Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Onboarding Communication - How Much is Too Much

As I discuss multichannel new customer onboarding program development with financial organizations, it doesn't take long before the client asks about how much communication is too much early in a new relationship.

Interestingly, according to our research at Harland Clarke as well as research from J.D. Power, the number of new products sold and the customer satisfaction ratings both increase as the number of contacts increase during the first 90 days. In fact, according to J.D. Power, the average number of accounts sold increases from less than 2.5 to more than 3 if the customer is communicated with 4-7 times or more. In addition, the satisfaction ratings increase by more than 10% if more connections are made with the customer who opened up a new account.

Unfortunately, there are still several institutions who do not have a robust communications sequence with customers who open a new account, which impacts new customer engagement, cross-sell potential, customer satisfaction and even retention. For those banks that effectively reach out multiple times using email, phone, and direct mail, the results are consistently better across the board.

One of the strongest onboarding programs I am aware of is at a regional bank in the west. Their robust onboarding process proactively takes control of the customer experience for the entire first 90 days, stressing engagement and by offering products and services that are best matched to the customer's needs. The process begins at the new account desk, where there is a selling mentality but also an emphasis on collecting key information that will assist in future communication with the customer. Email addresses are collected from as many as 85% of customers opening new accounts, which is significantly above industry averages and which allows the bank the leverage for multi-channel communication throughout the entire customer lifecycle.

An initial email that is delivered in the first two days of the new relationship discussing what the customer can expect from their bank in the upcoming months are to provide key contact information if there is a problem. This is followed by a branch personalized Thank You letter with a series of engagement service offers. Subsequent communication (beyond standard debit card mailings, etc.) include a welcome call on day 15, an engagement reinforcement letter and email on day 30, and a cross-sell direct mail and email communication based on next most likely product modeling on the 60th day of the relationship.

The bank has found that the ability to offer integrated, multi-channel communication is critical in their quest to achieve the best engagement and sales results and to reach the highest levels of customer satisfaction. Delivering early, relevant and persistent communication has help them improve retention by more than 5%, significantly increase engagement levels and improve both cross-selling and balance build efforts compared to their control group. They achieve these results by 'touching' the new account opener 6-8 times during the first 60 days and by using personalized jump pages to enhance the experience.

While the planning and development for this program was definitely more extensive than a single touch welcome program, the return on investment using all metrics validated the effort.

How many contacts does your bank use to onboard new customers? What channels do you use to reach and engage the customer?

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