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Vivian Wagner
Vivian Wagner
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People-Friendly Web Site Propels People's Bank

People's Bank has a Web site of the people, by the people, and for the people.

People's Bank has a Web site of the people, by the people, and for the people. At least, that seems to be the secret to the site's success, measuredmost recently in a Speer & Associates study that ranked the bank's Web site ( fifth out of 172 financial services sites in the United States, Canada and Latin America.

"We don't design for early adopters," said Mike Leone, executive vice president of e-business at Bridgeport, Conn.-based People's Bank. "We design for mainstream customers. We purposefully made the site easy to access and understand."

Some 18% of People's customers bank online versus an industry average 5-6%. The site gets 225,000 hits per month to its home page and 3.7 million hits overall. Over one million online banking transactions are recorded each month. The site generates about 20,000 e-mails per month; most are answered within four hours.

People's launched its original site back in 1995, offering information about the bank plus links to information about Connecticut events and attractions. By 1997, customers were performing basic banking transactions. The current Web site, in operation one year, offers a full array of information, services, and functions. Customers can view account information, perform a variety of deposit, account transactions, pay bills online, and reach customer service representatives through chat and e-mail.

But such offerings are fast becoming standard fare on banking Web sites. So what makes the People's site so special?

Leone attributes the site's distinction partly to its simple, straightforward design and to the fact that the site's color scheme, graphics, and photos reflect those in the bank's branches, making customers feel as comfortable with People's online as they are with it offline.

All online transactions are fully integrated with the rest of the bank's delivery system, so that balances and other account details that customers access online have up-to-the-minute accuracy.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the site offers multiple opportunities-via both online chat and e-mail-for customers to find information, ask questions, voice their concerns, and otherwise interact with the bank's customer service representatives. This benefits both the customers and the bank. Customers feel that their voices are heard, and the bank has an opportunity to understand the needs and desires of its customers and to tailor its marketing to each customer individually.

"The real Holy Grail of this whole Internet channel is to achieve one-to-one marketing," said Leone. "When you have a large bank with lots of customers, it becomes more and more of a challenge to market on a one-to-one basis. The Internet is allowing us to do that."

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