Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bank Marketing Finds Success in Personal Relationships and Valued Customers

Within five miles of my house, there has to be at least two dozen sandwich shops. Yet, one of them stands above all others. It is a Subway® store. There are three others just like it within that five mile radius of my home. But, I always go to the one specific store and have for years.

Is the food any better or different than the others? Not really. I go because I feel valued there. They provide me a great customer experience. The team that works there welcomes every single customer as they come into the store no matter how busy they are. The smile from behind the counter and the “Welcome to Subway” resonate strongly with me and are the best marketing they could have. I even drive past the other restaurants when I am out just to go to this specific location. Funny how such little things can have a big impact on the customer experience.

Many community banks and credit unions also stand out to their customers or members in much the same way. A friendly and warm greeting as they enter the branch, no matter how busy your staff are, is a great start and great free bank marketing. Another great way is to ditch the hard sales or bank marketing pitch and spend the time getting to know your customer and their needs through a sales interview.

One of our customers calls this the ‘Wow!’ factor and aims for it at all of his branches for every interaction. Another simple way to wow your customer is to simply wish them a happy birthday. We know the birthday of nearly all of our customers now due to regulations so we can take advantage of that piece of information to demonstrate to our customers that we know and appreciate them. The results from this simple action produce tremendous good will from your customers and give you that edge over any of your competitors. It works so well, many bank marketing departments of our clients have started to have branches call customers to tell them happy birthday with similar results. Others do the same thing with customer anniversaries for accounts, such as a one-year or five-year anniversary for checking or money market accounts.

Recent media coverage has created an impression that banks are greedy and not concerned about their customers. Imagine receiving a call from your institution that your account was getting ready to enter dormancy and they wanted to remind you again so you could avoid the associated fees and keep that account active. Perhaps it is a call to offer a better mortgage or other loan rate to a customer that has high rates by today’s standards. These personal touches and a positive attitude let customers you know that you have a vested interest in them and value their business and trust in you. This is bank marketing based on creating the customer experience.

These types of customer interactions most often do not lead to an immediate increase in sales. However, they occasionally do, although that is not the end goal. I can point to many of our clients who offer stories of people who had been putting off a new account until a friendly call or interaction reminded them and made them confident that this was the institution with which they wanted to expand their relationship. People appreciate the personal attention and in this world of e-this and i-that, it is increasingly rare and really does make you stand out to your customers.

Institutions are finding success using leading bank CRM (customer relationship management) and bank marketing tools such as Quest's IQLeads, IQProspects, and Teller Referral Assistant. These systems help banks move beyond traditional MCIF capabilities and create a true customer experience by facilitating real-time interactions with customers.

This is the inherent value of these efforts, to improve the image of your institution in the mind of your customers or members which at some point down the line will produce new accounts or even referrals of friends and family. Sounds a lot like the end goal of bank marketing, right? While the larger banks are moving to more impersonal customer service models to improve efficiencies and reduce costs, successful community banks and credit unions know that their own customers and members appreciate the personal attention. You can still offer the convenience of self-service banking and complement it with your personal attention for in-branch transactions and even personal calls to alert customers to activity or even say happy birthday.

Define what you want your customer experience to be and train your staff to deliver on it. This is the new bank marketing in action at the front-line by creating a great customer experience that sets you apart. Set the service standard and be the branch office that people drive out of their way to get to because they feel appreciated. Earn their business and trust with every visit. This is your differentiator—it’s what sets you apart from the cold, impersonal style of the big banks.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sales Interviews Build Community Banking and Credit Union Customer Relationships

Since we were children, we were taught by our parents to be presenters. We presented ourselves in the school play or maybe at a dance recital. If you were a Boy Scout, you presented yourself for a board of review to obtain the next rank. You also presented yourself at your first job interview. As we became bankers and are now in a position to influence sales decisions, our natural tendency is towards presenting or telling our customers about all of our great product features followed by trying to convince a prospect to make a sales decision.

We call this old school sales method “Convince and Close.” We give a short introduction and then jump straight into a presentation about all the great features of our banking products. Next we try to convince the prospect that our product will meet their needs without really knowing exactly what their needs are. Do you see the problem with this approach?

If this sounds like your community bank or credit union’s sales process, let me tell you that there is a better and more successful way that is easier and helps build a true relationship. This method is contrary to everything we have been taught to date. So to use it, you will have to practice and learn to hold back from your past tendencies, or you will quickly slip back to old habits.

With the “Collaboration Interview” sales method, we focus on the prospect interview instead of the product presentation. The spotlight is always on the prospect or customer rather than you and your bank or credit union’s products. This sales method begins with a short introduction. Next, you spend the majority of your time asking questions and listening—no telling, just asking and listening. Remember, you are no longer making a presentation. You need to interview the customer and ask a series of questions to understand exactly why this customer is seeking your assistance. What are they are looking for in a financial services product? Continue to ask the right questions until you understand their situation. During the detailed interview, it is highly likely that you will uncover information about their immediate needs, as well as additional information about their future needs.

You see, asking questions helps you build a relationship, credibility , and directs you to recommend products the prospect really needs. Quickly jumping into the new account opening process before conducting a proper interview does nothing to help you engage your new prospect and build a relationship.

After the interview, you will be in a great position to RECOMMEND a product that will match your customer or prospect’s needs exactly. The product feature presentation is very short. Instead of presenting, you are now simply recommending a solution that fits their needs like a glove. For example, if you have six different checking account options, you are just recommending one or possibly two at most because we know the other accounts are inappropriate or not the best option. You base the recommendation and presentation on what you learned about the customer because you now understand their situation and are able to make an educated recommendation. Completing the sale is now a simple task of gaining concurrence instead of trying to convince them that your product matches their need. Occasionally, you may need to follow up with a customer on your banking product recommendation.

With each new account sale, you have a choice. You can use that same old “Convince and Close” sales method which really makes the prospect uncomfortable because they know you are trying to sell them something. Or, you can try the “Collaboration Interview” method we just discussed, where you interview your prospect and make them feel like you are trying to customize a solution to HELP meet their individual need. It makes them feel that you know them and care about them.

What is great about being in your position is you get to try new things each day. Why not try this collaborative interview method and see how it works for you. Or, contact Quest Analytics today for informaiton on our sales training and coaching programs for community banks and credit unions.