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3 ways your financial institution can keep new customers and members

Oct 12, 2020

It’s been a year of uncertainty and change. Many are asking, “Will there be a new normal to adapt to?”

But the better question for financial institutions to ask is, “How easy are we for our clients to do business with us?” The financial institutions that saw success throughout the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic did so by identifying and then going after the opportunities that presented themselves. 

For example, if you gained new clients through the PPP loan application process, you now have an opportunity to turn those clients into permanent ones — to build loyalty. You just have to know how. And that comes with knowing where your financial institution excels at ease of doing business, and where it could improve. 

So let’s dive into three ways your financial institution can keep the clients you gained during COVID-19. 

1. Discover what engages your clients and pinpoint what their needs, wants and long-term goals are

It’s easy to say your clients come first, but is it true in practice? In a lot of organizations, if a change is easy to make operationally, it gets done because it’s the path of least resistance. But what leads to long-term success is identifying client needs and then making operational changes to meet those needs. The goal should be to remove friction from your client relationships.

One financial institution that gained a lot of new clients from PPP has continually engaged these new clients afterward. Employees have video chatted clients to get to know them, their business and their personal needs. As a result of this concentrated effort to reach out and build relationships, the financial institution has opened up more accounts, refinanced mortgages and provided other personal services to these new clients. This is a great example of how processes can lead to success.

Then there’s technology. 

Financial institutions that have implemented marketing automation technology have sent clients targeted messages, which are more likely to lead to new business than a mass email sent to the full client list. Technology that can give you a holistic view of a client — what products they use, where they work, what their households look like and how they operate — allows you to understand what products they need but aren’t using. And that allows you to send targeted emails, promote a specific product to them on your mobile banking app, or empower your employees with the information they need to call and have an engaging conversation.

Few things can be as valuable to a financial institution as building comprehensive client profiles that can be accessed and updated by anyone in your organization who could touch those clients and positively improve their experience with you.

Read more: How CRM helps the financial industry

2. Don’t overlook client and employee pain points

Understanding your clients’ needs is critical, but their pain points are equally important. After all, you’re not going to get a great answer to the question, “How easy are we for our clients to do business with us?” if your clients are struggling with certain challenges.

For example, one financial institution was very proud of their mobile banking app and the high level of customer service their employees provided — they were delivering a great blend of high tech and high touch. But then they realized that their credit card application was still a multipage paper document. 

Because this pain point got overlooked, they’ve started to form focus groups that identify hidden pain points and how to solve them. This is a great idea because boots-on-the-ground employees are intimately familiar with pain points in ways executives are not. Employee pain points are often shared by clients because they’re each at one end of a process that could be changed for the better.

With focus groups, we recommend you narrow in on one topic at a time. For example, focus on your mortgage process, and then get your loan officers, analysts, processors, servicers, etc. into a room (or virtual meeting) and ask them to explain the current process and the pain points of that process. Then ask for ideas on how to improve the process. You might be surprised by the ideas your employees give you and how they can be real light-bulb moments.

Make sure not to overlook how technology can help solve the pain points for both clients and employees.

Take loan statuses. If your financial institution frequently gets calls from clients asking about the status of their loan, that’s a pain point for both client and employee. The client is frustrated because they have to call you to check on their loan, and the employee is frustrated because it’s not an effective use of their time.

Some financial institutions use an API to connect to the loan origination system and pull the loan status into their online banking portal, where the client can log in and easily check the loan status themselves. 

Other financial institutions use chat bots to lower the amount of basic customer service calls, leaving employees free to engage with clients who need more help. Chat bots can answer basic questions, and they can even schedule appointments with employees by looking for open availability on their calendars.

At the end of the day, whatever technology you decide to implement must be tailored to your customers — who they are and what their needs and pain points are. Once you determine those needs and challenges, then you can identify the right technology to pursue, as well as what organizational processes must be adapted or implemented to ensure success.

3. Make change management a priority

Technology is just one part of a larger overall strategy. Financial organizations can fail in their technology implementations because they don’t have overarching strategy in place that takes into account the people side of the business.

Any technology implementation or process change requires a behavioral shift, and that makes change management a huge priority. 

The biggest element to change management is simply communication. Before you even begin, get the buy-in you need and get your organization excited. Explain exactly why your organization needs to implement this technology or change these processes, what the benefits are, and how employees will be impacted. The “why” behind everything you do that’s new must be clearly communicated, both early on and throughout the change. Transparency is key.

One of the biggest reasons financial institutions succeeded during the COVID-19 pandemic was because they were nimble enough to face unanticipated change head-on and adapt quickly. Change management is a big element of that ability.

Read more: A step-by-step guide to unanticipated change management

How to keep customers and members now, and in the long-term

Throughout 2020, many financial institutions have done great job triaging immediate demands. They’ve got everyone working from home, addressed cybersecurity concerns and helped their clients navigate an extremely tough time in their lives.

But now, you’ll need to think about both the near-term needs of your clients and the looming mid-term requirement to accelerate the type of experience you’ll need to create in order to become truly client-centric and to continue building the loyalty you’ve developed this year.

Once you’ve identified client needs and pain points and which technology tools can help, your next steps are to figure out how to right-size those technology solutions to fit your needs and budget, and then to create an actionable and strategic plan.

Wipfli can help you pivot to meet both short- and long-term needs, including developing into a true client-centric organization. Learn about our strategic planning services, change management services and technology consulting services. Or continue reading on:

Resiliency: Making the shift from crisis management to future thinking
How to turn the strategic planning process into a way of being
How Salesforce helps the financial industry


Marcie Bomberg-Montoya, OCI, OEI
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Ryan Barrow, CPA
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