By Jerry Driscoll, HP Exstream
From the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) to President Obama's call for a "New Era of Responsibility," the market shift among financial institutions extends beyond Capitol Hill's call for greater accountability and regulation to a new era of customer demand calling for integrity, transparency and better communication.Now more than ever before, the strength and effectiveness of banks' IT strategies has become increasingly important. Banks must recognize their customers' needs and map out a strategy that will position them to regain their consumers' trust in the recovering economy. An effective customer communication strategy is imperative among financial institutions who wish to remain competitive in this new era of banking.
A need for transparency
With much of banking customers' trust eroded by the economic crisis, including major mergers and acquisitions, and a heightened concern for financial security, customers are now looking to their banks to provide stability, financial strength and more proactive communication.
At face value, the call for transparency sounds relatively simple; however, as it translates into a reality, the need for more efficient business processes to support this transition become necessary.
Across the board, banks need to shift their approach to customer communication in order to allow for easier management. A document automation software solution is one great way to streamline the management, production and output of banks' commonly complex, paper-intensive communications.
Through the implementation of document automation software, banks can begin to see their customers' monthly statements as much more than an operational document; but, additionally, as an opportunistic, regular touch point with customers. With the monthly statement being the only regularly scheduled communication with customers-whether standard print and mail or paperless statements viewable online-the statement now becomes one of the best vehicles for banks to communicate with customers whether with information about new services to better protect their funds, lower rates or timely response to market conditions. Furthermore, the statement also provides added value in that banks can personalize their customer communication.
By focusing on customizing the messaging or services included in the document (e.g., a homeowner defaulting on their home loan), banks can improve their customer service and work towards building trust and confidence with their customers while creating a more personal relationship.
Beyond the rhetoric-Rapid response
Beyond the personalized messages and rhetoric, it's about the way in which customers receive the communication. Knowing, understanding and responding to customers' preferred channel of delivery is of equal importance.
Throughout the economic crisis, many banks have utilized their Web site home page to more quickly get crucial messages in front of the eyes of their customers; and, rightly so. However, there are additional ways banks can get key messages to market faster.
An efficient document automation software solution can do more than automate banks' documents; it can also streamline customer communications via e-mail, text messages and more. With the growing trend towards mobile banking, the ability for banks to communicate via text with their customers in a quick, relevant and preferred manner is crucial. Additionally, there's added value in communicating with customers in a less costly and more environmentally-efficient manner.
Tighter bonds with customers
The economic crisis has resulted in an unprecedented shift within the financial services industry, with customers moving from a previously inertia-driven market to a market now heavily driven by emotional criteria, e.g., is my bank stable and will it protect my money?
Banks must now build a relationship that goes beyond that of company to customer. With customers losing their homes, jobs and more, it is important for banks to communicate responsibility and empathy with their customers and to build a personal connection with customers wherein they provide solutions and advice, especially to those in crisis.
By leveraging technology, such as document automation software for personalized customer communications or playing a more participatory role with Web 2.0, banks can build a more strategic and effective approach to help attract and build tighter bonds with customers over time.
Furthermore, focusing on customer retention strategies will not only result in more positive relationships with existing customers, but is also a means of acquiring new customers.
Embarking on a new era
With the current economic trials comes the opportunity for banks to improve their IT strategies for more effective customer communications.
The new era of responsibility, banking and customer demand is upon the financial services industry. By taking immediate action and providing accessible, convenient, reliable and transparent information to customers, banks can continue to communicate stability and confidence with their customers while also positioning themselves for success in this new era through customer retention and growth for greater market share.
Jerry Driscoll is sales director, financial services and insurance division, for HP Exstream. HP Exstream offers solutions to help businesses streamline document creation processes and produce more effective communications for delivery through print/mail, mobile and online channels.