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Retaining account holders is a lot like dating—you reach a certain point, and the relationship either fizzles out or turns into something greater. If you want to keep these valuable relationships alive, here is some advice: stop casually dating them, show some commitment, and as Beyonce would say, "Put a ring on it!"
Not sure how to do that? Here are four steps that will help you take your account holder relationships to the next level.
Things may be different at the time of publication of this article in regard to branch openings and in-person transactions, but consider your account holders’ impression when they were able to visit your locations. Can you say with certainty that your account holders were welcomed into your facilities and made to feel at home by your employees? Does your staff wait to be approached, or do they reach out to each person who enters proactively and in a friendly way? Yes, you are a financial institution, and most of your business is transactional, but every conversation you have with your account holders should include reassuring eye contact and a level of personality—particularly for the phone conversations that are likely taking the place of in-person contact during our current COVID-19 era. To truly see if you're performing at an optimal level, a good measuring stick is if they are referring you to their friends. Try a referral program, and track your results.
2. Open, Honest Communication
All great relationships are built on a foundation of effective, open, and honest communication, and as a financial institution, you have to do all of this AND make sure you are engaging account holders at the right time and through the right channels. This may seem complicated—like it takes a ton of research done by various experts to get all the variables just right. While that is certainly one way of doing it, you can make it easier by simply ASKING your account holders how they would like to be communicated with and then following through with their preferred method.
No one feels good when after a great date, they tell the other person to call them and then end up never hearing from them again. Just the same, your account holders and borrowers don't like it when they opt in for online banking and e-statements, only to get snail mail cluttering their mailbox, or a website that is difficult (or even impossible) to navigate. If you don't have a formal external communication plan, hire a firm today. Content marketing via social media, blogs, newsletters, email, texting, etc. should be second nature to you by now. If content marketing isn't currently a part of your communication marketing and communication strategy, start considering a way to integrate them because those are the channels where your customers are migrating, especially now in the time of COVID-19 when self-service and virtual communication is the preferred—or only—method of interaction.
3. Keep it in the Family
Okay, this may have given you the ‘heebie jeebies’ since so far this post has been compared to romantic relationships, but please, hear me out! We all understand how much difficult it is for an account holder to change financial institutions when they have savings, checking, credit cards, and loans with one institution. In the words of Chandler Bing, “Could it be more inconvenient?!” Consider how much more inconvenient it is if their children’s accounts are also with your financial institution.
How many times a year do you reach out to the next generation? For many institutions, capturing business from Millennials and Gen X is a challenge, but it’s certainly not one that can’t be overcome. You can foster relationships with your account holders’ kids by:
Supporting your local schools, colleges, and technical institutes
There are a variety of ways to do this. You could decorate your branches on game days to show your school spirit, help with fundraisers, offer scholarships, or donate monetary funds that will help improve a playground, cafeteria, gymnasium, etc.
Sponsoring events or hosting workshops that will help kids and young adults understand their finances
This gives your institution great exposure to these current and potential customers since you can have face-to-face interaction—albeit virtual interaction in our current COVID-19-environment. Keep in mind that money and finances are topics that can get boring quickly. Tailor your curriculum or talking points so that what you are teaching or saying is specific and relevant to your target audience.
Volunteering your time and services to things that are in line with what the youth in your town cares about is a great way to show that you are invested in their interests and what is important to them. In fact, according to Inc., 85% of consumers prefer brands and businesses that contribute to charitable causes.
4. Keep the Relationship Fresh and Lively
Like an unexpected bouquet of flowers on a non-holiday or breakfast in bed after a tough week at work, ensure your borrowers' expectations are exceeded by being an attentive, doting partner. Ongoing appreciation sends account holders a clear message and lets them know—without a doubt—that you value them and their business.
Obviously, since we are living in the “COVID era,” simple things like offering coffee and donuts in your branch for in-branch visitors is not really an option right now, but you can take advantage of digital tools to engage your account holders and let them know you value the relationship. Email them ‘thinking of you’ messages or if you have the budget, consider mailing unique gifts for special occasions such as birthdays or the anniversary of their home closing.
To keep your account holders’ business in today’s world, you have to keep pace with changing trends, technological advances, and cultural shifts. Sometimes that requires us to be flexible and willing to evolve with consumer needs and the overall state of the economy.
To determine if you are your account holders’ “total package,” start by asking yourself this: Does “business as usual” look the same as it did five years ago? If the answer is yes, you may have some work to do.
Joan Cleveland, CLU, ChFC, REBC leads SWBC Life Insurance Company as President and CEO. With more than 30 years of experience in the life insurance industry. She holds her Agent licenses for Life, Accident, Health Insurance, and has multiple FINRA securities Licenses. Joan is a frequent industry speaker and media spokesperson. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Bankers Insurance Association, and co-chair for their Government Relations Committee. In addition she is chair of LIMRA’s Strategic Marketing Issues Committee.