At a recent financial industry conference one of the presenters commented that he’s always surprised when people say that the purpose of a business is to make money. While making a profit is necessary, he encouraged the audience to think about their higher purpose—doctors heal patients, architects design structures, bankers provide financial well-being. His point is that businesses must do a good job communicating their value to customers in order to be successful.
Banks face a big challenge when it comes to this premise because they are constantly on the defensive—addressing the fallout from the financial crisis, consumer backlash regarding fees, the CFPB keeping an ever-watchful eye, to name a few. How do they overcome this enormous hurdle and share their greater purpose of providing financial well-being to their customers? The simple answer is by putting customers first. The execution of that is the critical, yet more complex part.
Years ago, banks gave away free toasters as a way to entice new customers to open an account. Those sign-up freebies have evolved to fit the times ranging from airline miles, to luxury store gift cards or cash bonuses deposited directly into your new account. While that initial reward might get new customers in the door, what happens next will truly define the bank’s value and purpose for its customers. Just as the giveaways have changed over time, so have the manner in which banks provide their services—from branches open 8am-5pm Monday through Friday, to extended hours and weekends, ATMs and online banking.
All of these improvements have attempted to put the customer first and provide value, but it isn’t enough. There are some really creative ways banks are bringing their purpose to light. Perhaps one of the best banking campaigns that showed a focus on building long-term relationships is the TD Bank of Canada Automated Thanking Machine. It revealed the human side of the bank and a clear understanding of what matters to their customers.
Other banks are pairing personal bankers and financial advisors together to provide customers with a more complete banking experience. These teams work with individuals to determine their financial goals and help them select the products and investments best suited to reach those goals. This partnership moves away from the traditional generic cross-sell and looks at consumers’ broader financial picture, not just one part of it.
Banks are also embracing mobile and using this emerging channel to reinvent themselves through mobile-first design. We’ve discussed the advantages of this topic on our blog. This is one more avenue that gives customers the opportunity to be at the center of their financial relationship. Using their own tablets and cell phones they can bank anytime, anywhere.
Banking is one of the most viciously attacked businesses and in turn needs to do a better job communicating their value and purpose. Just this week I received a direct mail offer from a local community bank for my choice of a snow shovel or mug and thermos set as a free gift for opening a checking account. They also offered to buy back unused checks from my current institution for up to $25 toward the purchase of checks at their bank. My first thought was that they are out of touch with the modern world. Does anyone really want a snow shovel? With online bill pay, I don’t really need more checks. How about $25 in cash?
Put the customer at the center, creating purpose will evolve from there.