Thursday, March 1, 2012

Banks Need to Collect More Insights to Communicate Effectively

By Bob Williams, Director of Marketing Technologies at Harland Clarke and author of the blog, The Merchant Stand.
A friend and colleague Jim Marous shared an article from American Banker on Googe+ entitled Banks Underuse Mobile for Communication. The article discusses challenges that financial institutions have with communicating with their customers through mobile devices. While mobile device applications and mobile optimized sites are becoming more common, and expected by account holders, financial institutions are not using the mobile channel for proactive communication. Kael Kelly, senior director at Varolii is quoted in the article “Banks don’t have the data that they need. A lot of the phone number data doesn’t easily distinguish between a mobile number and a land-line.”
So the idea that banks don’t know what data they have made me think about some other data that Jim Marous shared about financial institutions and customer data. Like this tweet about banks not having email addresses for their account holders.
The challenge I see is missing or unintelligible customer profile data. That problem expands beyond the boundary of the financial services industry. It’s really a common need for any type of business. Another challenge is the misuse (or lack of use) of the data that an organization has. Another conversation with Jim last week revealed that he noticed his bank mention that online banking was 'down' using Twitter. While admirable that they used a more modern social media tool for this notification, there probably aren't many people following Twitter the way Jim does. Making matters worse, they didn't use either his email address (which is tied to his online banking account) or SMS (the bank has his cell phone) to make this notification. In other words, the bank had the tools, but didn't use what was at their disposal.
There’s no doubt that many organizations have a good process to manage customer profile data and communication. But for those that don’t, I believe there is a fairly simple solution.
A Simple Multi-Solution for Collecting Profile Data
The first step is to collect accurate information at the time of new account opening. That seems obvious, but for many businesses this may require updating the customer/client profile record to support addresses for current communication mediums. That means distinguishing between phone number types such as home, mobile, work etc. It means a place for an email address as well. If is it a business, you may also want to include a variable field for social media type contact information. At a minimum, require one phone number and one email address. If the customer insists they do not have an email address, then fill the field with an agreed upon standard such as (
I understand there are regulations governing anti-spam communications via email and SMS text. But I don’t think banks or other businesses need to over think/engineer a basic solution to keep accurate profile data.  The email and phone number should be required and make sure the customer knows when they establish the account that you may use this information to contact them with important notices about their account. You can optionally create a permission indicator (opt-in) that is designated for future marketing or non-marketing communications. While these changes may require IT, online banking and branch management support, the customer experience and cost benefits are significant.
A Simple Multi-Channel Solution for Keeping Profile Data Accurate
I suggest sending notifications through multiple channels annually for customers to check and update their profile contact information. Here are some possible touch points:
      1. Pop up in the online account area after login.  Remember, customers are in your system by their own choice. So this is a fair message to display to them regularly. This is also an area where the customer can self-serve any updates they need to make.
      2. Email reminder. Don’t ask the customer to login from the email message or reply to it. That’s a technique used by phishing attacks and creates mistrust. Rather, use the email to notify and request the customer update their profile information the next time they login to their online account or the next time they visit a branch/store location.
      3. Post the reminder message on Facebook/Google+/Twitter and other social sites where customers may follow your brand for the purpose of receiving communication. These social medium platforms are broadcast platforms. You don’t need permission to place messages there and customers that see a message from your account page are there by their own choice.
      4. Leverage the ATM. While some ATMs are equipped with interactive communication options, the ATM can at least be used as a reminder tool. Of maybe use a QR code on the ATM for customers to go to a log-in site for updating.
      5. Put the reminder message in a recording for customers holding for live assistance. It’s a simple reminder that they should keep their profile information up-to-date to help with important account notifications.
      6. Have any branch/store employees verify with customers on a designated week (quarterly or annually) that their information is up-to-date information. This only covers the customers that are serviced in-person for that week, but it’s a great touch point for interaction and shows that your brand is proactive to keep good records. Branch POS material can also emphasize the need for updated information.
      7. Messaging on all statementing and promotional materials. Emphasizing the 'green' aspects of keeping all communication channels up to date makes this a priority all year long.

Since some customers may have fees associated with SMS texting, it’s not advisable to use that channel unless you have established that as part of their profile setup.
The email channel is different in this multi-channel approach because it is a message to an individual area. In fact, email addresses that are not accurate may return as undeliverable. Consider monitoring undeliverable emails and putting these customers on a list for follow-up through other means such as phone or postal mail.  Alternatively, remove email addresses from the profile record if they are not deliverable after three attempts.
What do you think? Should it be difficult to keep accurate profile data and request the customer update/verify it with recurring frequency? Do you have a process or program at your organization that has worked? I would love to know.


  1. These are really great ideas for all businesses to implement. Maintaining customer contact information is truly important. It's data quality should be addressed every day.

  2. How has your organization collected and updated customer information? Do you collect cell numbers and communicate via SMS? Do you know any bank that does?

    1. I saw in Vietnam, all-bank do like thats : get informations ( Cell no. - email - address..) and via SMS & email, some call confirm database.

  3. Thanks for allowing me to post Jim. The first step to enabling better communication is getting the profile record fields up-to-date. I've worked with systems that were created before email was common and certainly before most people had multiple phone numbers.

    Getting the profile to allow extra fields involves database changes and IT work. But if that's blocking anyone from keeping accurate records it should be a priority to fix.

  4. Every single contact with the customer should be used to enhance the information asset of the bank: mandatory info sent via mail, customer coming to branch for simple transactional operations, customer accessing internet or ATM channel. If needed, this should also be managed via dedicated outbound campaigns. Totally agree with Jim.