Monday, March 8, 2010

It's Time to Require Email Addresses as Part of Account Opening Process

I have been in banking long enough to remember the roadblocks that stood in the way of collecting birth dates from customers before the government required this information as part of the customer account file. New account representatives complained that collecting the information was intrusive and impacted the privacy of the customer even though the information was already collected as part of other financial institution transactions (insurance and investments). Once the government required collection of this insight, the barriers came down overnight and marketers were immediately armed with an important tool in modeling households and targeting messages.

While it is doubtful that the government will ever mandate the collection of email addresses, now is the time to add this to the information your bank requires as part of the new account opening process. While some people won't have an email address to provide, this communication option is beneficial for both the customer and the bank.

With an email address on file, the customer can be informed immediately if there is potential fraud or identity theft on their account. They can also be informed of special offers and can help reduce the environmental impact of postal mail.

From the bank's perspective, the cost of mandatory and promotional communication is reduced immediately, while the ability to react to time sensitive opportunities and threats is enhanced. For instance, there is a western bank that can communicate with up to 60% of their customer base right after financial results are released, answering any questions that may be of concern. They can also immediately respond to competitive opportunities ranging from rate changes to mergers and acquisitions.

I am aware of at least two large financial institutions that are now requiring the collection of email addresses from customers with minimal negative impact. In fact, since communication includes community announcements and financial education opportunities, the opt-out rate on email is minimal.

The ability to collect (and effectively use) customer email addresses is already a competitive differentiator for some progressive institutions. How long will it take for other banks to catch up?

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