Our Viewpoints

Our Viewpoint

Building Relationships in a Self-Service World

September 14, 2011

We’re in the midst of a societal shift, where people – of almost every generation – are choosing self-service channels as the primary way they interact with companies, including financial institutions.

A recent TowerGroup report tells the story: branch traffic and branch transactions have started to decline, while online and mobile transactions have increased. At the same time, more people, of all ages, are researching financial products and services online. To succeed, institutions may have to change their perceptions of their online channels. For example…

#1: Consider both transactions and interactions at all channels. 

Originally, self-service channels were convenient ways for consumers to perform transactions, like transferring funds, paying on loans, or maybe opening simple accounts. Branches were the place for rich interactions – questions about financial management, reporting lost debit cards, advice and building out of the relationship.

The fact is, the online channel is a huge source of customer and member insight as well. Did a prospect research a car loan? Did he look at mortgage refinancing rates on new checking packages or start and abandon an online loan application? Does he have a need to transfer funds to another financial institution? If so, why? Every interaction tells a story that could help close a sale or improve the dialogue.

Although many financial institutions record interactions at the branch level, online interactions are not always centrally documented unless they result in a transaction. By tracking this information, staying engaged, and proliferating throughout delivery channels, financial institutions can foster a consistently more informed experience that can help build even better relationships using their growing online channels.    

#2: Online Account Opening is more than just reaching new customers or new markets.

While initially viewed as a means for helping financial institutions broaden their reach to new customers and geographies, our data shows that a third of new accounts opened online are from existing customers. More importantly, an average of 2.5 accounts are opened per approved application. So, consumers are inclined to build a relationship online.     

Making a full offering available online through a highly informed process is important. There is a strong chance consumers will take you up on your offers. TowerGroup reports that 51 percent of consumers had a propensity to buy financial products they recall being offered online (versus 41 percent in branch). The key is offering something relevant that they will recall and making the process quick and convenient to accept the offer.  

#3: Abandoned or denied activity can be very constructive.  

While it’s true that (depending on your criteria) upwards of 20 percent of applicants might be denied, often an equal number are approved but just give up in the process. People have busy lives. Given that an approved applicant brings 2.5 new accounts to your institution, a well-orchestrated multi-channel workflow that gathers information during the process and follows up and escalates rejected or abandon applications makes good business sense. You can save a customer and maybe even improve your process. You can reach out to these prospects and make it convenient for them to complete the process – then offer additional products they might need. The key is not to let these potentially good customers simply fall through the cracks. 

The Durbin Amendment and other regulatory constraints have made that single-checking-account consumer potentially less attractive than before, and building wallet share is no longer a “nice to have”. To succeed, institutions must build measurably better relationships. Some financial institutions have been realigning their branches to play a more consultative role to customers in order to accommodate this. However, online channels can play a more critical role in that mission.


Scott Hansen
Senior Vice President, Marketing

Scott Hansen is the executive vice president responsible for marketing, product management, market development, product legal compliance, alliance management and strategic planning. Prior to his current role, Hansen served as executive vice president of the integrated solutions group, which included some of the company’s fastest growing businesses, including, branch automation, electronic banking, enterprise content management and financial intelligence.