How to Drive Away Future Customers

Several years ago, I was facilitating a strategic planning session for a Midwest financial institution.  Part of the session was dedicated to how the bank would innovate specifically to attract younger customers. As a part of the effort prior to the planning session, a group of frontline staff had taken the time to perform a customer journey to identify the process of opening an account at the bank. (BTW, if you have never performed a customer journey, I highly recommend you doing so. You will never understand how convoluted we make our services until you walk through each step of the process and view it from the customer/prospect perspective). The group had meticulously documented each and every step of the new account opening process and then identified areas where the process could be streamlined. As such, they were able to show how a typical new account opening session could be reduced from an average of 25 minutes to 15minutes. They were understandably proud of the work they accomplished.

Later during an open brainstorming session, it was discussed that the bank had a mobile online account opening (OAO) app and it only took about 5 minutes.  When I overheard that, I asked, “Why don’t you open all accounts in the branch on a mobile phone, it would save 10 minutes each time?” They all looked at me like I had grown an extra head!  In their minds, the branch has certain tools for tasks like opening a new account and the idea of ditching all of that and just using digital tools was crazy.  But is it really?  Why can‘t we get out of the habit of not using “out of the branch tools” available to us when conducting business in the branch?

This all came to mind as I was reading a recent The Financial Brand article on Why Banks Need to Fix the Poor Digital Onboarding Experience.  And I believe 100% that most community banks have a less than desirable digital onboarding experience for two reasons. 1) We don’t use the tools we ask our customers to use and 2) We do not value the virtual branch and its effectiveness in driving a great Customer Experience (CX), so we do not invest the money needed to make it great. If you agree with me that it is critical that we attract young millennials and gen z’s to bank with us, and if you will also agree that this demographic is not tech adopters but tech critics, then it is imperative to get the digital experience right.  Considering that the opening of a new account online is likely the first experience that a new customer may have with your institution, then it is a mission-critical task to get that experience right. Failure to thrill and delight right from the start will almost certainly guarantee abandonment of the OAO session and a prospect who will never return to try another day.

Here are some key points I have been advocating for years that the FB article highlights. You can read the article here – FB Onboarding Experience:

  • Young Millennials and Gen Zs have an expectation about what an online boarding experience should be. If your OAO experience doesn’t measure up to that expectation, they will likely abandon the onboarding process
  • Abandonment rates are notoriously high, nearing 70% in some studies. Meaning that 7 out of 10 people who start the process will give up before completing it. If you are not tracking abandonment rates, you need to start doing so immediately.
  • The process takes too long, especially if the person is already a customer. It is crazy that we are asking existing customers to enter information that we already have in our database.
  • Many OAO experiences do not disclose upfront what is needed to complete the experience. This leads to people having to pause the process to get some necessary documentation or info and that leads to abandoned sessions.
  • Completion rates for new accounts opened in the branch are much higher. Of course, there is a bank employee that is proctoring the process. But with fewer people coming into branches, that advantage is muted.  Why not have an online proctor that can be summoned to assist online in the same way as an in-branch experience?
  • Many FIs still do not have full end to end OAO. You can start the process online but then must come into a physical location to show ID and provide a wet signature. Really? That is not going to get abandonment rates down and there is no regulatory requirement for this process. Don’t let anyone from audit and compliance convince you otherwise.  And please, allow an electronic transfer to fund the account.

Another sage piece of advice from the article is to stop comparing your digital services to other FIs and start comparing them to how Neobanks and other entities perform OAO.  You are trying to get new accounts from individuals that have had a phone in their hands since they were 2 years old.  They are not going to adapt to anything they feel does not align with their expectations for a digital experience. And at the end of the day, they have a lot of online choices and don’t need to slog through an antiquated experience to open an account with you.

Want to really know if your online experience meets expectations?  Have your 15-year-old daughter or granddaughter open an account with your OAO tool.  Record her as she is doing it and then interview her on the process she just experienced.  Go back and listen to the whole recording and really study the key points of disappointment or failure you see and hear.  Then figure out if your OAO can be “fixed” to meet her expectations. If not, then ditch it and get one that can.  It’s that important to the future of your capturing this critical batch of future customers.