For years the financial services industry has researched over and over again what their customers are looking for. What are the most important attributes to the relationship they have with their customer? What promises would be most likely to attract new customers? The word service is always at the top or near the top of the list. So what did the marketers and ad agencies do? They all claimed to have great service. But that misses the boat. People define service differently.
When I was in Citibank’s credit card marketing group in the late 1980s we realized this. We found that we needed to define service in our marketing communications in order to make it a meaningful benefit. We were astonished to find that the strongest relationships were actually the ones that had previously had a problem. An inaccurate statement suddenly became an opportunity. It was the handling of the problem that built the stronger bond. A problem that was well handled was like glue to the relationship. We learned quickly and soon our TV commercials were demonstrating real people getting their problems solved by Citibank. We had defined service in the consumers mind and clearly put ourselves as the leader in providing that important benefit.
Paul Logan’s American Banker article, “The Golden Rules of Retail Banking Customer Service”, makes this point quite well and supports what happened to me not long ago. I was infuriated by a fee charged to my credit card. I was bound and determined to close my account. After all, I had another card that I used more frequently anyhow. The customer service person could not have been friendlier. She apologized and reversed the charge in short order. I now use that card much more frequently because of that positive experience.
Understanding what kind of service your customers are looking for and providing it can be the key to driving sales. Research tells us that today, people are confused. They are looking for easy to understand answers to the financial issues they face throughout their life. This is especially true around life events when, according to a research study by Forrester, consumers are 43% more likely to buy a financial product. People need financial guidance whether they are getting married, having a baby, buying a house, and on and on. Of the many life events one stands out in particular – the seventy five million baby boomers that will retire over the next seventeen years. They need answers to lots of looming issues.
So what kind of service can you provide that will attract and bond customers to you? It is simple. Give people the financial answers they are looking for just when they need them. You will be in place to provide them with the financial products they will buy well ahead of the competition. Home Depot learned this long ago. If you teach someone how to build a fence, where are they likely to go to buy the necessary materials?
Banks have a big advantage here. They have multiple customer touch points to deliver the information customers want. There are so many opportunities through so many channels. Providing helpful information at the right time is something that goes beyond the branches. It is something that can be delivered with little cost by leveraging existing channels such as your website, email, newsletters, social media, and mobile. Relevant messages delivered through multiple channels in a way that starts dialogues and puts you in place for more sales.