“Financial relationships are spread out more than ever. Some data shows that 50% of consumers use two or more banks.” -J.J. Slygh

Onboarding is a lost art in the financial world. While bank branches used to welcome new customers with open arms and lollipops, today’s new customers encounter faceless digital platforms.

How can you stop doing the bare minimum? 

It’s time to get on board with financial brand onboarding. To provide insight into this essential topic is J.J. Slygh, the principal product marketer at Total Expert and a longtime veteran of financial services innovation.

Today’s Forecast for the Financial World

There’s always plenty of gloom and doom in the financial world, but new statistics show good things to come. Total Expert recently conducted a survey of banks and credit unions that found the following reassuring results:

  • 85% are doing something to advance the customer experience through technology.
  • About 70% are implementing new technology and/or recently secured a new technology partner.

That’s great news! It shows financial brands are finally getting the message that technology goes hand in hand with digital transformation.

However, J.J. still sees plenty of room for improvement. Many financial brands don’t understand how to handle their data consolidation, marketing automation, or the massive cultural changes it takes to accomplish enduring transformations.

In short, they have lots of new information but don’t understand how to use it. During the pandemic, J.J. saw many financial brands finally make forward progress on initiatives they’d been pondering for years simply because they were forced to innovate. 

Now what?

We’ve entered a new phase where financial brands must take a big step back, analyze their processes, and deepen the relationships they’ve worked so hard to build.

Retention Starts With Onboarding

The average financial brand spends between $400 and $700 to acquire a single new account. From there, they have ample opportunity to “deepen share of wallet,” or get the most out of the customer relationship.

Maximizing the relationship starts with onboarding the customer into your brand as comprehensively as possible. J.J. suggests taking a fresh look at your onboarding process to see what’s going right and wrong.

How many of your new customers open new accounts, then disappear? Why is this happening?

Related Content: Ditching Automation for the Human Touch in Finance 

Perhaps they’re drifting away because the online banking experience is so much less interactive than the traditional banking experience. There’s no human connection where two people casually discuss their days and their needs.

New customers rarely feel a twinge of loyalty to your brand. Recently, J.J. saw data showing that 50% of all banking consumers use two or more banks. This means their attention is often divided from the first moment they interact with your brand.

Onboarding presents an opportunity to engage with people early in the process and deepen the bond. To do this effectively, you need to know about their needs, lifestyles, and spending habits.

Don’t Lose Your Account Holders... Reboard Them!

In addition to onboarding, there’s also reboarding. This involves reaching back out to the customer to retain them, onboarding them a second time with a carefully-structured approach designed to meet their needs.

Imagine that a customer hasn’t used their debit card or logged in to their online banking for a while. They’re at risk of leaving forever. This is the perfect time to reboard them and re-engage with them.

For example, you could remind them that logging into their account at least a couple of times a month helps prevent fraud. Send them an easy login link, then ask if they’d like to sign up for fraud alerts. 

In this way, you’re creating value for the customer while keeping them engaged with your brand. It’s a proactive approach based on their needs, which feels natural and helpful.

Avoiding the Crickets

At Total Expert, J.J. helped a successful California bank with about 75,000 account holders. Things looked great for them with one major exception:

Their onboarding was subpar.

After new customers signed up, they heard nothing from the bank for more than two weeks. It was just crickets chirping into the void. Someone opened an account and then…nothing.

The team at Total Expert helped them pinpoint their onboarding problem and take immediate steps to fix it by sending new customer messages. Now they’re more likely to stick around and stay engaged.

Related Content: The WISE Approach to the Financial Customer Experience

Before joining Total Expert, J.J. spent 10 years in the marketing department at a major Minneapolis bank. He understands the challenges of updating an onboarding process. He saw his bank struggle with users not logging in and allowing the relationship to become stale.

The truth is, a campaign to improve your onboarding adds dozens of small tasks to your daily workload. It’s challenging for bank employees who are already overworked. But research consistently shows that better onboarding leads to better customer service and stronger loyalty. It’s worth your time.

Increase the Cadence, Increase the Connection

Improving customer communication is a two-pronged approach. You must increase the cadence of your communication while also increasing the connections you make in every interaction.

To put it another way: Don’t just communicate more often. Communicate more effectively.

Every new message to a customer should be based on a need they’ve expressed. Problem-solve for them and share how you can help.

This turns cross-selling, which is a traditional “push” style of marketing, into a much more “pull” approach. Customers are interested in having more information about their specific needs, so they welcome your "cross-helping."

Nobody wants to be sold to. But they do want help. View cross-helping as a way of helping your customers solve their problems through the services you offer.

The Role of Automation in Onboarding

Automation makes many onboarding tasks easier and faster. Portions of the process, like sending emails and text updates, can be almost entirely turned over to the automation technology as long as you have a qualified human to oversee the process.

However, it’s important not to let the automation captain the ship. The human connection still has the greatest influence in a person’s overall financial journey.

When a customer is struggling with something or needs additional explanation, that’s not the time to send them an automated message. That’s the perfect opportunity to engage them with a person who can provide outreach and input.

Related Content: Delivering a More Human Experience Through Automation 

Make sure your customer service reps are fully empowered to see customers’ histories and understand their needs. Document everything in your customer relationship management platform (CRM) and help your front-line customer service representatives (CSRs) see where your customers are in their journeys. 

Going back to the idea of cross-helping, train your CSRs to proactively provide helpful recommendations based on your brand’s products and services. When customers reach out because they’re frustrated or need something, they instantly hear a helpful solution that resolves their issue.

Another aspect of automation involves prospecting. It’s now possible for your organization to receive alerts when people are working with realtors, putting their houses up for sale, browsing new homes online, and so forth. These are excellent prospects for mortgage offers.

From there, your bank can see if they have instant equity and offer a home equity line of credit (HELOC). You could even suggest a credit card that would help them cover their moving costs and get started with home ownership. 

Customer onboarding and retention are all about offering resources at the right moments. Stay engaged and stay helpful. Remember, you’re not cross-selling. You’re cross-helping!