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Look before you leap: don’t turn a blind eye to real customer needs

man jumping in the dark sunsetI remember when I learned that tonic water has just as many calories as a soft drink. “What?! It’s water,” I said, feeling cheated. Just like calorie counts on menus and packaging, it’s better for bank and credit union marketers to know what they’re really diving into before ordering up a new initiative.

We recently talked with a banker whose institution has invested significant resources into enhancements of their customer digital and online experience.

Much care was taken to add functionality, enhance the visual aesthetics and support the bank’s brand. This is laudable since many financial institutions lag behind on their digital transformation efforts.

What’s surprising is that the investment was made without analyzing customer needs or wants. What’s also astonishing is that the bank has also never asked its customers their opinion of the “new, improved” digital experience either.

Has the bank neglected the customer satisfaction research because it doesn’t think it matters? Or perhaps the issue goes deeper. They may fear learning something they don’t want to know such as:

  • money was misspent in the first place
  • more work will be required from an overburdened department like IT, Customer Service or Operations
  • more budget will have to be found for research
  • someone will look bad

Marketers: don’t judge or jump to the conclusion that this could never happen at your institution. Situations like this occur more often than you may think.

This digital transformation example is just one instance. Similar scenarios can happen in other areas of the bank, credit union or fintech where a major change was made without adequate research or notice to customers. A few examples we’ve seen are:

  • new product development
  • product sunsetting
  • changes in ATM locations or functionality
  • branch and drive-through processes and hours
  • varying sales promotions in different markets
  • employee recruitment initiatives
  • brands that are allowed to get stale or too similar to a competitor
  • evolving product features and benefits
  • new or increased fees
Customer experience enhancements without research are risky business.

So what’s a marketer to do?

  1. Take a seat at the table of the bank or credit union’s ALCO committee. This is by many accounts the most strategic meeting regularly held at an institution. Marketers who attend, listen, ask guiding questions and make smart recommendations demonstrate forward thinking. Your skillful participation shows the leadership that Marketing brings value and big-picture thinking. You help mitigate risk and build the bottom line.
  2. Set quarterly meetings with heads of other departments in the bank to discuss the overall strategic plan and the marketing plan—and the importance of each person’s role in helping make these plans successful. This is an excellent forum for discussing progress toward initiatives and opportunities to take when ever-changing external factors bring them.
  3. Leave egos at the door and act as a team. Many hands make light work. It shouldn’t matter who gets credit for the great ideas when successes are earned together. Likewise, if an attempt was made—and failed—as a group, you can learn and improve.
  4. Create adequate budget for pre- and post-testing at the beginning of discussions about any important new initiative. A few ways to inform these decisions could be:
    • using web analytics on customer behavior
    • surveys via your app
    • data mining from your MCIF
    • focus groups with frontline employees
    • observing branch traffic
    • a customer panel or advisory committee

Upfront research is faster and cheaper than fixing something after it launches. It is always better to know what you’re getting into. Do the hard work of the homework first, then make sharp decisions. Financial marketers who knowingly stay in the dark are doing so at their own peril.

To read another article about customer financial research, read our post that first appeared in The Financial Brand: Your Bank's Consumer Research May Generate Flawed Data (Here's Why).


For help from a financial marketing agency who brings smart strategies to grow your financial brand and your business, call Martha Bartlett Piland at 785.969.6203 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Photo credit: Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash.

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