Midsize and regional banks often use their community ties as a cornerstone of their brand. Whether it’s through community donations or boots on the ground at community events, demonstrating that they’re more tied to their community than big box banks is how they attract new customers. And there are plenty of people who want that kind of relationship to their community from their FI, especially younger generations like millennials and Gen Z who prefer to do business with companies that give back or make a social impact.
The catch? Resting on their community laurels only gets financial institutions (FI’s) so far. Often community FI’s don’t have the same resources as a big box bank. So when it comes to adding new products, offering better technology or creating a new process, community financials need to look for partners within the marketplace that can help shoulder the load of implementing these new initiatives. Unfortunately, feeling good about the work their FI does in the community doesn’t outweigh the challenges of not having the right products and services for their customers. By seeking ways to elevate their customer experience, community and mid-size financial institutions can remain competitive.
How Mid-size financial institutions remain competitive
So, how do community financial institutions remain competitive with big box banks?
By elevating their customers’ experiences.
When fintechs first began to attract attention, they were positioned as a threat to financial institutions; competitors who were going to steal customers away from the financial institution and make it even harder for them to compete for market share. However, fintechs and financial institutions have strengths that complement each other and can be leveraged to create a better customer experience and competitive advantage–especially for mid-size FI’s.
Fintechs are able to develop faster and test faster than financial institutions and they add opportunities for financial institutions to offer more products and services to their customers. Fintech solutions offer FI’s the opportunity to elevate their customer experience. Instead of relying on internal resources to build, test and maintain solutions for their customers, fintechs can bear that burden on behalf of the bank or credit union, while the financial institutions offer the infrastructure and regulatory know-how to help fintechs reach their target audience. Partnering is a win-win for both parties.
By focusing on elevating the customer experience, banks and credit unions can keep and strengthen existing customer relationships. When customers feel like their FI is looking for ways to elevate and improve their user experience and make life easier, customer loyalty increases.
How do fintechs elevate the financial institution’s experience?
Fintechs also have work to do. It’s not enough to rest on their ability to innovate and develop new products. Fintechs must also be relentless about elevating the customer experience–that of the FI and they do this by being fanatical about learning and understanding the thoughts, opinions and ideas of their financial institution partners.
Elevating the customer experience for financial institutions comes down to five basic ideas that, if adhered to by fintechs, positions them to be an advantageous partner and win in their market.
1. Build something that actually does what you say it’s going to do
I know it sounds obvious to say that you should build something that does what you say it’s going to do, but this happens more often than we want to believe in the financial industry. Solutions are brought to the table and presented as the golden key to unlock untapped potential for the financial institution.
But, as time progresses, the solution falls flat because it takes more resources than the FI’s were led to believe to implement or has additional features that have to be purchased along the way. Eventually, FI’s abandon the product. When the next solution comes along, they’re weary of implementing it and shy away from conversations.
As partners to financial institutions, fintech companies need to ensure that their solutions deliver exactly what’s promised and that all the information is communicated clearly and transparently from the beginning of the relationship. Looking for ways to make the lift easier for the financial institution is one way to elevate their experience. Making sure your solution does what you say it’s going to do in the sales process is one of the most important ways you elevate your customer’s experience.
2. Create community
There are a variety of ways as a fintech that you can keep your pulse on customer satisfaction and ask for insights. Typically, they’re pitched to your marketing team from a company whose sole purpose is to help you gather information and insights, but are often costly initiatives to deploy.
Getting inside the head of your customer is how you make educated decisions about how to best serve them and this insight is critical to successful partnerships. A more realistic approach to gathering this information is to create a community for your customers.
Without overthinking how to get it done, find a place where your customers can gather that’s top of mind to access. Encourage them to come to your community and ask questions to you and other customers, share what’s working well and what isn’t and offer insights. Assign ownership of the community to someone internally who can regularly and genuinely engage with the community so your customers know someone is listening and taking their ideas to heart. Within a community you’ll learn what you do well, what you don’t do well and the why’s behind many of the decisions your customers make. It will become a goldmine of insights that inform your executive team about where to go next.
3. Have regular conversations with the customer
This goes hand in hand with creating a community. It isn’t enough to simply create a group or site where your customers chat amongst themselves. You need to have someone who’s dedicated to having regular conversations with the people in the community.
Responding to comments and posts is one thing. But having someone who takes the time to personally reach out and dive into and seek additional thoughts and ideas from active community members, aka your customers, is a cost-effective way to gather insight about what they’re thinking about and why. Which means you can look for ways to respond and elevate their experience based on highly personalized feedback. It’s also how you make your customers feel listened to and appreciated even though you can’t develop or implement based on one customer.
4. Prioritize new development based on feedback from the customer
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. If you want to elevate the experience of financial institutions, after you ask them for feedback, actually listen to it and determine how you can implement and develop new product features around their ideas. This isn’t to say that your executive team sits around waiting for your customers to tell you what they want, though there will certainly be times they will tell you in no uncertain terms what they need, but you can use them as a sounding board to help prioritize three ideas you’ve kicked around internally, for example. Giving them a voice and demonstrating a willingness to listen to it will create an environment where customer loyalty is high and goodwill abounds.
5. Have someone internally who owns the voice of the customer
Whether it’s marketing or a customer support function, someone in your organization should own the voice of the customer and have a prominent seat at the table so it’s always represented. Prioritizing this position within the organization and honoring it, will maintain your elevated experience. It’s something your customers may never know happens, but will always be reflected in your company culture and customer service.
When fintechs are fanatical about learning from their financial institution customers, they can create an experience that feels customized. It also allows fintechs to better understand the end user, the bank customer they’re also serving, in order to deliver a solution that improves the lives of the financial institution and the FI’s customers. Focusing on elevating customer experience by honoring the voice of the customer helps fintechs and FI’s win big.