROI, and lists of features or pros and cons play a surprisingly small role in buying decisions. Rather, customers form a gut opinion about your company every time they interact with it, and make choices based on that emotional response.

Recent Gallup poll results support this view of customer engagement:

  • Fully engaged customers represent a 23% premium over average customers in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth.
  • Fully engaged retail banking customers bring 37% more annual revenue to their primary bank than actively disengaged customers.

Join our half-hour webinar to find out how you can win customers’ hearts and further customer engagement in ways that will grow sales. You’ll learn how to:

  • Engage customers in dialogues that will lead to more sales
  • Leverage existing digital and brand interactions to lower costs
  • Increase customer satisfaction and retention

Reserve your spot today.

TurboTax Fraud, What Bank Marketers Need to Know

Turbotax Fraud blog

Filing taxes has changed since the ’20s.

John has just received a ‘notice of duplicate filing’ from his state’s tax office. A million questions run through his mind (and your customers’ minds) when he gets this letter.

“What happened?

   Did I make a mistake?

      Did someone steal my identity?

         How did that happen?

            Is this going to damage my credit score?

What do I do?”

The tax deadline is a few months away, but states across the country have already halted tax refunds after TurboTax was tied to reports of identity theft. An increase in suspicious filings has led to stricter authentication rules at the tax software company and greater scrutiny of returns from tax officials.

This is what’s been happening:

  • A thief gains access to a John’s personal info.
  • He submits a fraudulent claim early in the year, before John is even thinking about filing.
  • The thief receives a refund check for thousands of dollars.
  • John files a return a few weeks before the deadline.
  • Finally, John receives a notice of duplicate filing.

As the Boston Globe reports, “in just the first six months of last year, 1.6 million taxpayers were affected by identity theft, compared with 271,000 for all of 2010”. The enormous surge in data breaches at places like Anthem, Target and JPMorgan, coupled with services like TurboTax (which makes doing taxes fast and simple) makes committing fraud easier than ever. A single person with a sixth grade education was able to steal $3 million in tax refunds. It took 3 years before the government caught on to her.

It takes an average of 120 days for the IRS to resolve these identity theft cases.

Until recently it took around 312 days.

Bank Marketers Can Help

John’s looking for help and so are your customers. In today’s world it’s no longer a question of ‘if’ personal information gets compromised, but ‘when’. In a single cyberattack, tens of millions of Americans can have their information stolen. Who is going to answer John’s questions?

His bank.

If his bank can answer important identity theft questions and help him prevent or resolve an issue, he’s going to show more loyalty and be more profitable for the bank. Nothing builds a relationship between a customer and an institution like when the customer has a problem and it gets solved properly.

There’s a very good reason for his bank to help him out. A bank can leverage its position as an answer provider to connect customers and salespeople. Customers need a source where they can get answers. Cybersecurity and identity theft help sections on a bank’s website are a valuable tool for a marketing arsenal. This information can lead to sales if it’s delivered as part of a library where customers can learn more about your products and connect with your salespeople.

John doesn’t know what to do. He trusts his bank so his first thought is to jump on their website to see if they can help. He finds exactly the help he needs and gets exposed to other content that’s relevant to him. He knows that when it’s time to get a mortgage he can go to his bank’s website and find answers, all while being a click away from a salesperson.

learn how to start rebuilding the human connection between customers and salespeople in our next workshop

Anthem Data Breach, Tens of Millions Affected

Health insurance giant Anthem Inc. has been hit with a data breach which compromised the names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates and email addresses of an estimated 80 million customers. Additionally, employee data, including income, has been stolen.

This attack comes on the heels of other high profile, massive breaches at Target (40 million affected) and Home Depot (60 million affected), not to mention the recent theft of significant employee and company data at Sony Pictures.

The Anthem data breach was discovered by an internal team at the insurer and not by third party institutions like banks, which are often the first to notice. This would suggest that the breach was caught early enough to prevent serious, long-term damage to affected customers, provided that accounts are monitored closely for suspicious activity.

Anthem will be contacting customers whose information was compromised and providing free identity theft and credit-monitoring services. Those affected are encouraged to keep a close eye on their accounts and to notify their bank immediately if they see anything out of the ordinary.

Anthem’s Data Breach Response

  • Launched site to help customers and explain situation:
  • Social Security numbers, names, street and email address, birth dates stolen
  • Attacker unknown at this point
  • Medical records, e.g. treatment & diagnosis, not compromised
  • Established toll free # for support calls and questions: 1-877-263-7995

As the investigation develops, the cause of the data breach remains unknown, but as Michael Bruemmer, VP at Experian’s Data Breach Resolution group points out, “eight percent of breaches have a root cause in employee negligence or human error[.]” In an overwhelming number of cases, it is an employee who falls for a phishing scam or whose computer becomes infected with malware who starts the chain reaction for an attack like this.

80% of data breaches have a root cause in employee negligence or human error.

Employee and consumer cybersecurity education has never been more important than it is today. Customers turn to their financial institution first when they need help resolving the theft of their information.

There’s a need for financial institutions to be able to provide as much help as possible, not only to alleviate customer fears, but to reduce the bank’s risk if fraud occurs. It can even be done in a way that deepens customer relationships and drives sales. Cybersecurity help and information, as a key part of a content library, can be leveraged as a gateway to customer engagement around your product offerings. Engaged customers are 23% more profitable, according to a Gallup study.

Get started protecting customers while driving leads.

Grab a free seat at the upcoming Cybersecurity Workshop!

524 Million Scam Ads Got Removed by Google Last Year

Fake Vacation Home Scam Ads - Photo by Martin RobsonIt wasn’t Google AdWords’ security software that was out of date. The ads they promoted didn’t contain malware and had every pretense of being legitimate. It would take some digging to find out that the advertisers were running scams.

Google AdWords would serve up an ad that had been vetted for a lack of viruses. Their ads were safe to click on, but as Google Ads Engineering Director Vikaram Gupta explains “last summer our analysis technology flagged a set of accounts as suspicious. To the human eye, the ads looked like ordinary rental property ads that met our policies. After we dug in deeper, we discovered that the system was right to be suspicious – the vacation rentals turned out to be a scam and the rental properties didn’t exist.”

The bad actors who were paying to have these ads promoted would take publicly available photos of property – downloaded from photo sharing sites or lifted from realtors – and advertise them for rent. The deal would be too good to be true.

“A beach house big enough for the whole family? Palms trees, hammocks, a pool, the works. And just look at that price!”

A person would make a deposit, pack up their things, load the family into the car and show up at the address only to find an entirely different-looking house with people already living in it!

Meanwhile, the thieves would disappear with the cash.

Google deleted about 1.4 million scam ads like these per day (ones that hocked everything from cars to fake ebola cures), for a whole year. These scams were all perpetrated without a single line of bad code: no viruses or worms to infect computers. They are simple exercises in social engineering, designed to exploit human error.

Cybersecurity education can help to protect customers at banks and credit unions from these scams. Financial institutions are in the perfect position to provide that education, and they’ve got a good reason to want to. They’re on the hook for replacing credit cards and expensive customer support calls, not to mention the reputation risk of fraud.

Cybersecurity education can even act as a gateway to sales if delivered correctly. It will draw people to their financial institution for the help they need, where they can be exposed to product offerings that are relevant to their specific life events. Customers will be better protected from cyberattacks and the bank can increase its share of wallet.

Grab a free seat at the upcoming Cybersecurity Workshop!

Get started protecting customers while driving leads.

Hiring Hackers Is Easier than You Think

The new economy behind hiring hackersIt’s not just big retailers like Target or Kmart who are being hacked. “Hacker’s List” proves that there’s a market for attacks against individuals. People need a place to go to get answers and guidance when it comes to their cybersecurity. If you can provide that guidance, it can be a gateway to sales.

Espionage has never been easier. Friends, family, business competitors: If you’ve got a few hundred bucks and a lack of ethics, you can start hiring hackers to attack them today!

This, in so many words, is the mantra of Hacker’s List, a new service that allows anyone to request the services of a hacker in exchange for money.

“A man in Sweden says he will pay up to $2,000 to anyone who can break into his landlord’s website. A woman in California says she will pay $500 for someone to hack into her boyfriend’s Facebook and Gmail accounts to see if he is cheating on her.

The business of hacking is no longer just the domain of intelligence agencies, international criminal gangs, shadowy political operatives and disgruntled “hacktivists” taking aim at big targets. Rather, it is an increasingly personal enterprise.”

But, “isn’t hacking illegal?” you might ask. Yes, but the site attempts to legitimize itself by saying – on its Frequently Asked Questions page no less:

“HL is intended for legal and ethical use. If you feel a project violates our terms of service please report the listing immediately. We do our best to moderate projects however we rely on the community to aid in this process.”

A ‘legitimate’ project might include recovering a forgotten password that is otherwise unobtainable or deindexing pictures/posts from search engines. Even a cursory look at the hacking contracts available on the site reveals the story of some very dubious characters. The service’s anonymous nature means that anyone could claim to own the Facebook (et al) account that they want hacked, when they do not actually have ownership. The wise old adage rings true: “On the Internet no one knows you’re a dog.”

Middleman services like Hacker’s List – which connect people and hackers while holding funds in escrow – have been shut down by the government before. It’s the attention and interest that Hacker’s List is garnering that really stands out. Hacking is becoming a more mainstream, more common occurrence and it’s a thriving business to boot. The Hacker’s List website has had multiple crashes due to a flood of recent interest.

How can you keep yourself and your customers safe?

Educate in a way that will help to protect from, prevent or resolve a cyberattack or identity theft.

80% of data breaches have human error as their root cause. The human factor is the biggest security flaw out there and it’s going ‘unpatched’. Hackers know how to exploit it, using confidence tactics that are centuries old.

They might start by sending an email to a target, making it look like it’s from Facebook and asking the target to log in to their account. If their target entered their username and password the job would be done. This doesn’t take the latest virus to accomplish; it even renders firewalls obsolete. The only defense is to know how to recognize the signs of a fake email.

Some hackers eschew this tactic altogether and infect your computer right when you click on a link they send. A popular type of malware nicknamed “Ransomware” has been disseminated this way and can be used to lock you out of your files until a ransom is paid.

The first and best line of defense should work to erase human error as much as possible. And there’s a reason for financial institutions to get involved. If a bank or credit union can provide the guidance that will help to prevent and resolve cyberattacks or identity theft, it can be in place to start a sales conversation around its other products.

Cybersecurity education is universally needed as tens of millions of Americans are affected by data breaches at major retailers and individuals are pilfered for hundreds or thousands of dollars in ransomware attacks. If it is presented as part of a larger “answer center” it can be used introduce customers to products and be leveraged to set up dialogues and sales opportunities.

Want to help your customers avoid getting hacked while setting up sales conversations? Learn how cybersecurity leads to sales in our next workshop!

State of the Union 2015: The Cybersecurity Factor 1

President Obama addresses cybersecurity during 2015 State of the UnionDuring last night’s State of the Union Address, President Obama took a moment to address threats to our cybersecurity, asking Congress to pass legislation that could help prevent and combat cyberattacks on our nation, people and businesses. The president has been emphasizing his cybersecurity plan over the past week, which includes policies on data breach notification, credit score access and consumer privacy rights.

The text of the cybersecurity portion of the State of the Union Address is quoted below.

No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyberthreats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyberattacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.

President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address 2015

The president frames hacking threats as a global issue, not unlike terrorism. Because of the way our world has become connected through the internet, persons in foreign countries can mount attacks from right in front of their computer screens. Recently, evidence has pointed to North Korean hackers as being the culprits behind the massive data leak at Sony Pictures, which exposed social security numbers, healthcare information and embarrassing emails of the company’s employees.

For as vast as these threats might seem, it is important to remember that individuals can do a lot to protect themselves. Our national cybersecurity is not only a technical and legislative matter, but a human matter. 80% of data breaches start with human error. Managing the risk of human error will be just as important as firewalls and anti-virus software in the years to come.

When it comes to communicating with your customers, their security is a big deal. As new laws come into play and new threats emerge, banks and credit unions can engage their customers by helping them stay safe. This can be an especially effective gateway into a sales conversation.

If customers are drawn to your website for educational and informative cybersecurity content that will help prevent and resolve issues, they can then be exposed to information about your product offerings. This approach drives traffic and engagement without blaring ads. It puts the customer’s security needs first as a gateway to product purchases.


Sign up for our latest Cybersecurity Content Marketing Workshop

Ransomware: What Bank Marketers Need to Know

The "Ransomware" of Hector

Depiction of Priam ransoming Hector’s body on an Attic kylix.

In a recent New York Times op ed, Alina Simone tells the story of getting the call that no kid wants to get: Her mom had been hacked and she needed her daughter’s help.

Her mom was targeted with a ransomware virus. This type of malware infects a computer by encrypting files so that they can no longer be accessed. Photos, PDFs, spreadsheets: All made totally inaccessible until a ransom is paid. The specific version of the virus that hit Ms. Simone is known as CryptoWall 2.0.

“CryptoWall 2.0 is the latest immunoresistant strain of a larger body of viruses known as ransomware. The virus is thought to infiltrate your computer when you click on a legitimate-looking attachment or through existing malware lurking on your hard drive, and once unleashed it instantly encrypts all your files, barring access.

[I]t appears to be technologically impossible for anyone to decrypt your files once CryptoWall 2.0 has locked them.”

But it isn’t just unassuming individuals like Ms. Simone’s mom who are being targeted.

“[T]he Sheriff’s Office of Dickson County, Tenn., recently paid a CryptoWall ransom to unlock 72,000 autopsy reports, witness statements, crime scene photographs and other documents.”

“[R]ansomware hackers have tested the market with prices as low as $100 and as high as $800,000, which the city of Detroit refused to pay in order to have its database decrypted[.]”

For both the individuals and professional organizations affected, the best defense is often a good offense. That is, unless files are backed up on separate storage drives or in the cloud, there’s no way to retrieve the locked files without paying the ransom. As such, CryptoWall attacks have proved lucrative for hackers.

“Some experts estimate that CryptoLocker hackers cleared around $30 million in 100 days in 2013. And more than a million PCs worldwide have been hit with the CryptoWall virus.”

One of the easiest ways for hackers to infect a PC is through illegitimate emails that pose as real and recognizable emails. They might download a bank’s logo (as easy as ‘Right-click, Save As’) and contact a customer at that institution with an email designed to look like a credible correspondence. What they’d also include is an attachment that, when clicked on, downloads the CryptoWall virus.

There’s no cure for CryptoWall, but bank marketers can put themselves in place to help deliver a preventative vaccine. It’s as easy as educating customers on what is and is not safe to open. Banks have the authority of their institution behind them and are seen as trustworthy sources. Their frequent contact with customers – especially on digital channels – means that they can deliver this education at a low cost and on a consistent basis.

The right education and knowledge would have prevented the situation in which Ms. Simone found herself. Her mother didn’t know the signs of malware. She didn’t know to be suspicious.

In order to combat these hackers with a strong offense, financial marketers can help to train their customers to recognize threats. As cybercrime becomes a bigger business, financial marketers should work to educate customers regarding what is and is not safe to open. By owning this responsibility, financial institutions establish a safer and more trustworthy digital marketing pipeline. They can better and more confidently communicate with customers across channels.

Learn more about how banks can help keep their customers safe

Shifting Patterns of Content Consumption – How to Drive Sales

content consumptionPatterns of content consumption are shifting.

YouTube attracts more Millennials than any cable network (and they watch billions of hours of content each month). Physical newspapers are declining as people get their info from social feeds and online news aggregators. And even a good old-fashioned paperback can’t beat the convenience offered by e-readers. As the New York Times puts it, our “viewing habits [are] unrecognizable from even five years ago”.

This shift in content consumption is important to financial marketers who want to drive more sales.

Financial marketers face a challenge as content consumption swings digital. They must be developing and executing strategies that connect with a digital-minded audience. Institutions need to do more than just move their transaction-based services online. Marketers have a big opportunity to drive sales if they can engage their customers with something more than transactions.

How can marketers position their brands in this new environment? How can they compete?

Upgrade the Banking Experience

The banking experience must change from what it has been (in-branch & transaction-oriented) to something that meets modern expectations: A change from service to service and content in order to engage customers for sales.

  • Service) Transactions, online account management, bill-pay
  • Content) Information that helps customers save money and avoid mistakes

Financial institutions have already been successful with service. They’re able to capture customers’ attention with online account management. In order to take the next step and start driving sales they need content that can engage customers.

Content can position a brand as a more important part of the customer’s life.

Engaging content should provide the answers to customers’ financial questions in ways that will help them save money and avoid mistakes.

Provide the right answers, just when customers need them, in exactly the way they want.

Important Qualities of Engaging Financial Content

  • Free
  • Easily accessible
  • Searchable
  • Available 24/7
  • Unobtrusive ads
  • Clear calls to action
  • Most importantly: Specific to individuals needs

Engaging content has to be the exact thing a customer is looking for, right when he/she needs it.

Seize Opportunities by Adapting to Content Consumption Trends

Content consumption trends show that customers have come to expect that they can find important answers online. They research products before they buy and are five times more likely to buy when content comes before a direct offer.

Content helps financial institutions to:

1. Remain relevant to customers’ lives

Content provides answers for the events that will occur throughout a customer’s life. Today they might need help with college planning, one day with a mortgage, another with retirement. Throughout customers’ lives an institution can be there with answers.

2. Engage beyond transactions

Customers know to come to your site for answers because they view their financial institution as a resource. With a direct ad the focus is on the transaction. With content the focus is on benefiting the customer, which drives engagement.

3. Create emotional connections

Content answers questions and provides clarity in the haze of complicated financial topics. When you use content to help customers save money and avoid mistakes you build their confidence. Customers feel better about the difficult financial decisions they have to make because of your content.

Relevant engagement around emotional connections will drive lead creation.

Gallup research has shown that an engaged customer is 23% more profitable to a financial institution.

The Key to Selling with Content

The key to selling with content is to transform customers’ research and content consumption into a sale with a delivery platform that’s built around forging connections.

Connect the content to the customer and the customer to the advisor who can help.

Customers need to be able to connect with the exact content that’s relevant to them right when they need it. Accomplished through a content search or checklist profile, customers should be able to easily identify their needs and find the answers to their questions. As they face financial events throughout their lives they should be able to find relevant info.

For this reason, integration across existing marketing channels is an essential part of delivering content. Digital content consumption happens through websites, mobile sites, emails and social media. Present content as educational help first and foremost to drive engagement and traffic across these channels.

Once customers find what they need, your content delivery platform should help them act by immediately connecting them with a salesperson near them. The dialogues that will lead to sales start with content.

It’s simply a matter of extending content consumption into a sales conversation. Leverage customer curiosity to help them take the next step. Make it easy for them to reach out to your salespeople with a link to the specific person who can help.

Content Delivery Platform

  • Relevant content based on life events
  • Promoted across channels to maximize traffic and engagement
  • Leverage curiosity to form connections with exact person who can help

Become the resource your customers go to for answers, not Google or any other third party. Your brand, your answers.

Learn more and fire up your sales with engaging content.

Financial Content Marketing Tips, Series 1

Presenting the first set of our 1,000 content marketing tips!

Click the thumbnails below to see individual tips at higher resolution.


Go in-depth on content marketing and generate more leads. Check out our next 30-minute workshop!