ease bank customers waiting in line frustration

I was recently in a bank lobby waiting for a teller because my online banking app wasn’t working. Two bankers were doing their best to serve the people in front of them who needed lengthy transactions… while I and another customer waited. And waited.

While this bank’s lobby was neat and clean, there was only one promotional poster to be seen anywhere. There was nothing else in the lobby for us to look at. So of course, we both reached for our phones to pass the time. This was a huge missed opportunity. This bank’s captive audience had nothing to do but look at their phones.

Here’s what they could have done instead.

digital tactics
Digital communications in the form of financial education, product offers or other types of engagement could be readily received by people who are already pulling out their phones. You have several options for delivering this type of messaging:

  • Geofencing ads allows you to deliver specific messages to people at certain locations. Do you know when you typically have logjams in your lobby or drive up? Target your messages accordingly. Entertain, create a contest, start a poll or offer some helpful content. You’ll help the waiting time fly.
  • Offering free wifi in your lobby and drive up gives you first dibs on your customer’s attention. When people connect, show a clickable welcome screen ad or a survey (like many hotels) before they surf off elsewhere. That’s a nice service that comes with an expected—and easy—price to pay.
  • Branded and customized texts could also be a friendly way to greet customers when they walk in the door. Make them simple and friendly. Include a graphic from a service like Open Message so it’s relatable and branded. Give them something helpful to download like an e-book on saving for college or smart ways to negotiate when buying a car.Branded Text Message better for bankersBranded text messages help build relationships with your bank.

environmental tactics
Of course, not everyone will pull out their phones. So you should be ready for those customers, too. Seniors, harried parents and others might be more comfortable if you cater to their needs in a different way.

  • Offer hospitality. A comfortably appointed lounge area with coffee and water would be a welcome amenity—especially appreciated by senior citizens or young parents with little people in tow. Cookies would be a plus.

I heard Kat Cole of Focus Brands speak at the fall 2019 ABA Bank Marketing Conference. She also related a story about waiting for what seemed like forever at a bank. She asked why waiting customers couldn’t be given a beeper similar to the ones restaurants offer to waiting patrons. That would allow them to leave, then return when a CSR is ready for them. Brilliant.

Alternatively—and maybe easier to implement—you could text them when you’re available.

  • Show off your public service. One institution we love puts together hygiene kits for local organizations who serve the homeless and domestic violence victims. At a recent trade show, they asked attendees to get involved by helping assemble these kits. People put together small tote bags with shampoo, soap, combs, etc. and sealed them with a friendly note. It was feel-good all around. Could you set up something similar in your lobbies that brings attention to your local projects?
  • Highlight small business customers. Create revolving displays in your lobby that show off some of your valued small business customers. This could be a win-win way to demonstrate lending, HSAs, treasury management and other services that benefit small business customers while you help promote their businesses.

This is also a terrific social media opportunity. Take photos of the customer posing with the business display. Tag the photos and share. Create a unique hash tag. You’ll extend your reach because the small business—and perhaps your local chamber of commerce—can also share the posts.

“You can see a lot by observing”

Yogi Berra said it. And he was right. Take time to look at what happens when your customers are waiting. Your customers—and your bankers—will be grateful if you can make it interesting and educational. With a little planning, you’ll set the stage for deepening relationships by adding more value and opening more accounts.

What are you waiting for?

  • This article was first published in the American Bankers Association Journal on October 9, 2019.

    For help developing marketing strategies to help your customers have a great experience while they wait—and with every interaction—call Martha Bartlett Piland direct at 785.969.6203. You can also order her newest book, Beyond Sticky on Amazon or anywhere books are sold.