Banks in general deliver two things. One; they keep our money safe when we have too much of it, and two; they loan us money when we need to purchase something we cannot afford right now. We pay them back with interest, and everyone wins.
For financial services, trust is key to win and retain the customer relationship.
When banks now move from physical branches to online only, they lose some of their trust-building capabilities. No more fancy buildings, modern interiors or friendly, well-dressed advisors offering you a cup of coffee and some chitchat before the money-talk. The human “you-can-trust-me-handshake” between the bank and the client is gone, and replaced with an url or an app on your phone. The exchange of trust is reduced to an algorithm or an onboarding-routine.
Even though the move to digital-only makes economic sense for banks, it also makes them more vulnerable as they lose the human touch that makes people stay. Why will you stay if all you have to do is download another app to get a cheaper, faster or slicker bank? The advisor who knows your entire family does not exist anymore.
Banks must become more human if they want survive the digital shift.
Branding is an increasingly important area in this regard. How does the digital-bank look visually, how well do they communicate in written form and how is all of this perceived? Do we sense a personality shining through the technology? What does it stand for? Is there humor or wit, or just a cold robot? Can I trust this “icon” on my phone? Do I like it?
A clever name or a cute mascot might radiate more emotion and connection than a typical bank-brand.
Will the bank sponsor your local soccer team or the next e-sports hero? How will they align their brand with current culture? The amount of arenas a brand must navigate is getting more and more complex and only a few will truly master it.
Some banks look more like fashion- or sports-brands and rightly so. They understand that choosing a bank has become an emotionally driven decision, and not just a matter of price or family habit.
Transparency is one of the best ways to build and retain connections. Admit when you make mistakes or when the other banks are cheaper. Let them compare, let them see the fine print, or even better — eliminate the fine print-lawyer-speak no one understands. They will like you more because you are on their side. You can be trusted, the others cannot.
There is no room for secrets online, and ethical borders can be crossed easily. Be very very clear on how you process personal data, and please — do it in a way that is best for your client, not the bank. Put the client needs first, and they will trust you back. We expect banks to keep our money safe, yet the so-called “advisors” in banks do not feel like our friends. Their missions is often to sell you all the products you don’t have, and not necessarily because you need them.
A lot can be said about the biggest banks, but listening to their customers is not the first thing that comes to mind. They close branch offices or raise the interest rate the same week they post another 50-million profit. The complaints of their clients are usually ignored or handled as discreetly as possible. In the digital space, the voice of current and potential clients needs to be heard and even facilitated for. Social media is a perfect, transparent arena to show you listen and care about your clients.
If the digital bank can reply in a human and clever way — haters can become your new best friends. Explaining “why” in a positive way can turn potential disagreements to the best ad you ever made. All it took to go viral world-wide was a cleverly worded reply.
Clients expect to be heard and respected, and they expect a response within one hour or so. Tough, but true. The upside is that 71% of consumers who experience positive social customer care are likely to recommend the brand to others, compared with just 19% of customers who do not get a response.
In a way, we expect and agree to be exploited by banks, so why not go the other direction? How would you feel about a bank that gave the clients who stayed longer more and more benefits or maybe lower interest rates or fees? What would a handwritten thank-you note for being a client mean to your relationship? Or a ticket to a concert with your favourite band? The emotional connection would last forever, and you would become an ambassador instantly. Connect on a personal level and see what happens.
The intangible nature of digital makes the few physical items from your bank become even more important. Digital is enabling on-boarding of new clients in minutes and an instant virtual card on your phone, but when you get the actual card in the mail —the user experience must be special. We see banks wrapping the card in elaborate boxes, making cards with digital displays or even creating the card in solid steel. The card itself is the only “proof” or social signage of which bank you align yourself with. The design of the card is really important and most visible ad you ever make, both for your current client and potential others.
One thing “old” banks can use as leverage, is the fact that they have a general sense of trust in the population. They have always been there, and always will. This simple fact can make it a lot easier for people to trust new technology when it is endorsed by a bank they already trust.
People could consider to buy and keep cryptocurrency in their ordinary bank, but not outside. A PDF with a digital stamp from a bank they know is ok, but a block-chain signature seems foreign.
Trust will be banks most profitable currency in the digital future, and human connection the path to get there.