"Where we're headed is a convenience era and people need things to work. They need to be connected and they're willing to sacrifice their data and some of their privacy to make it happen in a personalized way.” -Chase Neinken

Would you believe that more than 2 million people go online every day looking for financial calculators. It’s true! These are some of the handiest tools on the internet, but too many financial brands treat them as an afterthought.

That's why Chase Neinken, and Matthew Covi co-founded and Chimney.

They have an innovative take on financial calculators.

The Connected Calculator

At Chimney, Chase and Matthew have introduced a new concept called the connected calculator. It’s a revolutionary way of viewing financial calculators, which have traditionally been tucked into unseen places like website resource pages.

Even in the modern era, companies tend to bury calculation tools and leave them rarely used and barely promoted. This fails to honor the simple calculator as the customer-focused tool it’s supposed to be.

How can companies use calculators to extend the customer journey? This question is at the heart of what Chase and Matthew do. They find new implementations for financial tools that can significantly improve their customers’ lives.

For example, every time a mortgage company shares a mortgage article, they can offer a built-in mortgage calculator that gets people excited about buying a home. Instead of being buried on a rarely-visited page, the mortgage calculator is now front-and-center and part of the entire customer journey.

That’s what makes it a connected calculator, and it’s a form of conversational marketing. It links the human experience with the digital experience - which is exceptionally important in the pandemic era when in-person interactions aren’t always possible.

Answering a Critical Calculator Question: Why?

Banks and financial brands should re-evaluate their calculation tools by going back to why they ever offered them in the first place: to help people. When a calculator is nothing but a forgotten utility in some random corner of a web page, it’s simply not helpful.

Calculators are becoming part of an old internet landscape where content could just sit there, stale and untouched. Why are we allowing this to happen? On the most basic level, it’s poor customer service.

Compare this to entering a bank lobby and speaking to a bank officer. They greet you by name, ask you about your needs, and offer a range of helpful advice.

Why can’t the online calculator do the same thing? 

Online calculators can be infused with plenty of new tech and information. Maybe you could add a chatbot. Maybe it could offer links to helpful blog posts. Maybe the customer could be instantly connected to a loan officer. It’s all an opportunity to provide a new and interactive experience at scale, and it all arises from the humble calculator.

Why Calculators Deserve Our Attention

Companies like Amazon and Netflix have revolutionized the buying landscape. They’ve reinforced the idea among consumers that there’s an almost endless variety of options on demand at all times.

Banks and credit unions are no longer just competing with other banks and credit unions. Customers are looking at all kinds of financial brands and moment by moment, they’re evaluating whether you’re worth their time, attention, and money.

Plus, customers are willing to part with some of their personal data to get helpful tools that make their lives easier. This is a convenience era, and most people accept that the price of convenience is providing valuable information about themselves. It’s worth it when it comes with personalization.

Barriers That Come With Calculators

Providing a fresh and more innovative calculator isn’t easy. These tools are notoriously difficult to develop because they make sophisticated calculations using industry assumptions, market data, and information that the customer types in. Plus, they need proper language and branding, and a UI or UX person should be involved in making sure the calculator works correctly.

Another barrier comes in the form of marketing. If you have a new calculator, you have to support it by spreading the word and keeping its seat at the table within your company. Run a campaign highlighting it. Think about how it matters in the customer journey.

Don’t forget to capture data. Is your calculator’s data connected to your CRM? Does it support better decision-making? Are you personalizing it, then continuing to personalize the website for the customer based on using the calculator? All of these things are possible.

One example is SmartAsset. This is a brand built around calculators that uses them to get people in the door and build great experiences. All along the way, they’re capturing data about their customers. This data is used to build profiles and further customize the experience, which in turn brings more customer interest and more data.

Keep in mind that another barrier on the horizon, in terms of data acquisition, is the coming “cookie apocalypse.” Third-party cookies are increasingly being banned, which transforms the digital data-gathering landscape. Along with this trend is the explosive increase in the use of ad blockers, almost to the point where some people are seeing few to no ads.

Benefits of a New Generation of Calculators

Calculators offer a way to overcome many of the barriers listed above. These are enormous benefits in an increasingly chaotic online world, so it pays to take notice.

For one thing, calculators don’t seem like traditional advertising, so they don’t get all caught up in ad blockers. Also, the customer welcomes them and actively seeks them out. That’s a major benefit in terms of customer acquisition.

Good calculators feel like helpful, high-quality content. They can be customized to suit your business and brand, and they don’t have to be static. Well-designed calculators can change and adapt to the customer.

In terms of SEO and content creation, this is a huge opportunity to drive fresh traffic to your site and convert people into active customers. What a win for content marketing! We can use a calculator to lean into the customer journey and connect on the specific topics that resonate with them.

There’s also another benefit that’s much more simple, but just as important. Calculators offer an opportunity to greet the customer and “meet them where they are.” Banks and stores have always placed a high value on this aspect of customer service.

Think about a store like Old Navy. When you walk into the store, they say hello and ask if you need help looking for something. Then they walk you around the store showing you things that fulfill your needs. It’s a simple concept, but it’s proven to dramatically increase sales.

The modern version of an online calculator is capable of doing the same thing. It says hello, asks how it can help you, and shows you content that matches your needs: a video about getting a mortgage, a special offer on new accounts, or a savings plan that helps you save $100 a month.

The Million-Dollar Question About Your Calculator

How much is a bad calculator costing you? Start with the fact that about 2 million people per day use online calculators according to the experts at Chimney. If they’re not using your calculator, that’s 2 million lost opportunities.

Then add the cost of losing your most qualified prospects. Qualified prospects are the lifeblood of the banking and financial industries. At a bank, you’re not just seeking anyone; you need people who are financially stable enough to use your products. A bad calculator means you’re not connecting with all the qualified prospects a good calculator could deliver.

Now let’s look at the flip side. Well-designed calculators can add more than 100 applications per month for mortgage customers, for example, with only basic updates to the tool’s functionality. What if you told your boss you added 100 applications a month for mortgage customers any other way? That would be terrific!

The increase could bring $3,000 to $5,000. It could lead to $500,000 worth of net interest income when multiplied out to include 12 or more months. Keep going, and you can see how the math adds up. This is a million-dollar issue.

At Chimney, Chase and Matthew know these kinds of numbers are accurate because they’ve conducted digital secret shopping studies that prove it. They do micro-updates and optimizations on a client’s calculator tool, then see how the newly-designed calculator shows improvements in terms of things like revenue generation.

Finally, let’s not forget the immense value of the data that’s being collected during the use of a calculator with improved options, features, and personalization. The additional information each customer is now sharing can become the basis of lucrative future deals that keep those folks as your company’s customers for years to come.