Banks Are Rethinking Their Outreach Strategies

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The past year has been a tough one for banks. In addition to layoffs and the loss of billions of dollars in revenue that was previously collected from debit card swipe fees, banks have faced intense media and regulatory scrutiny. As a result, bank marketers are re-evaluating the ways they interact with and respond to current and potential customers, according to a report from the Chief Marketing Officer Council.

In a survey of 120 bank marketers, 87 percent of respondents said the current financial turmoil is creating an environment that is challenging them to reassure and more effectively communicate with their customers.

Only 19 percent of respondents believe they are doing a good job of leveraging the timeliness and value of digital media in their customer engagement programs. Slightly more than 80 percent expect to increase the adoption and use of new channels of content delivery, community, conversation, and interaction.

"Banks have to understand that they're in the business of education and information," says Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council. "Many small banks especially could make more content accessible…send updates, alerts, and reminders. Digital media offers an opportunity for banks to engage more effectively with customers and the community."

Approximately three out of four respondents said Web sites were the preferred way to deliver brand content. Forty-seven percent of the marketers reported using social media network pages and postings, followed by mobile video segments (41 percent), print magazines (39 percent), and online communities and affinity groups (31 percent).

The report also revealed that banks still largely rely on human interaction to address customer inquiries or concerns. Marketers say account relationship managers (54 percent), call centers (52 percent), and branch office visits (48 percent) are the most common ways for banks to field customer requests or handle queries. At 29 percent and 22 percent, respectively, Web sites and email are growing sources of inquiry and interaction, while mobile messaging is still in the nascent stage, at just 2 percent.

Although banks have been slow to adopt social media as a marketing and communications platform, they should implement a monitoring strategy, according to Rick Wemmers, senior partner at Bank Marketing Pros, a consulting agency.

"Listening to what is being said about you is essential," Wemmers argues. "Even if a bank isn't actively participating in the conversation, it should still sign up for a social media monitoring service to at least stay aware of what is going on online."

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