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" She got too many - and they weren't the ones she wanted to hear. Do your customers sing the same song? Communicating with clientele is the lifeblood of public relations, the necessary means in marketing bank products. But can it be done better - and at lower costs - by using new technologies? This question is on the minds of many financial institution professionals who call the ABA/BMA Center for Banking Information. They ask about those all-important words that will bring people to their doors, keep them coming back and ultimately, sell their products and services. Brad Iverson, of Bank One Corp., sees the vital link between customer relations and bank communications. In an article in Bank Marketing (January 1997, p. 64), he calls for developing "consumer-based" messages by using the language that customers understand. He looks at several consumer giants (McDonalds, Disney, Nike and Volvo) and makes a very compelling argument for what these companies seem to do well: connect to the emotions of customers. Employees as communicators There is a means of communicating with customers that is very personal, effectively sending a message to them with more than just words. Merrie Spaeth and Rod Downey of Spaeth Communications, tell us in the Illinois Banker (March 1998, pp. 20-23) that employees are ambassadors. Each minute of customer contact offers a new chance to communicate. If employees know what is being advertised and marketed; have opportunities to share their customer success stories; and are offered communication skills training, they will become an essential link between you and your customers. Spaeth and Downey give a number of scenarios, both inside and outside the bank, where employees can communicate the bank's message. One of the most important aspects of the "employee as ambassador" idea, is the unity of the messages the bank is trying to send. Advertising and marketing pieces that show your bank as a caring institution are worth no more than the paper on which they are printed unless customers are treated with care when they come into your bank. The authors use the phrase: "Message alignment." Employees must carry out, in the most personal way, the message that the institution is using in its written communications. They can do this with welcoming smiles, patient listening and courteous explanations. By serving customers with care, what they say about your products and services will be heard. What about lowering costs? As an added benefit, there are few costs involved in training loyal, caring employees to carry the bank message. Using the bank lobby as the place to communicate with customers is another way to keep marketing cost-effective. The most crucial element is the "single unified look." Remove the clutter, stick to the same theme and position displays where customers will be able to focus on them. These are all basic tenets of the theory of communication. In a speech at the Bank Marketing Association's Annual Marketing Forum, Stewart Schacter expanded on the theme of using one's own retail space for customer communication. Patrick Dalton writes about Mr.
newsletters and other customer communications be sent out to expensive printing companies and mail houses? Mutual Savings & Loan Association. predicts this rapid-fire growth to continue. the more likely it is to be read. But every day there are newer channels of communication gaining in popularity that are worth investigating. At East Texas National Bank. p. employees' efforts are seen as key elements. Not surprisingly. S. Back to cost-savings. 1998. with a healthy costsaving as a result. p. Texas.that's over half the population. 1998. If there is a longer message. Bringing other marketing tools in-house can also enhance cost-efficiency. 130 million people in the U. has been using desktop publishing technology to perform many communication tasks in-house.the use of all capital letters . Email is flourishing Thus far. 43-47). pp. 5). But which ones? How to make email a more effective method of communication is the topic of a column in Independent Banker (October 1998.is poor etiquette. It has been said that by the year 2001. Must mailings. Mark Maden. A descriptive subject helps the reader prioritize. pp. How the S&L does this is the topic of an article in Cost Controller for Financial Institutions (March. As informal as email may seem.or at least some of them. will using email . it is still a professional communication and the rules of business correspondence still apply. Forrester Research. However. of the bank's marketing department gives how-to tips and a sample "get connected" card in Cost Control Strategies (September. Their study is summarized in a special Bank Technology News report (October 1997. There are no magic tricks to make people read your e-mail communications. Now that postal rates have increased. Inc. italics and asterisks are all positive ways to add emphasis. Mary Smolenski gives some rules of etiquette that can make your communications via email the ones that get read. Brevity is key. 6869). send it as an attachment. We've all heard that shouting . Clarity and professionalism are the watchwords of a well-crafted email message.S. The popularity of email is growing by leaps and bounds.5). The subject line is the "make-or-break" information that determines whether the next click is the delete button or read button.Schacter's concept of "bank merchandising" in Bankers News (October 6. 1997. .. more and more customers are giving their email addresses to the bank and receiving various communications via that delivery channel.C. Using short paragraphs and holding the line at one to two screens will keep the reader's attention. Here again. the rules of good customer communication that have always been important for paper-based materials are equally true for electronic mail. people do read these communications . 3). Although one often hears people complain about how many email messages are waiting for them each morning. p. in Hartsville. we have focused on some old-fashioned ideas: the use of employees and the bank's own in-house displays for low-budget advertising. using bold. The more specific the information. Marshall. there is a greater attraction to email.
This study is discussed in the Bank Technology News report referenced above. One vendor describes its model as "a two-way conversation between the bank and customer. 1997. and ask for extension 5042. How these are handled has become a customer communications problem. or not. are growing. The current challenge of many financial institution software vendors is designing programs that will route emails to CSRs and bring together e-mail and calling campaigns in an intelligent union.email and call centers .the honest relationship. there is always the core of customer communication . we are ready to assist with critical information for banking business solutions. Getting the best of the best is very important. Call centers. Jackie Cohen.G. just call the BMA Hotline: (800) 433-9013. reminds us to "balance the communication. in Marketing for Credit Unions (March 21.is not a surprising marriage. 1). For more information on this subject. The coming together of the two media . At the beginning of this column. The Forrester study includes the grim news that email has a long way to go as an interactive medium. However.Since the other popular medium for customer communications is the telephone. It brings out the important question of who answers incoming messages and asks if customers are getting the care and information they need.with great potential. then customer communications will be about customers. we started with the notion that personalized customer communication was essential and that customer care is at the root of all successful communications. call centers are predicted to take care of 16 percent of all bank transactions in the year 2000. such as case studies of what has been successful. according to the study's author. at other institutions. pp. Call centers receive a large number of emails every day. If customers are thought of as partners. To be connected." Honesty and customer care Whether one uses people or automatic response email. Edmonson. At the Center for Banking Information. contact the ABA/BMA Center for Banking Information. but heard and understood. . R. According to a Mentis Corporation study. CBI specializes in researching the literature and pulling together targeted information geared to the specific needs of members. the link between email and call center transactions is a natural one ." The bad news of rising fees can be offset with the good news of the benefits offered by the bank. words. That's up from 10 percent in 1995. we can embrace new technologies as a way to get those "words. Most of our customers are looking for practical solutions. and others related to the marketing and management of financial services industries. words" not only read. Is it possible that the latest technologies will help develop an old-fashioned sense of customer community? Is it possible that there might be some cost-savings? We can never do without people or forget that employees are ambassadors. like email. Vendors are unveiling tools that integrate these two media.
Are You Coming at Customers From all Angles? A new level of marketing sophistication is required today to get attention. The ad in one newspaper is aimed at one audience. or it may be the message someone decided the customer wants to hear. Everyone knows what that means.1. Are You Staying on Track? Most marketing programs don't fail because of inadequate planning. These examples demonstrate the value of focusing on the customer with the highest level of informed intensity. the emphasis is on vehicles designed for specific customer segments. both are declared failures." What may seem obvious. What's the Message to the Marketplace? When the president of a profitable community bank was asked about his message to the marketplace. altered or aborted. They fail because the plan isn't given a chance to work. isn't necessarily so. sending an inappropriate message is often damaging. Seiko produces more than 3. Most businesses send a message to their markets. the same card may come in many versions. All marketing programs must be multifaceted to succeed. Quickly.not necessarily the message the customer wants to hear. while an ad in another newspaper on the same day must be totally different to attract a different audience. and everyone surges ahead looking for the next great idea. Two weeks later. someone picks up a direct mail idea from a competitor and everyone rushes to get it printed and out the door.000 different watches. There is little so-called "Pontiac" or "Toyota" advertising. while M&Ms packages can vary by region. 3. But it's not their message . Instead. 4. time of year and trial product status. Unless the message connects with the customer. The vice president of sales attends a seminar and immediately kicks off a new campaign. the intensity with which it is sent is meaningless. although that can be a problem. American . Closely related to rushing results is the tendency to jump from one approach to the next. "What message? We're a bank. It is either stopped. keep it and shape customer perception. Credit card companies design and market cards to specific segments of the market. "Message?" he asked. he was confused. In fact. Is the Message Focused on Each Customer? All marketing must be micromarketing. The need is for effective implementation. 2. A lack of continuity results in disaster.
The company maintained its intensity even after Motor Trend and J. strategies. Are You Always Looking to Renew Your Marketplace Franchise? While Chrysler's minivan marketing strategy is an example of retaining dominance. This is a task that requires commitment and resistance to those who would derail the effort. makes a different statement. great products and determination are all essential. Levi Strauss markets Dockers using this technique and expands it to include news stories on how casual dress is becoming increasingly acceptable in business. Increasing sales is no longer an issue of expanding the sales forces. It isn't necessary to go out and actually sell the vintage-looking two-seater. In a brilliant marketing move. Power and Associates named it the number one minivan manufacturer. The Prowler. this specialty car sends a powerful message: Chrysler is a company that knows what's going on inside a customer's head. adding new. Penetrating a market is much more difficult than most companies imagine. 6. The Japanese don't seem to make this error.Express bombards its customers with direct mail. The Oldsmobile Aurora is an example of an excellent product whose manufacturer failed to market it consistently. perhaps because their goal is to improve than merely to change. Perhaps this is because tradition plays such an important role in the life of that nation. Chrysler has never stopped its marketing efforts for its minivans." but of having it there when the customer becomes ready to buy. print ads in travel and high-end retailing publications and television to describe ways to use Amex cards. While ideas. Chrysler is sending the right message to the right customers. its new vehicle. Only a few thousand are being built. Is the Program Continuous? Japanese business leaders seem to understand the value of continuity much better than American business leaders. Western companies often confuse strategy for fact. "hot" products. Sales growth is the direct result of developing a marketing intensity that propels the selling process. On the other hand. . Justifying the purchase drives sales. It isn't just a matter of "getting the message through to the customer. 5. Aimed at affluent Baby Boomers who remember the roadster from the 1950s and 1960s. or even cutting prices. a company is left behind if it lacks intensity based on knowledge. Informed intensity can drive marketing efforts to the top and keep them there.D.
in 1990. it compares the service quality of different banks. Now. we believe ours at BP America is unique in at least three ways. The process would allow us to identify more readily those banks that were meeting our expectations for the delivery of cash management services and to communicate with the banks how well we felt they met our needs. And. two years later. third. Have you ever been involved in completing bank quality surveys or participated in banks' phone call market surveys? Have you felt that your company was not directly benefitting from these exercises? Have banks ever tried to sell you a new and improved service without really understanding what your needs are? Our treasury team at BP has experienced all of this. Banks that consistently perform below expected levels are weeded out. The process has also made us more aware of who are the quality service providers. So. and those that consistently perform well are awarded business from displaced banks. it recognizes people on bank staffs when they give superior service. We weren't getting our message across.A unique bank evaluation program established by BP America has improved the cash management service banks provide and made treasury life easier. While many companies have similar programs. Second. . First. it conveys to the bank exactly what is important at our company. service levels have improved. we decided to design and develop our own evaluation techniques to measure both the banks' performance and our service expectations. but we felt that such methods of communicating with banks were not effective.
For a wire service group that deserved recognition. BENEFITS OF EVALUATION The heart of the process is improved communications. And. we always ask the bank to critique the evaluation process itself. We cite individuals or groups that perform well. We rely on phone conversations and face-to-face meetings to avoid surprises during the formal evaluations. This encourages realistic service expectations and helps to improve both bank and company performance. At the discussion. Finally. we confirm that there will be ongoing feedback between both parties. Once a client identifies a problem. Both parties become fully open about what is going on in their organization. Some banks wanted to go over the evaluation line by line. but we get a lot of value out of these evaluations for the manpower that we put into them. of course. that's history. The process also helps us to compare service providers. This helps keep bank employees motivated to provide us with the best service. Finally. it doesn't want to wait until the following year to find out. bank executives might say: We have this service. costs are a big factor these days. If either party is doing something wrong in January. We tell the bank where its services are weak and when services are working well.THE DISCUSSION We had 12 banks come in this year. we review pending changes in BP operations. These discussions encourage frank communications. we just hadn't known about it. How could you rate us low on it? And we find out that it was the service from their education or marketing people that was poor. . the bank does not want to see that problem raised in the second evaluation. Should we decide to offer a new service. such as acquisitions or divestitures. Or whether we are consolidating activities and need new services. How can we help you next year? The right approach is the one the bank feels comfortable with. we showed up in person with small gifts. We find evaluations to be very helpful in improving our efficiency. and each one took a different approach. We gave out plaques this year for the best lockbox and the best control disbursement banks. we can see which banks perform well in the particular area to be affected. Our ratings may be on the subjective side. How can we make the relationship better? Do we need to give better account instructions? Are we properly authorizing transactions? Do we give enough lead time? We also want to know if the bank staff and our staff work well together. Others said: Okay. For example. We also ask what we are doing wrong.
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