Building Customer Connections at Banks and Credit Unions


There’s nothing more exasperating than walking into a bank or credit union and seeing long lines or groups of people waiting to see a customer service representative.  The first thought that comes to mind is, “How long is this going to take, and do I have the time to spare?” as you write your name down on a clipboard and take your seat. 15 minutes later and no names have been called; that’s when anxiety begins to build up, frustration kicks in and you start wondering whether you are doing business with the right financial institution. 

Long wait times and lobby abandonments can wreak havoc on the profitability of retail branches. Furthermore, it greatly diminishes the ability to establish a connection with customers.  If there isn’t sufficient and knowledgeable staffing available, the customer does not feel valued or cared for; the perception is that the financial institution only cares about the bottom line.  

Establishing a strong connection with your customers cannot be a haphazard effort; it requires much more than proactively telling them, “Sorry for the long wait time, someone will be with you shortly.” It requires delivering a customer experience where they feel valued, understood, and cared for.  So how do you go about making your customers feel connected and happy?

Happy employees equals happy customers

To attract and retain customers you must build a strong connection between your employees and the customer. Building a strong customer connection starts with the face of your organization; your employees.  When your employees feel connected and appreciated, they deliver exceptional results.  Empowering employees to deliver exceptional results means providing them with flexible scheduling tools that allow them to achieve a more fruitful work-life balance.  A more fruitful work-life balance begins with providing employees more flexibility, it also means creating fair, equitable rotations for less desirable shifts or tasks to improve employee engagement and boost morale.  Once the employee is happy, the customer will perceive a more positive experience and in return, will convert to a more loyal and connected customer. 

Omni-Channel approach

Today customers are much more sophisticated and are informed on the latest technologies.  If their financial institution is not providing them with the necessary tools to alleviate common problems, then the customer is more compelled to close their accounts and take their business elsewhere.  

With the rapid advancements of fintech solutions, customers have many sticky options available to them. Customers are looking beyond the traditional lobby experience. Customers demand that institutions provide omni-channel solutions such as digital appointment setting, online form filling, mobile access, and on-premise solutions such as lobby queue management tools.  Customers want solutions that simplify engagements, maximize their time, and enable them to take more control of their experience. They also demand virtual business continuity solutions that provide them access to banking services whenever they are unable to enter a branch or reach a live customer service representative.   

Leverage contextual data

Having the necessary information about the customer before they walk through the door or enter an online meeting is critical. The availability of contextual customer data before a meeting can make the difference between opening accounts that have limited potential for product engagement to a high growth potential partnership.   With today’s vast quantity of data and processing capability, it is possible to identify prospects with similar characteristics to the more profitable customers who are already conducting business at a financial institution. By building acquisition models that look at product usage, financial behavior, and relationship profitability, financial institutions can better forecast account growth potential.

However, to attain the desired information the process must not be intrusive. Data collection must be made simple; automated and standardized.  With an automated process customers are more inclined to provide far more personal information than they would share with a customer service representative in a face-to-face meeting.

Build your connection beyond transactions

Most of all, customers are looking for banks and credit unions with which they can build relationships beyond transactions.  Community banks are well known for establishing lifelong relationships with local businesses and account holders, the reason being is that they look at the customer’s personal and professional goals and guide them along the life journey.   Financial institutions that take the time to build personal relationships, whether it’s opening a customer’s first bank account, financing their first home, or helping the customer open a business, will win.   

To connect with customers on their life journey, banks and credit unions must first win the customer over by demonstrating their commitment to care and loyalty.  Care and loyalty are demonstrated by providing the customer with the necessary tools to maximize and control the experience.  Banks and credit unions that stay on top of the technology curve and delivery the best customer experience will achieve the greatest connections. According to JDPower, “Customer satisfaction improves amid flight to digital." 


In short, achieving the greatest connection begins with happy employees making customers feel happy the minute they walk into the lobby, or whenever they use digital services.